Choosing a life as a touring musician usually means following a path that exists outside of convention: more long drives than white picket fences, more debt than desk jobs. It’s not always easy, but it’s almost always rewarding, a dichotomy that Michaela Anne explores on her new song “By Our Design.” The first release from her forthcoming LP Desert Dove (out September 27th on Yep Roc), “By Our Design” is a gorgeous meditation on picking the road not taken, matching Anne’s rich vocals with wistful strings arranged and played by Kristin Weber. The singer premieres the video, featuring her husband, musician and producer Aaron Shafer-Haiss, today.
“I used to naively think life was a steady crescendo,” Anne tells Rolling Stone Country. “You grew up, went to college, picked your career, picked your partner, had kids and just steadily ‘figured it out,’ made money and lived happily ever after. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately for some perspectives, this is not the case. Life is an endless series of peaks and valleys, detours, hard turns, full stops, full steam ahead, coasting and sputtering along. What we do with all of that, how we choose to live, can be pretty challenging depending on one’s circumstances. Going your own way can be frightening. Finding someone to go a collective way together is pretty significant.”
If “By Our Design” sounds like it mixes bit of Laurel Canyon dust into that Tennessee soil, that’s intentional: recorded in San Clemente, California, Desert Dove was produced by Sam Outlaw and Delta Spirit’s Kelly Winrich with the help of guitarist Brian Whelan (Dwight Yoakam, Jim Lauderdale), fiddler Weber (Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price), and drummers Mark Stepro (Ben Kweller, Butch Walker) and Daniel Bailey (Everest, Father John Misty), letting some of that freewheeling Californian perspective lead the music into unexpected, adventurous places. Like on “By Our Design,” Anne isn’t afraid to embrace cinematic strings over classic country instrumentation, but keeps her glassy quiver and introspective lyrical approach at the core of Desert Dove.
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Featuring songs written by Anne alone as well as co-writes with Outlaw and Mary Bragg (the kiss-off to men with uninvited opinions, “If I Wanted Your Opinion”), Desert Dove finds Anne tackling convention, expectations and the simplicity of true partnership.
Desert Dove is available September 27th on Yep Roc, her first for the North Carolina-based label.