Faye WebsterPhoto by Pooneh Ghana, courtesy of Grandstand Media
We read a few Tweets from fans to Atlanta singer-songwriter Faye Webster for her impressions.
“Can’t hear y’all over being a little bit'h listening to Faye Webster,” elicited a laugh from her. A second proclaimed, “Faye Webster heals my wounds,” and a third suggested “Faye Webster could hit me with a baseball bat and I’d thank her.”
“I like how if you’d read those and then you listened to my music you’d be like ‘What the fuck? It’s just so calm,'” said Webster, who is presently scheduled to play a sold-out show at White Oak Music Hall on February 5. “I obviously feel so normal because I’m myself, but I am such a fucking normal person. So, it is cool to see that this super calm, normal music can make people feel that way.”
Webster’s “calm” music has listeners feeling some kind of way, for sure. Her 2021 album I Know I’m Funny haha was included on “best of” lists by NPR, The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, Uproxx and many other music outlets. The critical acclaim centers on authentic and introspective songs presented at a deliberate tempo that allows listeners to soak it all in, the way one might spend moments gazing upon and contemplating the many nuances of a fine piece of visual art.
As we chat with Webster by phone, it’s clear that her art comes from all sorts of influences, including a few we’ve already noted here. Visual art, specifically photography. The city she grew up in and still calls home. Even baseball - sorry Astros fans, she’s a lifelong Atlanta Braves devotee. Wherever she takes her cues, she molds them into songs that take their time and force you to slow down and listen for a bit.
“I feel like with music in general I always slow stuff down because I really want to focus on what I’m doing. Even when I’m covering songs or when I’m just playing my songs live, I just naturally slow it down so much. I think a lot of it just reflects me and my personality. I feel like I’m always myself in whatever situation you put me in, even when I’m like the outcast. I think it’s just who I am and all I know to do,” she said.
“I grew up listening to Alison Krauss a lot and I feel like she really influenced me. I think when she sings it’s just like she’s talking almost, it’s just this very buttered-up, very soft tone, I guess. And I really like that style,” she added. “I really like Courtney Barnett also and she kind of does the same thing, where it’s like ‘I’m just singing because this is what I like to do and I have something to say but it’s also clearly just me.' I like that you can get so much personality out of that.”
Webster taught herself guitar as a grade schooler and released her debut album at 16. Her family includes bluegrass and country musicians but listening to the new album one catches a soul vibe to the songs and it all makes for a truly eclectic take on roots music. The new album in particular sounds like the soundtrack for a clear-your-mind afternoon country drive but also the mood-setter for a sultry, quiet storm evening.
Webster's music is delivered at a deliberate pace for a purpose
Photo by Pooneh Ghana, courtesy of Grandstand Media
“I feel like my music, what I write and how it ends up sounding, is just bits and pieces of so many things that have inspired me,” she said. “I really do like R&B music, I really do like folk music and I feel like I kind of take what I really am inspired by and subconsciously that’s how it ends up for me in my music.
“A lot of it is just growing up in Atlanta,” she continued. “I’m still here and I love the city, I love how diverse it is and how many creatives are here of all sorts of different mediums. It’s everything. Obviously, if I grew up somewhere else I would not make this music. Maybe I would never have started listening to folk music with my parents, I don’t know. I feel like its such a characteristic thing.
“I think I’m so easily inspired,” she laughs. “I guess I hope my music does that for other people as well.”
Webster’s ability to express herself in a way that feels entirely comfortable to her could be a lesson taken from her work as an acclaimed and sought-after photographer. She’s shot campaigns for rappers Killer Mike and Offset and worked with brands like Nike. Framing the photo, she’s searching for the essence of her subject, which is the same thing she’s doing as a songwriter.
“I’ve always appreciated visuals, photography or even when it comes to my album packaging and merch and stuff. Music videos are also a big part of that,” she said. “I want a visual that’s really going to help represent the song. I think doing photography and really getting into that helps me express my music when it comes to things where they intersect.”
We belatedly (and begrudgingly) congratulate her and her hometown’s baseball team on their new World Series title. Webster’s favorite team in her favorite sport bested the Houston Astros in the Fall Classic in October. She had a bit of a personal stake in watching the Braves win it all. The new album includes the track “A Dream With a Baseball Player,” which was inspired by Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. The song led to an ESPN feature article about it and a meeting between Webster and her favorite Braves player.
It doesn’t go unnoticed that baseball is also a sport that takes its time. All those innings unfolding at a leisurely pace, the story of the game told pitch by pitch by pitch. It too must have had an impact on her work as an artist.
“Like I was saying, Atlanta is such a big part of my character and so are the Braves. Growing up, I just sat at so many Braves games, like it’s been such a tradition for me. Outside of the Braves I can’t tell you anything about any other team. It’s just like this passion for my hometown city and this thing I grew up going to.”
The fans who’ll greet her at her Houston show may not care about baseball, but they will share some of the sentiments her music has stirred in them, the sorts fans Tweet about to spread the gospel of Faye Webster. That audience is a huge part of why she creates music at all, she said, and is the most critical element to being on tour.
“I love touring the moment that I get to play a show,” she said. “Touring’s really hard. There are some things I truly love about it, like I love seeing people who relate to my songs, I don’t get to see that from home. But there are some things that are really hard just mentally that I always struggle with, no matter what. It’s definitely something where I’d go crazy if I couldn’t tour, I would be so sad. I think I have to physically see that my music is doing something for this person for me to keep making music. And I think if I didn’t tour then I couldn’t get that.”
Faye Webster, Saturday February 5, 2022 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main. With Kate Bollinger. Doors at 8 p.m. for this show in White Oak’s upstairs showcase. Sold out.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.