Today, acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist AllisonRussell, a founding member of Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah) and Birds of Chicago (with her husband/musical partner JT Nero), has shared another in her series of covers songs, a captivating version of Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted,” sung in both English and the Montreal-native’s second language, French. Listen Here. The track follows Russell’s intimate and imaginative interpretations of Sade’s “By Your Side,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” both released earlier this month.
Allison Russell on “Everything I Wanted”
“Niki Smith Frazier – whose art elevates these covers- is one of my dearest friends, and my chosen sister. Niki loves pop music and has been my guide and teacher on many a late-night wine sipping, YouTube deep diving session after the kids were in bed. She is the one who first introduced me to the music of Billie Eilish. Her daughters, Ezra and Vai, my daughter, Ida, my niece, Ellie and I can all agree on two things – that Billie Eilish and Lizzo SLAY. 2020 was weighted with so much loss and pain and separation – but impromptu dance parties and singalongs to a 50/50 Billie, Lizzo soundtrack with wild Ida and her Dad brought some light and levity. I’ve been meditating on the imbalances of celebrity culture – how unfortunate our society’s tendency to first put people on impossible pedestals and then knock them down, particularly women… Billie’s grace under the magnifying glass of unsolicited public opinion has been remarkable and heroic. Her artistic output – stunning. For anyone – let alone one still so young. This song hurt my heart when I first heard it – perhaps reading too much into it – but I connected with it on a visceral level – it brought back memories of my own tormented teen years, when death was always a whisper away…It reminds me to be grateful for those rare and precious ones who see you and who love you – just as you are – and you do the same for them – we carry each other. Empathy is our currency. It gets better. You’re not alone.”
Russell on the Covers Projec
t“I grew up afraid and ashamed all of the time,” says Russell. “I learned to make myself very small and very quiet in order to survive. My adoptive father – my primary abuser – was intensely controlling of all aspects of my life and of our constantly shifting households. He was particularly tyrannical about what we were allowed to listen to. Almost anything written after 1820 was banned. Anything not written or appropriated by a white man was banned. I ran away at 15 to escape his violence…and a whole new universe of sound opened up to me. Music saved my life. I learned that women could write music too. I discovered that I was a musician; that I was a writer. But I was a listener first. Every time I listen to a modern song that moves me it feels like resistance. These brilliant artists – Billie, Sade, Stevie Nicks – powerful writers all, make me feel brave and fully human. These songs each create a world that I want to visit and revisit. They sound like freedom to me. I have tried to do them some justice while finding my own truth within the songs. I have taken loving liberties and translated some of their poetry into French. I have been missing the language of my Montreal childhood, trying to reclaim those broken years. May these interpretations bring some comfort. Here’s to Hope and Healing for this New Year.”
Russell will release her first ever solo album via Fantasy Records this spring.