On her newest single, Ally Evenson “got a little weird.”
“And that’s what I wanted from the get-go,” they say. “I wanted this song to be a little unsettling and have a bunch of strange little noises throughout the whole thing and have it keep building and building until everything cuts out, but even then I wanted the song’s ending to spiral, too … I wanted that unsettling, uncomfortable kind of feel to it, but to also have it be beautiful.”
The Detroit-based singer-songwriter released a single and accompanying music video today, titled “I Can’t Feel (My Body).” The video’s horror-film aesthetics are in harmony with just how scary it can feel when we don’t feel like ourselves.
This track follows up Evenson’s recent single, “Bite My Tongue” and her 2020 EP, Not So Pretty. Since then, she has started a year-long residency with Assemble Sound, a local artist development company and record label, and has toured as a guitarist with indie-pop artist Chloe Moriondo. All this while still developing herself as an artist — amid a global pandemic, no less.
Evenson has been writing and performing music since before they had a driver’s license, but their career really took off online in April 2020. Accumulating fame in such an ominous time influenced the tone of “I Can’t Feel (My Body),” aided by their collaborator Boston Anderson (Boston the Girl), and producers Ben Collins (of minihorse) and Tommy Fleece.
“I was in a really weird place, mentally struggling with everything that was happening to me in August (of 2021),” Evenson shares. “I was so busy, and doing so many awesome things, but I was so depressed, which made no sense to me. I was upset at being sad, especially when I’m doing so many cool things. So I started writing about it — about feeling outside of my body.”
She says the new single is representative of the disassociation she experiences during panic attacks.
“Maybe it’s more derealization, but everything around me feels like a dream and I have to go splash water in my face to make myself feel back in reality.”
And that’s what Evenson means by “weird” within the context of the song’s production: a distant sense of a warbling, whooshing ambiance, as though the song’s sonic texture is varyingly unwinding or folding in upon itself. The lyrics are equally daunting: “I’m resentful but content / I’m so married to the way that I feel / but how am I supposed to feel?”
Evenson’s questioning words and vocal intonations evoke a sense of nuanced confusion, leading to feelings of detachment and frustration: neither-here-nor-there, not able to be fully present.
This tension is relieved by storming guitars building after the second chorus — a technique that is becoming a signature of Evenson’s ballads — beginning hesitantly until the soundscape becomes fuller, louder and more saturated. The delivery is tumultuous, guttural and satisfyingly gnarly.
During the creation of this record, Evenson was under a lot of pressure. The weight of a pandemic only added to the stress of balancing a residency, tour and solo career. She also faced personal obstacles, from a recent car accident (she’s OK), to a recent breakup (again, she’s OK!) to having to quarantine with a bandmate in a London hotel after catching COVID-19.
“I was just very burned out,” Evenson said. “Although I’m a lot better now. I was feeling so sad and I just felt like I needed to write honestly about it. Being able to write a song makes me feel a lot better about how I’m feeling, especially if it’s about my mental health. Just to get it out, to have people hear me say these words … is a relief … because I don’t want to sit around blabbing to my friends about how sad I am – I’m not gonna put them through that. I feel like this song is almost like an apology to myself – a letter to myself.”
Despite their hardships, Evenson is still able to look on the bright side.
“Touring with [Moriondo] is incredible!” she gushes. “I can’t stop smiling whenever I’m on stage. I walk off after a show and my cheeks are hurting from smiling because it’s just so fun.” Plus, Evenson has begun gaining recognition from Moriondo’s fans, even opening the show as a solo act on several nights of the tour.
Evenson said they only intend to continue leaning harder into that earnestness and candor with their lyrics, talking openly about any variety of struggles as a means of connecting with an audience that can likely all-too-easily relate. Uncomfortable and beautiful, indeed.