Vocal powerhouse Erin Lunsford is releasing her debut album, The Damsel, on April 3rd and is giving fans of her — and American Songwriter — an exclusive stream of the album as well as a track-by-track breakdown of the stories behind each song.
The strength of her work lends a tremendous juxtaposition to the preconceived notion of a traditional damsel, while it also allows for a softening to happen for Lunsford.
Her album opens with a airy track, aptly titled “How Many Birds” and moves through a progression of tracks that deliver on a sensibility that makes for an easy listen whether enjoying coffee and a book or starting out on a road trip. So, push play and read about where this album came from.
Here she is, in her own words:
How Many Birds: “How Many Birds” is a lonely ballad of singlehood as a 20-something woman. I was inspired by the sight of birds returning home to the trees of Southwest Virginia in springtime and wondered if any birds make that journey alone. “How Many Birds” explores my craving for direction and control in my romantic life and wonderment at the heartache of being single when so many people around you are in love.
Neighbor’s Eye: I wrote this song after attending the Washington, D.C. Women’s March in January 2017. I was terrified going into that march not knowing if violence would erupt, but the day was so peaceful. I left the march feeling inspired by the comradery of the women and the gracefulness of that protest. The current political climate feels so divided and so partisan – like everyone has to pick a side. “Neighbor’s Eye” is about knowing you are on the right side of things if you are acting out of love, and not out of fear.
27 Summers Down: “27 Summers Down” is a coming of age story about being a 20-something single woman looking for direction, but not willing to compromise her independence or creativity for a partner. I was missing bluegrass music, my mom, and my childhood innocence, but I didn’t want to “play the damsel.” “Alum Ridge has been calling my name” refers to Floyd County, Virginia where my family began its bluegrass traditions and passed the torch to me. Every new summer is a gift and a chance to chase the dream even further.
The Wolf: This tune feels like a musical painting of a dreamy dark blue first date that morphs into a predatory romantic nightmare. Drinks at a dive bar, “hips swing out of time” to a slow waltz, the wolf circles closer around my lamb of a heart. I play with the theme of my date being an animal of prey and I initially fall for his charms, but I’m a quick study and I learn to keep my distance.
Virginia Brother: “Virginia Brother” is about my little brother, Ryan. He’s a Firefighter and EMS worker in Roanoke, Virginia. This tune talks about our fights as kids pulling us apart, but our family bond keeping us together. He’s selfless and works hard for his community and I’m constantly inspired to write songs about him.
Undone: Can this be the dramatic, self actualization ballad of the album? I felt like I needed to come undone, unravel, and start over from stitch #1. I realized that I was limiting myself creatively and professionally and I was really into crocheting at the time.
Don’t Leave Me In The Dark: One of the oldest tunes on the album, I wrote this over the course of 2010 when I experienced three hasty romances and had just figured out I had synesthesia. Verse one is about King: a hopeful, naive partner who is boastful about his accomplishments. King is warm and red, but he doesn’t see me. In the second verse, I’m longing for Jack, who is cold, dark, and uninterested. He doesn’t need me or my “green eyes” (wrong color) and I’m willing to settle for his un-affection. Verse three features Maybe, who’s forward thinking and family oriented, with political aspirations, but he wants to use me as a stepping stone. This tune explores trial and error in relationships plus the color sensations I experienced with each attempt.
Whatever U Like: This began as a love song to an unrequited love, but ended as a love song to myself. I was thinking about how we consciously and unconsciously choose which parts of ourselves we “keep”. I had color on the brain – I like to think of myself as cool blue and collected, so that’s what I wanted to hold onto.
Hatching of Romance: “Hatching of Romance” is about opening up and giving new love a chance to grow. I noticed myself squashing a budding fling before it even saw the light of day. In verse two I admit that I’ve been the one keeping love away and that it’s been trying to catch my eye all along.
Wherever You Are: This song came about after a conversation with my Mom. I was on a late-night drive back from some show in Richmond, Virginia and I called her to break the news that I wanted to move there. She said, “Honey, I’ll love you wherever you are, but I think you should move to Nashville. What does Richmond have to offer?” My mom has been one of my biggest musical influences, and she’s usually right about things, so my cognitive dissonance had to manifest somewhere.
Just A Ghost: “Just A Ghost” is about being ghosted after a perfectly lovely first date. There were cocktails, fireplaces, a first kiss, and a plan to hang out again, but it all faded like a haunted dream. I don’t think I can tally the number of times I’ve been ghosted to date, as the event seems to be more and more commonplace. Can we just communicate when we aren’t feeling it from now on, GARRET?
Goodbye To Greenbank: As in, Greenbank, West Virginia. I wrote this tune about my high school best friend who had moved to the winding, nauseating backroads of Greenbank in 2014 and they felt so far away. They were building-out a school bus (that couldn’t exceed 45mph) so they could drive/camp their way to Portland, Oregon and the plan was to settle there – even farther away from Virginia! I wanted them to feel our friendship through a song and be reminded of the freshwater wells of our hometown. Speaking of wells, I want to add that this person has the deepest well of patience and compassion I’ve ever seen.
Yellow House Blues: This tune is about thin walls, neglected chores, and lifelong friendships. Yellow House in Belmont (Charlottesville) Virginia, was my home for three years of my 20’s. I lived there with four of my very best friends. We sang on the front porch like we didn’t have neighbors, we fought over who should do the dishes, and we held each other up when life got too heavy.