Published Jan 27, 2017Allison Crutchfield knows that a frontperson adopting a totally new sound when they go solo is a tale as old as time, but the direction that the Swearin' veteran has gone in with her first full-length is far from cliché. Tourist in This Town (out now on Merge) has her experimenting with an impressive synthesizer collection (courtesy of producer Jeff Ziegler), though the new songs are hardly the soundtrack to your next late-night rave.
Written in the immediate aftermath of a devastating breakup and between long stretches of time on the road, the record's synth-driven instrumentation provides a poppy (if not always cheery) backdrop to autobiographical lyrics about Crutchfield's personal turmoil.
"I was going through a major breakup that led to a band breaking up that led to me having to move and just everything in my life was turned upside down," she tells Exclaim! "And I just didn't really feel like I had a home, because I was on tour constantly."
The "very raw, low place" Crutchfiled found herself in emotionally caused everything to feel "really significant," and she "obsessively" took notes to remember it all. "This is what I was drinking in this city, and this is what records we were listening to, and this is what we saw, and this is who we hung out with — that kind of stuff," all got jotted down, she reveals. "It was almost like a tour diary that I think I only kept because I was going through so much."
It's this element of wandering the world looking for answers that lends credence to Crutchfield's description of the album as a folk record — "or at least, lyrically, folk-inspired."
The lyrics on Tourist in This Town present an incredibly honest and sentimental portrait of their writer in the midst of a seismic personal shift. But since penning the songs two years ago, Crutchfield's vulnerability has morphed into a defiant self-love. Now able to see the tumultuous time that inspired the LP through a slightly more rose-tinted lens, Crutchfield is declaring it a "feminist breakup record."
"It's really about accepting yourself and loving yourself even when you are in a really, really low place," she says. "This record was me accepting that I wasn't fully ready to move on from all of these changes even though the world was telling me to move on and everyone was telling me 'You should be over this now' or 'You should let this go.' It was just like, 'Well, no. I should do what feels right for me, so I'm gonna process this how I want to process it.' And part of that was being really nostalgic and letting yourself feel those feelings and have those memories."
The album also marks a departure from being one of many songwriters in a band. Though her previous work in P.S. Eliot with twin Katie (of Waxahatchee) found the sisters encouraging each other to write solo, Swearin' operated under a different model. "We were such a weird, democratic band," Crutchfield says, "which was cool and fun, but I also hadn't played music with men that much when I started Swearin' and it was a different experience for me. I often felt really intimidated or I felt really insecure in a way that I look back on now and am really frustrated by."
Now, instead of bringing "more political or broad" song ideas to a band of dudes, she's only concerned with conveying her own point of view. "Doing solo music is really exciting for me because you're not writing about anyone else's experience, you're not trying to represent a group of people," she explains. "I'm just writing about feelings that I'm having, I'm writing about experiences that I'm having and I don't feel weird singing about them because I don't have anyone else to represent. It's just myself."