Sara Curtin and Maureen Andary of The Sweater Set premiered a new single, “In Another Life,” with an accompanying video today on American Songwriter. The song is the first single ahead of forthcoming Fly on the Wall, slated for release this Friday, May 8th. “In Another Life,” recorded in 2018, pre-dates personal milestones that ensued. Their husbands joked they were witches when the bizarre news hit that each of these women would give birth to sets of twins, seven months apart. The sonic chemistry between these friends is enchanting.
The two began singing together in 1996 at a DC-area church where their harmonies were nurtured and showcased, accompanied only by the piano playing of their choir director. And while this album has no piano and contains no biblical verse, it is comprised solely of voice, guitar, and the occasional flute or tambourine, the instrumentation not unlike a folk mass.
“My dad was one of the greats,” Andary explained of her father’s diagnosis with terminal cancer in 2011, the song’s initial inspiration. “He gave himself fully and humbly to the people and principles important to him. He was deeply intuitive and had a childlike wonder. He made us all better people. We were grieving years before he even died, once we realized we were going to lose him.”
During the turbulence of grieving, Andary found herself thinking more about death than she ever had before. She watched as family and friends showed up for each other and thought, “Shit, I need this when I’m old.” This thought was the first time she began to think about forming a family of her own and what that would involve.
The song asks questions: “What is a soul? What is a memory? Are they the same thing?” The questions evolved as part of the grieving process. “My dad believed in Heaven,” Andary explained. “He regularly referenced this, and he told me that he would come and visit me from the other realm. The dream of this is so comforting, but I can’t help but question it.” Andary understands she may never receive answers to those questions, but they walk her through the enigma of missing her father and connecting with him in an ethereal way.
“Writing this song put it to rest for me. I’m comfortable with the mystery. It’s the most important song I’ve written for my own healing process,” the songwriter revealed of her latest single.
“Some always stick out and shine a little brighter than the rest,” Curtin, who knew and loved Andary’s father, shared about “In Another Life.” “I believe it’s also just one of those songs that could speak to anyone who didn’t have the personal backstory. When we started to arrange the song for this album, I knew that whatever I added needed to be tender and supportive. I chose the electric guitar with tremolo because of its warmth and ability to sustain.”
The music video was filmed primarily at Andary’s childhood home. Andary’s children feature throughout as the connectors of the story. As a parent, she feels more connected than ever to her late father. The relationship of baby-to-parent exhibited throughout tells the story all over again into the next generation.
“I now know the depth of the love he felt for me. I feel his presence in me every day when I hold and kiss my kids,” the new mother remarked.
For Curtin, the film plays out just as it did in her mind as she closed her eyes and listened through the song. Friend and producer, Brendan Polmer, brought her vision to life with playful ideas. Curtin imagined the two singing back-to-back, simultaneously representing togetherness and separation.
“That’s the nature of loss and love,” Curtin reflected. “In the shots where it looks like only one of us is singing, we are still positioned back-to-back. We are still connected throughout, even though only one of us might be visible at first glance. It’s like the memories and influence of our loved ones that we carry with us forever.”
The song and video bring warm thoughts about passed loved ones. “I hope they take those memories out for a spin and smile a little. I hope they think about the landscape of love, the home they grew up in, or the legacy they’re building for their own families. Nothing, not even death, can take away the time you had together,” Andary elucidated of The Sweater Set’s latest release.