by Ziggy Merritt
Capturing love in song is one of the more elemental things about the continuum of music through the ages. It can be divine or personal but all forms of the love song offer something relatable. It helps the songwriter connect to their audience through the ups and downs and plateaus that are so becoming of all romantic partnerships. For Austin transplant Molly Burch, her debut is a window into the past few years of heartbreak and rekindling.
Taking elements of vintage pop and soul, the album in question, Please Be Mine also marks Burch’s first opportunity to take her wistful love songs on tour, supporting Tim Darcy and Sallie Ford on two separate legs in March and April respectively. Before making her debut tonight at Boot and Saddle (and visiting our city again on April 13th at Johnny Brenda’s), I had the chance to speak to Burch about her debut, what inspired it, as well as how her own songwriting has offered closure and renewal.
“When I wrote the album and recorded it I wasn’t signed yet,” she says on eventually getting signed to her label Captured Tracks. “But I started writing it in 2013 when I moved to Austin. I had just moved from North Carolina and moved by myself on a whim. That’s when I started writing the album and then we recorded about a year ago. We just sent [Captured Tracks] a cold demo submission and they signed me and wanted to put out the record basically as is.
“I had just sent it to friends and anyone who I felt who would give me good advice on the album,” Burch continues. “I had planned on sending it to labels and I didn’t know too much about that process.”
Thanks to her friend Jared, a member of the Austin-based psych-rock quartet the Zoltars, that process was simplified, giving her the advice to send the demo out to Captured Tracks. “They got back to me in a day,” she says. “It was very early on and I didn’t really send it to too many places. It was very fast.”
With two separate tours booked so far in 2017, things are on track to move even faster. Owing to that pace is Burch’s own tenacity and resilience. “I’ve always been a singer, songwriting came later,” she explains. “So for this whole record, I mean…I’m always learning and growing and of course everyone is, but there wasn’t much experimenting probably since I moved here. I write for my voice.”
That voice gifts her debut with an undeniable authenticity. She writes and sings from experience, developing the vocals that feel both natural and nuanced. “When I was younger my voice sort of leaned towards more pop music,” she says, recalling how she found her voice in the most literal sense. “I listened to a lot of Christina Aguilera and I grew up with American Idol. I feel I was too much like that. Then when I was in college I was studying jazz and it was almost like too much in that spectrum so I feel like I’ve sort of fused the two in a way where I feel like it has both of those elements. A jazz sound but with a pop mentality.”
This mentality trickles down into the doo-wop textures of Please Be Mine, some of the improvisational nature of which is utilized in her track “Please Forgive Me.” “It was one of the first songs I wrote for the album,” she says. “I think it was the second song. I wrote it on a ukulele, it was a very simple progression. I definitely wanted it to have a sort-of doo-wop vibe. That’s one’s about having such a young love and finding somebody else but then realizing you made a mistake and wanting that person back.”
Love and want are central to Burch’s recent songwriting. Healing heartbreak through her own music has inlaid a sweet if maudlin vibe that digs deep into relatable aspects of any long-term relationship. “The act of singing has always been a very therapeutic thing for me,” she explains, on writing to heal. “It just always makes me feel better. Specifically referring to the album, I went through a breakup right before I moved here. It was my first real time writing songs basically. I was dealing with breaking up and I wrote a lot of the songs like the title track when I moved here. That felt very cathartic.”
But the singer rejects the identity of her debut as a “breakup album.” After all such labels are reductive. “Since moving here, the guy I broke up with, we got back together,” she says referencing her bandmate Dailey Toliver. “A lot of the songs are inspired by reuniting with him. I feel like that in itself is very therapeutic for both of us in a way and learning how to work together.”
I, of course, couldn’t help but admit the inherent awkwardness that might arise from being partly the subject of an album while at the same time playing together on tour. “There’s never awkwardness,” she admits with a laugh. “He’s extremely supportive. We didn’t play with each other when we lived in Asheville. I feel like that was something we had to work up to.”
Molly Burch will open for Tim Darcy at the Boot and Saddle tonight, in addition to opening for Sallie Ford at Johnny Brenda’s on April 13th. Check out the video for her single “Downhearted” below.