Hi Arielle, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
It’s great to be back in the VENTS pages. Thanks for having me. Our last interview was back during the 2019 holidays. In the weeks leading up to the new year, I was clarifying my vision for the year. Every holiday season I tend to think a lot about the next 12 months. On January 1, I woke up thinking about the word connection. Funny how the first half of this year has turned out: pandemic, economic crisis, immense social activism, the widest-reaching conversations about racial inequality in the US that I’ve ever seen, massive protests demanding long-needed changes in policing and other institutions, and most recently a landmark LGBTQ decision in the Supreme Court. Through this, I’ve thought deeper about that word connection and what that means, especially in light of social distancing, face masks, limited in-person interaction, and the closing of music venues and other community meeting places.
On a broad level, this year our society has collectively been through a lot of grief, transformation, and growth. So – you asked how have I been? I’d say I’ve been stunned, tender, and humbled. Scared, anxious, and sad. Inspired, delighted, and curious about the growth that will come from all this scraping down to the pith. How’s that for an answer?
Can you talk to us more about your latest song “Laugh About It”?
They say that the three things couples fight about the most are money, sex, and kids. ‘Laugh About It’ is a song about a silly argument that, in retrospect, is unimportant compared to the bigger picture. This song is saying that down the road, we’ll realize that little things we think are so important right now are just momentary challenges. The song is about gaining perspective on an argument. It’s a love song with a bit of a retro feel – and a leaky roof, an empty gas tank, and a dwindling bank account.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
After the years of California drought, we had a particularly rainy winter that filled the reservoirs, spurred new growth in the forests, and revealed a leak in the roof over our laundry room. We set up pots and pans to catch the drips. It rained nearly every day that winter – something that would have been unremarkable when I lived in Boston, but is unusual in Los Angeles. Life in L.A. is typically sunny – and we pay a premium for it. Soon after, I was talking to a friend about money dynamics in relationships, and instead of saying rags to riches, I said “from beans to bank,” which became the seed for this song.
The single comes off your new album A Thousand Tiny Torches – what’s the story behind the title?
The title came from a line in ‘The Calling,’ and refers literally to a field of fireflies at dusk during a week when I was in Pennsylvania. Metaphorically, as an album title, A Thousand Tiny Torches captures the album’s themes of healing and clarity. It’s often in tiny moments when the light shifts that we can see through darkness or confusion. After the songs were written, I ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise support for the recording, and at that point the idea of “A Thousand Tiny Torches” became about the many people who contributed and cheered the project on. At this point, the title has all these layers and seems to exactly capture what this album is about.
How was the recording and writing process?
That’s a big question. It’s been two years moving through the process of writing, recording, and release. And it’s been 14 years since my last album was released, so the making of this one felt simultaneously cathartic, exciting, confronting, and relieving. After a decade-long break from performing, I woke one day realizing that I am and have always been smitten with songs, and that whether or not I see fame and riches from my efforts, a life spent writing and singing would be a life well lived. In that moment, the seed for this album was planted. It’s been two years now of doing work that feels immensely meaningful to me, and hoping that my efforts will result in others finding joy or healing or catharsis in these songs.
How was the filming process and experience behind the “Headlights” video?
Filmmaker Kevin Rhoades lives a few houses down from me. He directed and shot the video for “What Really Matters” earlier this year. At the beginning of the Covid19 quarantine, we shot ‘Headlights’ with a telephoto lens, closed car windows, masks, and family 8mm archival footage. The actual night of shooting was a little challenging, because of the social-distancing parameters. It’s not easy lip-syncing to music playing from an iPhone speaker on the other side of a closed car window. But somehow we did it, and I teared up a week later when I saw the first cut of the video. That footage was shot before Super 8 cameras were around. Kevin’s uncle who gave it to us is one of the young kids in the film, and he celebrated his 70th birthday this summer. The rainbow from the archival footage – a timeless symbol of hope – really hit me. The video helps me remember the message of the song: to have faith that even if we can’t see the whole way through hard times, we’ll make it.
What aspect of hope and despair did you get to explore on this record?
The songs on this album are all, in one way or another, about finding a deeper understanding of living through an event in daily life. Often, a different perspective doesn’t erase pain, but it can shift how we respond to a situation and the story we tell about it later. There’s a lot about living that hurts. I believe that if we’re willing to engage and learn, every challenge we encounter can build resilience and deepen our wisdom. In a broad sense, that’s what I explore in these songs.
What made you want to tackle some of these rather dark themes?
‘Someone Else’s Dream’ is about a woman in mid-life and asking if she’s truly satisfied with the path that she’s been on. That’s a hard question to ask, because once you ask it, you have to deal with the answer. ‘What Really Matters’ is about letting go of the things that we hold on to even though they are not truly important. ‘Only Forever,’ looks at grief and loss straight-on. ‘You Were Light’ is about a complicated past relationship, and seeing that though it ended badly, there had also been beauty.
Life is full of hardship and delight. Though the easy times are more comfortable, I believe it takes a phenomenal amount of psychic effort to pretend that “easy” is all there is. Willful ignorance does not solve any problems. There’s a lot to be learned when we’re brave enough to look at the hard stuff, when we’re courageous enough to try to understand what triggers fear, sadness, anxiety, irritation, despair. And there’s a lot of healing.
Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Though these songs are all emotionally personal, the inspiration for them came from the outside world. Sometimes it’s just an image and feeling, which is what sparked the ‘The Calling.’ I wrote ‘What Really Matters’ during a time of devastating wildfires here in California. The song ‘Only Forever’ was initially sparked by a conversation about grief with the self-help writer, Rosalie Deer Heart, which later entwined in my mind with Mary Oliver’s poem ‘In Blackwater Woods,’ and a local art exhibit called ‘Things I Know But Cannot Explain,’ by the American Indian artist Rick Bartow.
What else is happening next in Arielle Silver’s world?
Right now, my job is to be the best advocate for these songs that I can be, so I’ll be working on this album release for a little while longer. There’s also a collection of new songs that I’ve been working on and performing in my live stream concerts every week. I know some artists won’t play new songs till they’re perfect. But I believe music is a conversation, and allowing listeners to hear them helps me see if they’re solid enough to record. I don’t anticipate touring till this pandemic has run its course, however I have two book projects that have been on hold while I’ve been making this album. The other night, one of them started knocking at the edges of my dream, so maybe its time is coming.