2020 has been a year marked by anxiety and trauma. Beginning with the raging wildfires that spread uncontrollably across the Australian heartland back in January, the last eleven months have given us a bottomless pit of catastrophic events too numerous and disheartening to enumerate. “When life gives you lemons”, the saying goes, “make lemonade.” But sometimes, even that feels like an impossible task, especially if the lemon tree is on fire.
This is where Nashville-based indie-folk artist Melissa Erin comes in with her new single “Settle On Down.”
A soft-spoken and reflective ballad that features only an acoustic guitar and Erin’s stirring vocal range, “Settle On Down” is a fitting song to play in the background as you sit back and contemplate the exacting rollercoaster ride of the past few months. Tackling a mix of issues that range from economic worries (“You’ve been working all your life, and you still got those bills to pay”) to social unrest (“There’s static in the air and there’s fighting in the streets”), and existential dread (“Your friends are movin’ on, and the moment slipped away”), Erin continuously reverts to the same mantric exhortation to “settle on down.”
Avoiding both blinding naivete and the Covid-era brand of insouciant stoicism that’s become all-too-popular, Erin reminds us that we have a moral responsibility to do the right thing. “The world is on our shoulders,” she tells us, before leaving off on an optimistic note as she looks towards a future that exists beyond the boundaries of our immediate present in which she imagines “a road that never ends” stretching past “infinite highways and sunsets.”
“It’s gonna be alright,” Erin quietly assures us. All we have to do is trust that this, too, shall pass, take a deep breath, and settle on down.
Is there a specific event that inspired this song?
I’d say this song was solely inspired by 2020 and all of its craziness. I’ve been craving just going back to hanging with friends and doing simple things. I was thinking about all the times I’d get together with friends and just hang out with nothing to do. That’s something that 2020 took away from us in a sense, and made me realize how much those moments meant.
I enjoy the way that you create vivid imagery through your lyrics. Who are your main lyrical influences?
John Prine, Tom Petty, and Joni Mitchell all inspired my lyricism in some ways. I also love free writing, or sometimes will just sing my thoughts along with my guitar until something comes out. It feels weird at first but sometimes you surprise yourself with something really cool.
What was it like to record this song in the middle of a pandemic? Did you find the recording process any more challenging or different?
It wasn’t much different from the usual set up for recording. The main differences were the masks and distancing ourselves from each other. It helped that I was recording solo, because if I had a live band with us, it just would’ve been more complicated to socially distance. It was really uplifting to be recording music and playing outside of my living room, so it definitely was a milestone to my year.
You recorded this song with Grammy-winning engineer Brandon Bell (The High Women, Earl Scruggs) and got Eric Conn (Willie Nelson) to help master them. How did you come to work with them, and what was that experience like?
Phil Anthony helped me produce these songs and organized the entire session, so without him these songs would’ve sat on the shelf for a bit longer. He introduced me to Brandon and it was just a really enjoyable day of recording and making music. We recorded it at The Cabin Studio in East Nashville and it was a super comfortable environment to just make music. I still have yet to meet Eric Conn, as he mastered them remotely, but he did a great job and we hit it off over the phone. Good vibes all around, and this day was definitely a highlight of my year.
How has Covid-19 impacted you as far as playing in front of audiences, and how have you adapted to it?
Covid-19 has impacted every artist/musician as far as performing goes. Live music is on hold for now, and we’re having to get crafty with how to release music. I’ve done a few live stream performances and online concerts with other artists. They were a lot of fun, but definitely different compared to a live show. I feel like artists are really resilient and musicians are constantly having to adapt, so we’ve managed to do what we can for now. I’m focusing a lot on writing, recording from home, getting my at home studio set up in a way that feels functional for me, and just riding the wave the same way a lot of other musicians are right now. Mainly trying to stay positive through it all, and reminding myself that I can use this time to create in ways I may not have done otherwise.
What are your plans for the new year as far as potential touring and new releases?
I’m working on some new music now, and going to get back in the studio with a band next time around. As far as touring goes, I feel like every musician is just waiting right now to see what the next year brings. I definitely want to be out touring soon! But there are still so many unknowns with what next year will bring.