ALELA DIANE, CUSP.
At home in Portland, OR with then two-year old daughter, and husband, slow days allowed Alela Diane little space for writing music. Parenting responsibilities had restructured and ultimately smothered any resources typically allotted for creativity. Diane’s acceptance into an artist residency at Caldera in central Oregon was an opportunity to re-enter the creative realm. In January of 2016 she escaped her routine to live in an A-frame cabin in the snowy woods; alone for the first time since the birth of her daughter. In these quiet weeks of solitude, Diane was finally able to reflect on the shifts her life had taken from maiden to motherhood. Her days consisted of tending the wood stove, making soup, writing, and rediscovering how to be on her own. Early in her stay, while shoveling snow, she broke her thumbnail, a critical tool for her well-worn path of finger picked guitar. As a result, she began teaching herself to play the grand piano in the main lodge, and eventually, a new collection of songs took shape. It was by the fire, and with the snowfall that the backbone of her fifth solo record, Cusp, came to be.
Though the use of a piano as a backdrop for her narratives marks a step in evolution from some of Diane’s most well known records, her striking voice and evocative imagery prove to be a return to form. The songs on Cusp explore the weight and beauty of creating life. They honor the days left behind, explore the hope for what’s to come, and embrace the complexity of today. Cusp traces the contours of Diane’s life as an artist and internal landscape of her experience as a mother. She refuses to stray from her personal point of view as a mom and an artist that draws from her experiences as a female. These efforts confidently stride in direct contrast to an industry that has long been shaped by men and makes little space to acknowledge motherhood, birth, or femininity. Song for Sandy, was written for Sandy Denny, a british singer who tragically died shortly after the birth of a daughter. Emigré was written in response to the international refugee crisis, and was specifically inspired by the Syrian toddler found washed up on beach of Turkey in 2015. Never Easy, tackles the complex relationship with her own mother, a reoccurring theme throughout her albums.
Diane managed to record and track all of the songs on Cusp during her second pregnancy and the record was completed shortly after she welcomed another daughter in February of 2017. The songs were recorded at Flora Playback and Recording as well as a number of other studios in Portland and in New York. It was mixed in LA by Noah Georgeson. Peter M. Murray produced the record and helped bring together several of Cusp’s collaborators, including Ryan Francesconi (Joanna Newsom), Rob Burger (Iron & Wine), Peter Broderick, Heather Woods Broderick (Sharon Van Etten), Luke Ydstie (Blind Pilot), Daniel Hunt (Neko Case) and Klara & Johanna Söderberg (First Aid Kit) to help fill out the sound. The result mixes the best of Alela Diane’s melodic sensibilities with sophisticated instrumentation and a current take on the sounds made popular by Joni Mitchell, Carole King and artists of 70’s Laurel Canyon. Cusp retains Diane’s ability to create timeless music and provides her most uplifting and accessible record to date--something that will resonate with loyal fans and that she hopes will inspire new listeners.