I’m not the first person to tell Alela Diane I first heard her melancholy folk music in a video game. Her song ‘Take Us Back’ plays over the end credits of The Walking Dead game, coming immediately after an ending that’s unusually affecting. What I mean is it made me cry like a baby. “People have posted that on the Facebook page, how emotional it was for them,” says Diane, sounding slightly amused by the whole thing, “but I haven’t played the game myself and I don’t really play video games. It’s funny to think of having an emotional, cathartic moment at the end of a video game but I’m glad I can participate in it.”
That song is, like a lot of her older songs, full of rustic detail. When she sings, “Last year’s antlers mark the trail,” it’s evocative, although I did have to go and look it up to learn that deer really do lose their antlers every year. “People collect them!” she says excitedly. “It’s great to find an antler because the deer that shed it didn’t die. You didn’t necessarily have to kill a deer to get an antler, which is nice. But they shed them every year and every year they have the number of points on their antlers is how many years old they are. Every year they shed the antlers and every year they grow new ones with more points.”
Diane grew up in a small town called Nevada City, which is confusingly in California. She spent a lot of time wandering around in the woods and listened to the kind of folksy Americana her parents, who were also musicians, played. While those influences were obvious across her first few albums, Diane’s latest release, About Farewell, is much more personal. The songs aren’t about mountains, rivers and antlers but instead document the end of her marriage in diary-level detail.
“The songs just really needed to be written for me to navigate and work through what I was going through at the time,” she explains. “It did feel a bit brave to – for the first time – really just lay my cards on the table and not tell a story about somebody else but rather tell my own story completely. It was a bit frightening, but I’m glad I did it. I needed to do it. [In] a lot of my past work there are metaphors and there’s a lot of nature references – I think lyrically my style was much more flowery – and with this new record it just is what it is. I’m not hiding any of what I’m saying with the language that I’m using. It’s pretty blatant.”
While these songs were written before her divorce, in the time it’s taken to get About Farewell finished and out into the world, her life has drastically changed again. She has a new fiancé, and is about to have her first child, a girl, in November. She says she’ll squeeze in a couple of US concerts before then, but “once I’m home from those shows I’m just gonna be waiting for the baby to come and decorating a nursery, etcetera, for a while. I’m sure that I’ll continue to make music – I just don’t really have a timeframe for it because I have no idea what it’ll be like because I’ve never been a mother before. We’ll see. To be determined.”
BY JODY MACGREGOR
Alela Diane‘s About Farewell out now through Burnside Records/Spunk.