Hear news of an up and coming singer-songwriter fastidiously working their way in and through the veins of the music industry and, to some extent, the core of their goal would seem obvious: Have their music be seen and heard by as many people as possible. What follows after that primary intent, whether it’s “to make lots of money,” “to have fans from all over the world,” “to help people relate to one another” or another goal entirely, remains specific to each individual. In the case of Savannah Conley, while the finer details of her musical journey are just starting to really come together, the Nashville, Tennessee artist had quite the fluctuating relationship with music as a medium, despite her family’s musical backdrop making Conley’s pursuits seem like a foregone conclusion.
“When you have musical parents, music is all around. Then when it’s their job, it’s kind of a commonplace thing, you know? That’s what music was to me,” Conley says.
“You know, I loved music, but it wasn’t special growing up; it was just what we did,” she adds. “And so [given] their passion for music, I had to find a different route to passion for music. My mom was a background singer and my dad is sideman guitar player so [I decided], I’m going to be an artist. So that was kind of how I found my own little niche path of doing what my parents did, without doing what my parents did.”
Looking past the desire to determine her own way to connect with music as an art form, Conley’s early quest to find her own niche of expression also led to her rediscovery of the sheer joy of music, separate from seeing it as a piece of occupational necessity.
“I definitely had to find kind of rediscover music for myself, which to be honest, didn’t happen until I was probably about twenty two. I’m twenty four now and just about two years ago is when I kind of felt myself being like, ‘Oh sh–t, music is awesome! Music is so cool!,’” Conley says.
“But I hadn’t really found that for myself until I was an actual adult.” she adds. “So it’s been kind of a twisty thing for me to figure out where I lie in relation to my parents and then in relation to myself and in relation to just music in general, but I think I’m slowly kind of getting there.”
It may come as a surprise that despite Conley having gained the support of major record label Low Country Sound/Elektra Records—a development which itself came about after the label’s founder, roots musician and producer Dave Cobb, took a liking to an EP Conley released independently back in 2017—she again chose to carve more of her own professional path after just one release with the label in 2018. Now partnered with Empire Records, which prides itself on an all-encompassing approach for support of the artists on its roster, Conley made it clear at a prominent juncture in her career, that doing a bit of extra hard work on her end, in the pursuit of reaching additional milestones, is an important aspect of her journey.
“Dave [Cobb] was, is, continues to be amazing. And I still have a great relationship with everybody over at Elektra [Records], and I’m so thankful for that,” Conley explains.
“But [the decision to move to Empire], it did come about in a way that was a continuation in a different way—in a very growth [oriented], inspiring way. It was a lot of business and I’ve never functioned in a non-business-like music world. In a professional sense, I had never really done things my own way, in so many words and it just so happened that I was nineteen when I met Dave and [working with him] was a great thing for me. But it does feel nice to be able to carve things in my own way with nothing informing that [decision making] besides my own experience.”
Beyond the logistical changes that followed Conley’s move to Empire, her biggest creative adjustment as of late, has been a shift in how much time, space, and sense of urgency surrounds any new music Conley writes. Though it’s considered the norm for musicians to follow the timing of an album or EP cycle, as well as keep up with the internet’s insatiable appetite for exciting and original content, these aspects of the music business now serve less of a role as brute motivator and more as tools simply meant to augment and enhance Conley’s inspirations. The bottom line for listeners, means more time between releases and less of a deadline-driven system that Conley will abide by, which she says has only been a creative help, as well as a welcome practical support, in the midst of the obvious shift to a mostly stationary day-to-day life.
“I’m a very experience-oriented writer. And all of my writing is pretty narrative [driven]. I’ve gone through periods where I’m like ‘selling my diary’ but that’s just my author’s voice. And so that’s how it’s always been,” Conley says.
“[But] experience has really been tamped down in a world [where] you can’t see other people,” she adds. “I’ve been writing less this year, just by default. When I do get together—whether it’s on Zoom or a distance write or with the people that I love to write with—it’s been nice and a different feeling because it’s not as normal. Now it feels more special. I think that the pandemic has really informed my writing and how, it’s come about this past year and I’m so glad that Empire is alright with me taking a little more time [between releases], because the inspiration has been less freely flowing in a time where you can’t really move around and get inspiration from anywhere but your phone or your news source.”
Conley’s most recent exhibition of her rearranged creative priorities comes from the single “Being Around You.” A track originally released last October with full band fanfare, the song now takes on a touch of solemnity through a new acoustic arrangement. The declarative stance presented in the song’s titular refrain, Tired of being around you, carries with it the subtle quiver in Conley’s voice, which only further emphasizes the emotional duality of fed up desperation and fragile longing coexisting in the music’s narrative. Similarly, another sense of coexistent duality between the song’s older sentiments and Conley’s newer lived perspective, really shine through the single’s latest iteration.
“Things [in life] are are pretty cyclical,” Conley explains.
“You write a song and it’s applicable in that moment and then years later, months later, you’re like, ‘Damn, it’s applicable now to me too,’ and you feel the same thing over again. I wrote ‘Being Around You,’ probably, two years ago now, and it was an entirely different situation, where the feelings were different; the people were different; the situation was totally different. But then when we got around to recording this live version, [and] the same situation just in the emotions of the song were so applicable to the situation that I was currently in with the person that I was seeing. It was just serendipitous in that I had the same feelings over again for a different person. So, it was raw and fresh in a new way to me when we recorded that.”
The delicacy offered by stripping away much of the sonic intensity of “Being Around You” doesn’t just give the song a second life, it also feels fitting in light of where Conley was, now is, and is still looking to go, over the course of her career. The willingness to take a chance others in her position might not have, while also knowing it’s what’s right for her despite the possibility of doubts or setbacks, embodies the trail Conley chose to walk in the real world. Furthermore, it showcases how seriously and sincerely she takes her artistry and position as a positive model for listeners—particularly young girls.
“I just think about the women (Leslie Feist, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt) that I listened to growing up, that I felt like, ‘Oh, like they get me.’ And I hope that some young girl out there listens to something [I write] and feels like I get her because, I do,” Conley says.
“That’s a big goal for me to speak to,” Conley adds, “to tell [young women] that their situation is not exclusive to them and they’re not alone—even if it’s something dumb like, the boy you like doesn’t like you. I would love to be what those women [artists] were for me. I think being 24, I’m in a sweet spot of like, I’m not a full blown adult yet but I’m not a kid either. So, it’s like I know enough to where I feel like I can, I could help out with some things but I’m not too old to where [younger listeners] think I’m old and don’t know anything.”