Soulful lyrics and delightful Americana chord progressions are just the tip of the iceberg for L.A.-based outfit Single Girl, Married Girl (SGMG). Named after the folk song made famous by The Carter Family, SGMG are some of music’s finest storytellers. Led by frontwoman Chelsey Coy and her husband Gary Knight, SGMG effortlessly unite nostalgia with upbeat pop sounds across their discography.
Now, SGMG are announcing their next album— a timeless collection of songs entitled Three Generations of Leaving. This record stages the stories of three women— a matriarch, her daughter, and an estranged granddaughter— to merge with the band’s lush instrumentation. In addition to their album announcement, SGMG are dropping the second single off of the record exclusively on American Songwriter.
“Looking” was written in 2017 for an online songwriting contest and exposes the challenges of pursuing a music career. “This song is inspired by my own ongoing journey to find validation as a performing artist and songwriter, from its naïve beginnings (in the lyrics I equate a crosstown move as part of making it alone in the ‘big ole’ world,’ because that’s how some young people think before they develop a more worldly perspective) to its current state, with its more complex feelings of inadequacy,” Coy tells American Songwriter.
“People have been asking me for years when I’m going to get a ‘real job,’ or ‘Why aren’t you famous yet?’ As if I have any choice in the matter,” Coy continues. “There are definitely feelings of resentment and anger that come from that. Gary later infused his own feelings of abandonment from his childhood into the lyrics. His father left when he was just a child and he rarely saw him before he died in 1998.”
“Looking” captures all of the sentiments that Coy describes into one track. A sense of hope is apparent, but undercurrents of pain and self-doubt also flow through this upbeat country-rocker.
“In relation to the album’s theme, ‘Looking’ is about the granddaughter’s quest for validation in life as she attempts to do what her mother couldn’t, by making it as a country singer, but she is haunted by dreams of her mother, who she has not seen since she was a child, fear of abandonment, and nagging feelings of inadequacy (even if she won’t admit to having them),” Coy adds.
Read below for insights into the rest of Single Girl, Married Girl’s forthcoming album Three Generations of Leaving. You can also pre-save “Looking” here.
American Songwriter: What is the story behind Three Generations of Leaving? Was there a specific event that inspired this project?
Chelsey Coy: Initially, we found ourselves writing songs about heavy topics from a female perspective (abandonment, loss, addiction, insecurity, fear of intimacy). The idea that the songs could be connected with a narrative revealed itself towards the end of the writing process. The first song we wrote for the album, “Walking on Water,” was written on banjo the night I saw the musical, Bright Star, and evoked a bygone era (like something out of a demented Carter Family song) with its style and lyrics about a woman being abandoned by her family. It planted the seeds for what would become the overarching story about three generations of women from the same family dealing with trauma and conflict in their lives.
AS: How did you create the narrative for this album? What are the themes that run throughout Three Generations of Leaving?
CC: Gary and I realized that many of the songs we were writing had a thread of trauma running throughout; characters fleeing from bad situations, processing terrible things that happened to them, or struggling in the midst of conflict. We didn’t set out to create the familial narrative, but it presented itself when we were choosing the songs for the album. We could see distinct characters in our minds when we were writing. It was like putting a puzzle together without knowing what the bigger picture was, and then suddenly the light bulb went off and we realized there was a larger story being suggested. We also wanted a title and theme that complimented the subject matter and elevated the album as a work of art.
If you didn’t know the album title or have access to the artwork, you probably wouldn’t know the songs are connected in that way (that there is a semi-fictional family behind them), and the songs aren’t so character-specific or explicit in their storytelling, like those of a Broadway musical, but we prefer it this way. We like that the songs can be open to interpretation and stand on their own, musically speaking, but meanwhile, we purposely sequenced the songs to suggest a story, dropped a big hint with the title, and worked with a brilliant graphic designer to create album artwork that illustrated our intent (while incorporating deconstructed pictures of me and my real mother and grandmother).
AS: How did you sonically incorporate your musical inspirations into this record?
CC: We wanted this album to be a departure from our last release, Spark, in that it would be warmer and folkier and have lots and lots of harmonies throughout. When writing Three Generations of Leaving I was really inspired by bands like Lucius, First Aid Kit, and Brandi Carlile and I wanted to capture the magic of female voices singing together about substantive issues. Shannon Soderlund and I have been singing together for years and our blend is almost sister-like, as you can hear throughout the album.
AS: What is one thing you want listeners to remember about your music?
CC: Beyond whatever pleasure they get from the sonics and the melodies, I want them to notice our attention to lyric writing, the hardest aspect in writing a song, in my opinion. And I hope our voice as a band comes through. Despite all the musical influences that went into this production, we want people to hear the individual talents of our band: Charlie Rauh is a singular player; our bassist, John Gray, provides the music with all the verve and sweet, earthy tones an upright bass affords; Oskar Haggdahl is behind all the warm and dynamic percussion; and Shannon contributes the ethereal, other-worldly harmonies. And Tom marries it all together brilliantly with signature clarity and precision.