Singer-songwriter Dori Freeman sounds positively hopeful and optimistic on her new song "If I Could Make You My Own," the lead single from the Virginia-based performer's new album Letters Never Read. Her inspiration for the tune, however, was rooted in one of music's darkest lyrical traditions.
"I was trying to write it in the style of the old murder ballads, but obviously from the opposite perspective," she says. "It's a happy song but I wanted to write it with the language that a lot of those murder ballads use."
A lilting waltz with some lithe electric guitar work from English folk rocker Richard Thompson, "Make You My Own" never crosses into violent territory but does offer up some pretty drastic pledges as displays of devotion. "I would lay down my soul at your feet / I need never to drink or to eat / I would know not the smallest defeat if I could make you my own," she sings in the second verse.
"If I Could Make You My Own" rises and falls with familiar cadences, taking bits from folk rock and country for the finished product. But like her self-titled debut, Letters Never Read showcases Freeman's stylistic range with nods to her Appalachian roots in old-time music as well as sophisticated singer-songwriter pop in the vein of Rufus Wainwright, without ever conforming strictly to any one convention.
"I always have trouble answering that question when people ask, like, 'Oh, what kind of music do you play?'" she says. "I'm like, 'Well, I don't really know that it's one kind of music.' I certainly listened to a lot of country music growing up and that's probably my biggest influence, but whenever I write a song I never sit down with the intent to write it in a specific genre of music."
Letters Never Read was produced by Teddy Thompson (son of Richard), with additional appearances by Americana favorites Kacy & Clayton and Aoife O'Donovan. Still, Freeman's voice and songs are the focus, effortlessly hopping from the a capella rendition of her grandfather's original "Ern and Zorry's Sneakin' Bitin' Dog" to the banjo-driven traditional tune "Over There."
"I just sing it the way I would sing anything else," says Freeman. "It's a matter of it being the right song. There are some songs I can't sing because I don't have any connection to them."
Letters Never Read will be released October 20th.