Massachusetts indie rocker Squirrel Flower, a.k.a. Ella O’Connor Williams, is Rolling Stone‘s latest Artist You Need to Know. In a new video for the series, Williams cooks risotto, gives a tour of her home, and discusses her great debut album, I Was Born Swimming.
“The weather was perfect, in my opinion,” she recalls of the clip, which opens with Williams outside her home in Arlington, Massachusetts, walking through the woods with an umbrella. “It was rainy and moody.”
Williams goes on to explain the origin of I Was Born Swimming, named after the circumstances of her birth — she was born en-caul, completely wrapped inside a membrane full of amniotic fluid — and to guide Rolling Stone through the home where she grew up. She points to items hung on her bedroom wall: childhood photographs, paintings, a magazine cut-out of Joni Mitchell, and artwork from her college punk band, Alien Girls, made by friend Lydia James.
When she was nine years old, Williams’ dad bought her a mini electric guitar and a Led Zeppelin compilation CD. “I remember listening to it on the ride home and I was just crying in the back seat,” she says. “I was like, ‘This is so sick and so beautiful, and I need to make music like this.’ ”
Clips of Williams performing at open mics in Boston flash across the screen as she describes overcoming stage fright. During her freshman year at Grinnell College in Iowa, she took the spring semester off to record an EP using her childhood nickname, Squirrel Flower.
She also walks through her songwriting process: “I do find that the best songs happen literally right when I wake up — as cheesy as it sounds — or walking around or driving. These moments of introspection that aren’t explicitly for writing a song.”
The video concludes with Williams and her friend Ruby making risotto in her kitchen, glasses of red wine in hand. “It was butternut squash and parmesan and sage,” she says. “The crew all tried it, so they can attest to my Italian heritage.”
Williams doesn’t watch a lot of television, but she’s obsessed with Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “That’s why I wanted to cook risotto on TV,” she explains. “Like, I need to live my dreams of being on a cooking show.”
Read more about Squirrel Flower in our Artist You Need to Know profile.