When singer-songwriter Samara Jade went into the studio to record her third album, A Wave of Birdsong, she didn’t know that there were big changes in store for her. Originally intended to be a simple folk music-styled album with sparse accompaniment, Jade says that the songs evolved during the recording process, growing into larger, more complex arrangements, with the assistance of sound engineer Kevin Harvey of Griffin Sound. The Asheville-based artist will release that project on Wednesday, June 13, at The Mothlight.
“It was a transformation for sure,” says Jade. “We were going to keep it simple, but once we started playing with the tracks, some of it didn’t work, and some of it [Harvey] heard bigger things for.” Jade acquiesced, and soon she and Harvey were experimenting with the songs, adding horn sections, string arrangements and a backing choir to some of the tracks. They refashioned folk songs into funk jams, adding world music influence.
“It was a little bit of an ego battle, but I’ve worked with [Harvey] on my previous albums, too, and he’s got such a brilliant musical sense that I have learned to just trust him,” Jade says, with a laugh. “So when he was like, ‘Hey I’ve got this crazy idea, it involves scrapping everything we have, but just bear with me here …’ And it pretty much always was a good idea. I had to surrender my songs, but it’s really beautiful to find someone who you trust with your music in their hands.”
Jade says that even though Harvey inspired major shifts in the direction of the album, there was plenty of collaboration between the two of them. “There was a lot of back-and-forth,” she says. “It was a very respectful thing, but he definitely upped the level of the tracks.”
Another adjustment Jade is going through, as she releases her album, is taking on a new name. Until recently, the musician performed under the moniker Searra Jade. “Samara” is the botanical name for the seed pods from maple trees, “The ones that fall like little helicopters,” she says. “I was on a canoe trip last winter and I saw them spiraling down into the water. I remembered their name from a botany class and thought, ‘What if that were my name?’ I’m trying to learn to surrender and flow with the wind and the rivers, and it felt superresonant.”
The new name, says Jade, expresses her in a way the name Searra no longer does — but the change hasn’t come without some confusion.
“On my posters for the release party it says Samara Jade, previously known as Searra Jade,” she says. “I’m kind of just making it a humorous thing, because how I deal with things is just to be like, ‘OK, this is awkward, but let’s laugh about it.’”
The album release show will feature Jade and her backing band performing A Wave of Birdsong in its entirety. She will be joined on stage by Mattick Frick on drums, Ryan Kijanka on upright bass, Drayton Aldridge playing violin, Franklin Keel on cello and Harvey playing keyboards. “It will probably sound pretty different from the album itself,” says Jade. “If I was going to perform the album exactly how it was, it would take, like, 20 musicians, but we’re going to get it as close as we can.”
Aside from the musical composition, Jade says what matters to her is the message of her music. “It’s all tied into the theme of listening to and learning from nature, and the magic we can discover and connections we can feel when we tune in to nature’s cycles and rhythms in things that happen every day,” she says. “The birds are always singing when the sun comes up, and they’re always singing when the sun goes down, and it’s always sunrise and sunset somewhere, so there’s this wave of birdsong rippling around the planet. It’s the original music.”
WHO: Samara Jade with Sister Ivy
WHERE: The Mothlight
WHEN: Wednesday, June 13, 8 p.m. $5