Somewhere deep in the middle of a good story, a simple and powerful thing happens. You begin to feel seen. The characters have been slowly undressed, layer upon layer of hope and human flaw, their struggles revealed. They remind you of your family, of a briefly encountered stranger, of yourself.
Anna Tivel reaches for that thread of understanding with her music, that moment of recognition, of shared experience. There are thousands of miles on her touring odometer and each town is a tangled web of heartache and small reasons to believe. She gravitates toward the quiet stories of ordinary life. A homeless veteran sitting on a bench to watch the construction of a luxury hotel. A woman wondering about the life of the daughter she had to give up for adoption. Someone changing shape, someone falling in love, someone all alone.
“Tivel’s characters are both common and unforgettable,” Ann Powers of NPR writes, “She possesses a genuine poet's sense that words matter more than persona, or a showy performance. Her images linger, and become populated with the energy of the real.”
With four full-length albums out on Portland’s well-loved Fluff & Gravy Records, Tivel continues to touch on a common human thread. Her newest album ‘The Question’ was recorded mostly live at Hive studio in Eau Claire, WI, engineered by the esteemed Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens) and produced by drummer and multi-instrumentalist Shane Leonard. NPR called it ‘one of the most ambitious folk records of 2019.’ Her previous release, ‘Small Believer’ was heralded by NPR as an “album that repeatedly achieves this exquisite balance of the quotidian and the sublime.”
“This new record feels very collaborative and alive,” Tivel says of the project. “We’d just sit in the room together playing a song until the emotion behind the story felt right, then Brian would hit record and we’d try to get it down in one or two takes.” Of the eleven song collection Tivel says, “I wanted to explore this feeling I keep having, that maybe the everyday searching for something more, the asking of impossible questions and painful clamoring for some kind of understanding, maybe all of that is more important than any concrete answer that may or may not exist. There are questions behind all of these songs, things we all struggle with over and over, questions of identity and hurt and kindness.”