“This album was all about centering connection, which is what I see as my purpose as an artist.”
Annie Bacon’s folk rock has touches of Ani DiFranco and Joan Osborne but with more twang and the power of modern messages. Bacon wrote the songs off her second album, Nothing Stays the Same, over the course of a couple of years. Much of this album was created in 2016 after having visited Nashville for the first time. “It’s like I got a shot,” she says. Nashville was a place where everyone was writing and playing music; the industry felt like such a way of life. “I started digging deeper into the craft of songwriting,” she says. “My songwriting just completely changed.” She started exploring more of an Americana vibe, which you can hear on songs throughout the album.
Nothing Stays the Same is an album very centered around the idea of empathy. “I wanted to really connect people to people they might not otherwise care about…“All of these songs came from a place of empathy and wanting to build that,” says Bacon. Another huge goal of the album was the art she featured. Rather than having one piece of album art, she wanted to showcase a new art piece to go with every song. We talked with Annie Bacon about her new album with Oshen (her rotating cast of band members), some of her album art choices and the importance of increasing empathy.
The Bay Bridged: Can you tell us about your idea behind the connectivity of this album. What was your goal?
Annie Bacon: I visualized it like, each song itself is a little pebble, and you throw it into the water and it ripples. So I was hoping that the stronger the ripples you create in the early stages, the longer the life it’ll have…I love the idea of connecting strangers; I picture two strangers on a mountain saying, ‘Oh, do you know this song, too?’
TBB: What about your choice to use multiple images, one for each track, rather than go with traditional album cover art?
AB: I considered all the ways in which artists connect with music; if you have one image–even if it’s a really compelling image –it’s only one. So I thought, what if I had a piece for each song? That would create a new pathway for each of them.
TBB: How did you decide which artists to use? Did you know some of them personally?
AB: Yes! I have so many amazing artist friends and I love their work and I want them to be known, too. So this, was an opportunity for cross-pollination, a way of connecting their art to a song and giving new access into the work they do as well. Again, this album is all about the connection. I only worked with people I really admired and who treated people well and had integrity, that’s really important to me.
TBB: Were the pieces created specifically for this album, or were they existing works?
AB: Most of this work was created specifically for this album. There were a couple where the artist didn’t have time to create something new but they listened to their song and said here’s some of my work that fits well with this song.
TBB: Can you guide us through some of the images?
AB: Yes! So for this song “Gallatin Pike,” this amazing photographer named Ian C Bates crashed at my SF apartment in 2013 while he was an intern for the SF Chronicle. Now he’s moved on to photographing for National Geographic, The New York Times, The Washington Post…
Another one, the “There is No Way” is a painting by Strider Patton; he was my neighbor for years. He is a muralist and painter and does these really intricate paper cut outs and paintings. He’s really amazing.
TBB: Can you tell us about the visuals for “Nikki’s Song?”
AB: So, the songs “What We Said” and “Nikki’s Song” were both commissioned muralist and painter Bunnie Reiss. She does really intricate work and is kind of a national treasure. She does work all over the world. I actually bought one of the paintings and it’s on my wall in my room; people have bought her stuff after having seen it here, which is really amazing.
TBB: I was listening to “Nikki’s Song” and watching the music video. Can you tell me more about that song? Do you have a connection to the trans community, or to this person in particular?
AB: Nicole (Nikki) was someone I met when I first moved to California in 2001. People called her “the human jukebox,” she was just a phenomenal musician…we’d get up and sing with her at Beckett’s in Berkeley every week, then after a while she asked us to join the Wednesday night band. Sometimes people would walk in the door and would have a judgey disposition but by the end of the night they were putting $50 in her tip jar. I know it’s not the job of every trans person to explain what it’s like to be trans, of course, and that everyone’s experience is different….but she took some of that on, including the looks, the violence…she took that and said, I’m not gonna be afraid. I’ll just keep telling you who I am and what it’s like to be in the world.’ It was Nikki who would say she was ‘born in the wrong body,’ which I also know is not the experience of every trans person, but it was hers, which is why I say that in the song.
TBB: What do you feel is your role, in the community, as someone who is raising empathy, connectivity, through art and music?
AB: As a cisgender person I know I have a privilege and an opportunity to speak out and to be an ally. This song (“Nikki’s Song”) has been an amazing opportunity to do that.
Annie Bacon is an empowering and uplifting person and a pleasure to speak with. We appreciate her mission to increase empathy and to just help to connect people around her own community and beyond. She is working on more music, more shows, and creating more music videos with her collaborators. We’ll leave you with this video for “Two Way Street.”
Disclosure: Annie Bacon previously worked for us as a writer and editor.