Going against the traditions of Music City, Tennessee, it was only after leaving Nashville for college in California that Erisy Watt began writing her own songs. It was back in 2019 that the world first heard from the now Portland-based songwriter, following the release of her debut album, Paints in the Sky. Since that album’s release, Erisy has shared stages with the likes of Hurray For The Riff Raff and Dustbowl Revival, before heading into the studio with Y La Bamba’s Ryan Oxford to work on the follow-up. That album, Eyes like the Ocean, is set for release in April via American Standard Time Records.
Recorded live-to-tape, Eyes like the Ocean is a record that seems to almost slow-down time, Erisy’s voice a soothing balm to everything the world throws your way, as the deceptively intricate musical flourishes wash over you in waves of melodic bliss. This was showcased on the record’s first single, New Same, a track of breaking old habits and shaping new ones, as Erisy explains, “we all want to blossom into the best versions of ourselves and often forget that it takes time”. Musically, the track is a beautiful take on a folk sound that stretches back decades, equally reminiscent of contemporaries like Erin Durant or Julie Byrne as it is Joan Baez or Judee Sill. This week Erisy shared the album’s second cut, Big Sky, a road song about Erisy’s love of Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast, a journey of contrasts where, “moments moving through redwoods that so easily conjured connection and inspiration felt distant as soon as the service and stop lights returned“. Musically the track is Erisy at her most ambitious as her sun-dappled vocals are adorned with bright runs of piano notes, double bass and languid guitars, the whole thing hitting a rich musical thread equal parts Kevin Morby and Esther Rose. As people, we often set out in pursuit of connection, and Erisy Watt seems to do that with ease, her music gets under your skin and instantly becomes a part of your story, a companion on life’s journey who feels like they’re very much here to stay.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Erisy Watt?
Hey there. It’s me, Erisy (pronounced air-zee), and it’s nice to be here sharing a bit. Currently, I am a singer-songwriter living in Portland, OR gearing up for an album release in the spring. I was raised in Nashville, moved to Santa Barbara for college when I was 18, and now I’ve called the PNW home for a little over four years. When not doing the music thing, I spend part of my year working in Southeast Asia, among other places, leading field courses for university students. I am someone engaged in what feels like constant acrobatics, balancing a lot of moving parts, between the touring and teaching, and now the pandemic. As I enter the final year of my 20s, I’m leaning more into the things that both keep me grounded and fuel my fire. For me, right now, those things are writing, running, reading, relationships, and coffee.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I remember my right leg. The way it uncontrollably shook up and down as I crossed it over my left attempting to steady my guitar during the opening chords. I remember the sensation in my abdomen– a concoction of nerves, giddiness, dread, and excitement all floating around my insides during my classes that day. It was the second week of my freshman year in college. It took moving across the country to a town where no one knew me to get me over my fear of singing and playing in front of people. I heard about an open mic at coffee collab – the local coffee shop in my tiny coastal college town of Isla Vista, CA. I had met Jeremy, my now partner, the week before and after noticing an acoustic guitar in his dorm room asked him if he’d play with me. We prepared a couple of songs -one of my early originals and a cover. I remember hearing my voice. It felt so foreign coming out of that beat-up battery-powered amp on the floor in front of me, the same amp that I would soon shlep downtown to busk at the farmer’s market every Tuesday. I remember the moment the song ended, looking out into the faces scattered about the mismatched furniture, the encouragement that sweet (and definitely too generous) crowd gave to me that night. I was totally hooked.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Making music feels like the most direct translation of my human experience right now. The physical sensation of singing, the act of finding words and melodies from thoughts, the trance of newly discovered chords – it just never gets old. Music is what brings me into the moment. It kind of blurs all the background stuff. I don’t look at my watch when I play music, and I’m someone who looks at their watch a lot. I think when you find the thing that frees you from thinking about time, that’s the thing you’re meant to do, or at least pursue in some way or another. Right now, music is that thing. That wasn’t always the case though. As I said, it took moving far away from home for me to consider performing beyond my bedroom. I grew up dancing and drawing and toggled between those two worlds. My closet was cluttered with colored pencil shavings and dance costumes. A series of injuries and desire to explore something new, along with some teenage trauma, led me to the guitar and a journal, and it just felt good and cathartic during those last couple of years in high school to express in a different form. There are about a billion more reasons why I make music, but those are the ones floating to the surface right now. Ask me on another day, and I may tell you it’s because of the social aspect, the community that comes along with it, the adventures of touring, the seemingly infinite things you can learn on an instrument, the endless growth, the life-long nature of it, the ways music elevates our experience of the world, etc., etc., the list goes on!
FTR: What can people expect from the Erisy Watt live show?
I don’t know – you tell me! With the pandemic and everything, it feels like a long time since I’ve consistently performed, and I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how these past two years express themselves in my live shows moving forward. I’m open-minded. I like to keep things honest and intimate. I play most often as a duo with my partner Jeremy, but I also love to bring out the full band too. I like to tell stories and also ask for recommendations from the crowd about the best breakfast spots in town for the following morning.
FTR: What’s next for Erisy Watt?
A couple more singles before the full album comes out April 1. I’ll be playing at Treefort Festival in Boise in March which I’m looking forward to. I’ve got a US tour in the works for late spring and summer, and then to Europe in the fall. Hoping to start recording another album towards the end of the year. Excited to be back out there again!
They Listen To…
Mikayla Mcvey Ft. Twain – On Naming
Phil Cook – Queen Of Branches
Big Thief – No Reason
Judee Sill – There’s A Rugged Road
Lijadu Sisters – Come on Home
Eyes like the Ocean is out April 1st via American Standard Time Records. For more information on Erisy Watt visit http://www.erisywatt.com/.