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Orangewood Interviews: Faye Webster

Orangewood Interviews: Faye Webster

Faye Webster’s knack for catchy songwriting, Americana-inspired guitar playing, and illustrative lyricism come together perfectly on her latest album, “I Know I’m Funny haha” — with her fourth LP under her belt, it’s easy to forget this rising star is only 23 years old. That becomes easier to remember once she starts gushing over her favorite Pokémon cards and childhood baseball stadium snacks.

 

“I Know I’m Funny haha” paints intimate vignettes, giving us a window into Webster’s life. We had our peek through that window when we sat down to video call her from her place in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Hey Faye, thanks for talking with us today! Congrats on your new album release, “I Know I'm Funny haha. 


Thank you!


Our team is loving the new record. It’s cool to hear how each song sonically took a different shape and to see your artist evolution from your first three records to this one. What were some of your biggest influences for your sound and guitar playing on the new album?


I was listening to Hannah Cohen a lot when I was making this record. Her record "Welcome Home" is one of my favorite records ever.  Also, Mei Ehara, who’s on the record, was very influential. I listened to her music so much, and I just really appreciate her arrangements and her band. I feel like we're very similar in that sense, but she just thinks of stuff that I couldn't think of, which I think is why I really admire her. 


When it comes to guitar players, my biggest influence has always been Blake Mills. I've learned a lot from watching him play guitar. Even though I play guitar, I don't tell people, "Oh, I'm a guitar player." I'm just like, I play guitar and I sing. I’ve gotten very comfortable and I know I can play guitar. But mostly I'm just doing rhythm stuff, so it’s been really cool to watch him [Blake Mills] do shit. I feel like if I were to ever want to really become a guitar player, my goal is his style. 


That's a great crop of influences. On this album, pedal steel and electric guitar are central to your Americana inspired sound, but you ended the album with “Half of Me,” which is just you and an acoustic guitar. I would love to know how it felt to end the album with a more intimate track.


Yeah, that song. When we brought it to the studio, we had the band on it. Second run through, I was like, “Y'all have to leave,” haha. Like, y'all kind of ruin the song. So then we kick the band out and I did just like a solo recording of it. Then, two weeks before we turned the record in to get pressed, I hit up my manager and I was like, "Is it too late to change a song on the record?" He's like, "What the fuck? Yeah, kind of." But I just really missed the demo. And so I just ended up putting the demo on the record, which is such a shitty recordingBut, I ended up putting the demo on the thing just because it felt like the best representation of the song. 


The guitar that I was using was just this really, really shitty, old ass nylon string. I used it in the studio as well. There's a guitar shop right next to the studio in Athens sometimes they just lend us shit, because it's good for their business. We had this $5,000 nylon string. It was nice as fuck that they were like lending it to us. But after they let us use it, I gave it back because it sounded, like,  too good. My guitar sucked and I feel like you could hear that. I just missed the shittiness of my guitar. I also really felt like that's kind of what made the demo. Just really raw, I guess.

"I was writing about landlords and random things that don’t mean shit to anybody on a random day. But when I sit down to write, it’s those things that pop into my head, and I have to get it off my chest."

That rawness and intimacy can also be heard in your lyrics. After a tough year, you created an album that's still very hopeful and playful. Were there any moments, even small ones, from this past year that you knew you wanted to include in your songwriting? 


In general, I think I’ve just figured out who I wanted to be and what kind of music I wanted to make. I started to figure out the last record just by experimenting really. My first two records are just so sonically different and I was so young, so I feel like now I’ve just gotten really comfortable with myself and what I’m making. I think that shows the most in my songwriting becauseI found myself writing about stuff I’ve never written about.

 

Like you said, it’s more hopeful of a record. I was writing about landlords and random things that don’t mean shit to anybody on a random day. But when I sit down to write, it’s those things that pop into my head, and I have to get it off my chest. 

 


It’s funny because so many people have been like, ‘I’ve related so much because of the pandemic to your record. I’m so glad you wrote such a relatable thing.’ But I wrote most of these songs before the pandemic. I’m just this person, pre and post pandemic. 


All of your seemingly mundane lyrical moments, like landlords or sitting on the porch drinking saké, tell a bigger picture. Were there any other day to day things that you thought were funny or wanted to work into a song, but didn’t make the cut?


There's so many things that I think about and do that I haven't expressed in music before. But I don't know if it's because I'm like, "Oh, you can't write about this." Or if it's just like, dumb shit. Like can you relate to opening packs of Pokémon cards? No. Nobody's gonna fuck with that. Nobody's gonna like that. 


So many people ask you about your hobbies and the stuff that you do on the side, because it’s interesting stuff that other musicians don't really share. Like the yo-yoing! Everyone asks the yo-yoing. But I won't bother you about the specifics, because I know you get asked about that all the time.


Haha!


I did want to ask about what you think the common thread is between all of these different phases that you have. Is there anything that you think links yo-yoing and Pokémon, to ping pong and baseball?


Once you start a phase or at least I'm this way I'm not just like, "Oh, that was fun for the last two weeks." It's like "No, I'm doing this until I'm perfecting it." 


Like, I've become obsessed with something, and I don't stop going through a phase until I feel like there's a peak moment where I've conquered it to the point where I did all I can do and it's out of my system now. And then I never revisit it again. They can be like really small and dumb, but, I don't stop until I'm like "Okay, this is like the highest tier of this possible thing." You know what I mean? Like, I'm over it! Finished it! Went to the world yo-yo contest — done. Conquered this. I think it's just passion that links them all, really.


What's the current phase that you're working through? What's the highest tier that you think is next for you? 


Um, definitely Pokémon. 


You gotta win a trading card game tournament or something.

It's more like, what's the rarest card that I can buy? How much money am I willing to spend on one thing?


What's the ultimate Pokémon card that you could pull?


The nicest one that I have is like a completely holographic psychic energy card, which sells on eBay for like, one to two hundred dollars. It's literally so beautiful. I almost put it on my Instagram. But I was like, “They don't want to see this.”


“Went to the world yo-yo contest — done. Conquered this.”

Something else you mentioned on the album is sharing your phases with your boyfriend. You both have dreams of wanting to be rockstars — that's another lyric on the album. But you have completely different paths and styles. How does he inspire you with his different aesthetics? How does it mesh together?


Yeah, I think it works because it's so different. If we were any more similar, I feel like it would just be like - not boring, but like, you're not putting me on to anything. Like, “I already know about this, too.” 


He loves this one Adrianne Lenker album. The black and white one [“abysskiss”]. It's nice to be inspired by something so different. But then, at the same time, we can relate on things outside of music as well. Just like you said, just like whatever phase we're going through. I think that's kind of what keeps it interesting and really nice.


You can differ on music, but come together on ping pong. Nothing beats it. 


Yeah, exactly. Anything competitive.


In general, collaboration seems very important to you. “Atlanta Millionaire’s Club” had Father on it, and the new record features Japanese musician Mei Ehara. How do you choose which artist fits your vision for the album? 


With AMC [Atlanta Millionaire's Club], I was coming out of Awful Records, but still always connected with them. At the time, this person [Father] was so important to me and my career and who I wanted to start becoming. It's just very fitting for this person to be on the record at this time.

 

It's the same thing for Mei. When I had the song [“Overslept”], I knew I wanted somebody on it. My label and my manager were sending me these huge names, saying, “They've always wanted to work with you! This would be the perfect opportunity. It'd be so great for your streaming because they’re so much bigger.” But Mei inspired me the most over these past two years. I’ve never listened to anybody over the past two years as much as I did as her. If I didn't have her on the song that would feel weird. I would just not have anybody, really. 


I think it’s just like, who has really meant a lot for me for this record? Because I will always look back at this record and be like, "Yeah, I was going through a phase." Next record, I'll probably go through some other phase. Like I was saying, I really obsess over phases until I reach the end.


Each album is little time capsule of your life! This one has so many personal moments: you’ve got baseball on there, you’ve got Mei Ehara. Where's the separation between what you keep for yourself and what's shared on the album? Like, the Pokémon cards — you don't share that. But you do share the other things.


When I sit down to write something, the song is done in 20 minutes. I'm not plotting on it. I'm not like preparing or setting a time to do something. It's just like, “Okay, this is what I feel like getting off my chest. It's a one-sitting thought process for me. It's kind of this weird balance because I do want to say stuff in songwriting, just because there are people listening.  I'm not trying to waste this opportunity.


What I like from music is to relate to something. Otherwise it's not a “forever” song for me. If you really hit me where it hurts or said this dumb thing I think about everyday that I never thought somebody else thought of, those are the things – just the most relatable things – that I've appreciated in songwriting. So that's kind of what I've always done. 


Just because the more you can relate, the more human somebody feels. I don't want people to think I'm this legendary songwriter. I'm a human being that you relate to. That's always been important to me. But it's also this weird balance because I do want privacy. There's things that I don't want known, or I don't want other people to share with me. So yeah, I've still kind of been figuring that out: how to keep a healthy balance between the two. 

 

“I will always look back at this record and be like, yeah, I was going through a phase. Next record, I'll probably go through some other phase. Like I was saying, I really obsess over phases until I reach the end."

Growing up were there any singers that you strongly related to?


Yeah, Courtney Barnett has always been really good at that. Obviously, I wasn't listening to this person 'til older and realized what kind of music I liked, but I think that was the first time where I was like, “Oh, I'm feeling something from music.” 


My favorite lyrics of hers are when she's staring at walls in her house and singing, “I wonder if this is East or West. I don't know.” Or, “Damn, I really need to cut my grass today. But, to be honest, I'm not going to.” It’s just relatable. It’s the stuff nobody thinks about, or if they do think about, they don’t even remember because they skip over it. 


I think I've definitely had some of those moments on your album like “Atlanta Millionaire's Club,” I always think of “the light on the front porch and feeling lonely when it's out.” Like that's such such a good lyric. And I think about that every time I go to turn off my front porch light now. 


That's sick!


Thank you for that.


Of course.



Baseball is a big part of the album. I know you were going to lots of baseball games. What's your go-to baseball stadium snack?


I'm trying to think of what I would do now. I used to always get boiled peanuts before you walked into Turner Field from the people outside. But Booth [my partner] has a peanut allergy, so I haven't eaten peanuts at a game in a very long time. But, I don't know... I feel like I really just drink beer. I used to love Dippin' Dots, but now the Dippin' Dots line is dumb. So dumb. Like I don't know who's waiting in that line for some Dippin' Dots. But those are my two childhood go-to snacks.


That's fantastic. Yeah, Dippin' Dots: “Ice Cream of the Future.” They were right.


Okay, they took that away!


Did they?


Yeah, I think it's because you know, it's probably not the future anymore.


It's the future now. 


Yeah, for the past few years I've noticed that they've taken away “Ice Cream of the Future.”

 

Speaking of the future, what's coming up in the future for you? Obviously in 2021, you've got the tour starting in September. You've got the circuit coming up. I have to ask you, what do you miss the most — and what do you miss the least — about being on tour?


I miss just seeing people. Because online, there's people who don't want to be there on your stuff, or listening to your stuff. But in a venue, it's like, everybody wants to be here, for whatever reason. They paid, traveled... and it's nice to actually see faces. It's just very encouraging. It's like, “Oh, this is why this is why I do what I do,” you know what I mean? Just seeing physical faces is always something I've really missed.


But what I missed the least is probably just being like, sad as fuck. I don't know, I just hate the traveling part. I hate how exhausting it is. Because it's really exhausting to travel for 14 hours, and be really sad and then have to get on stage and make everybody think that you're not really sad. But over and over. It's really great the first show and it's like, “Damn, I have to do this 20 more times in a row.” And it's exhausting. So I miss that release. I should have started with that. And then put the happy part after…


Well, if you did have a day off from touring, what would you get up to in Atlanta?


I would not leave my house. I would love to have every day off in Atlanta and not in a van. It's really recharging to just be in your safe space. 



This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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