i don’t know who needs to hear this...

i don’t know who needs to hear this...

Tomberlin, the moniker of indie folk artist Sarah Beth Tomberlin, might’ve titled her second full-length LP i don’t know who needs to hear this…, but she knows who did: “I did,” she tells Apple Music. “On this record, there’s a lot of searching for space for myself,” she says. “A lot of my songs are me holding up a point-and-shoot camera that has the focus ability, zooming in and zooming out on these small moments.” Before this album, the Baptist pastor’s daughter wrote songs about faith and self-doubt from the distance of her own loneliness; her first full-length, 2018’s At Weddings, was acclaimed for its spareness, the way she could write a sacred moment in a fingerpicked guitar riff. Now she’s developed a new language for relationships, and blows it up to enormous size with orchestral instrumentation: horns and Una Corda (“easy”), pedal steel (“born again runner”) and tenor saxophone (“collect caller”). The record is her exploring “just how to be in the world,” she says. “I just turned 27 and At Weddings was when I was 21. This is a different chapter of life, with new circumstances and things to investigate.” Below, Tomberlin walks through her album, track by track. “easy” “I wrote this song on acoustic guitar, and it was very simplistic. I wanted it to have a little bit more of a being-at-sea feeling, of rocking out in the ocean, rudderless. I remember telling Philip [Weinrobe], who co-produced with me, that I didn't want it to be a guitar song. We had already been using the Una Corda, this certain kind of piano, on the record. I loved how it sounded—eerie, but really beautiful as well. We combined those two elements and we kind of built it out from there. We turned all the lights off and had candles lit. It was very witchy. We were all in a circle, in this room, with the mics in front of us—really listening, not being too loud so the instruments didn't bleed into each other.” “born again runner” “The title is attributed to an Emmylou Harris song, 'Born to Run,' which my dad always says reminds him of me. It's a song for him. It's a song about loving my dad and wanting to have a relationship with him, even though we're very different people.” “tap” “I moved to New York in September 2020. I assimilated by going on really long walks through the city, across the Williamsburg Bridge and into Brooklyn, on the West Side Highway, by the water. I was missing being in the country and the woods. I was trying to find ways to connect myself. The first line I had for the song was ‘I'm not a tree/I'm in a forest of buildings.' It's about things that disconnect us. I was thinking of how narrative singers can struggle with wanting to put ourselves in a good light. No one is a perfect person. We also pulled a bunch of twigs and grass and flowers from the garden and were hitting the drums with them, so it has this extra brushy, freaky, witchy thing going on.” “memory” “I actually did a session with Danny Harle—he co-produced Caroline Polachek's record [Pang]. He wanted to meet when I lived in LA, so we rented a studio space and he was like, 'It's no pressure. Let's just hang out and see if something happens.' We spent maybe three hours working on music, and it was just us meeting really for the first time. I really liked the lyrics that I came up with, and that's how I wrote that song, which was wild to me. I was really stressed out about writing something with someone in the room. It's like writing a paper when the deadline is the next day and somehow you write something good.” “unsaid” “It was February [2020], before everything went to shit. I wrote it about LA and trying to figure out how to be planted there, because it's not really a city. In my opinion, it's just this sprawl. It was really hard for me to know how to feel grounded there. It's beautiful and fake. Making that song was like trying to comfort myself.” “sunstruck” “This one is definitely about examining a relationship with a person that was sputtering on again, off again. A lot of time had passed, we were still friends, and I got some recent news about some changes in their life, and a desire to work on themselves. It was a magic thing to hear, and that song fell out afterwards. I felt released from that relationship. And often, growth comes from being uncomfortable, some drought and some storms. It is a bit mournful of examination, but it ends in a hopeful way.“ “collect caller” “Stuart [Bogie], who is in fact a legend of New York, plays saxophone on this song, and wow. He came in for a couple songs. I kept saying, 'I’ve collected all the deep-feeling musicians for this record,' because some people can play an instrument well, but some people, they're so mathematical about playing. We somehow collected the people that just deeply feel the music, and Stuart is one of those people. I love him.” “stoned” “‘Stoned’ I wrote when I was feeling a bit exasperated—anger but trying to have compassion. I think the anger that I was feeling was just and right, but I didn’t want to become hardened by it. I wasn't a big partier growing up; no one's asking the pastor's kid to go rage. But I was a young adult at this time, and living in Louisville, and someone invited me to a party. It was like, oh, this is in my John Hughes movie, everyone is jumping in the pool, taking their clothes off. I was walking away from it barefoot, drenched wet, holding my shoes, the sun was coming up, it was probably 5 am. When I started writing this song, I was thinking about that moment a lot, of experiencing this fun thing, but actually being in my head. Walking away from it alone and feeling very alone.” “happy accident” “[Cass McCombs] invited me to come jam one day. I played him some new stuff and he actually hit up Saddle Creek being like, 'Hey, does Tomberlin need someone to produce? I'm interested in working with her,' which blew my mind. He's a legend to me. I knew that I wanted to recruit Cass for this song, and he played on 'stoned' as well. On 'stoned,' I'm playing the lead rhythm guitar and he's doing all the solo-y stuff.” “possessed” “I think it's cool to have a really short song. I need to get better at that. It's really a private song, almost trying to motivate myself. Writer’s block vibes. I thought it would be a fun intro to the record for a while. It's really cinematic to draw it back a bit. Each song is its own world, and I love that about different records, and I wanted it to be this way. But there is a sonic thread that sews it together throughout.” “idkwnthat” “I was walking around in Brooklyn and going through my voice memos and clicked ‘new recording 430’ or whatever. I don't label them. I'm sitting by the window playing guitar; I sound really tired. I'm singing that song to myself. Even though I'm saying, 'I don't know who needs to hear this,' obviously I did. That was the first song that we recorded in the process of the record. Everyone says it's a weird time. I feel like it's always a fucking weird time to be alive as a person in the world, but especially right now, I guess. This record does go through a flurry of different feelings and emotions. It's good to feel all of them. So it felt like a perfect way to end the record.”

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