“Witness, Unweave focuses almost solely on myself and my own mental health, difficult emotions, journey through a lifetime of trauma in all its large and small forms. It is a study and reflection of all the parts of myself that I have considered hindrances much of my life, such as living with an anxiety disorder and a depressive disorder. It is also a moment in time, and this process continues,” says New Orleans-based pianist and vocalist Emily McWilliams on Silver Godling’s latest full-length, Witness, Unweave, out now via Strange Daisy Records.
This new record began as a poetic and musical exploration of the body’s storage of emotions and trauma, and their effect on mental health. The results of that exploration are the seven symphonic meditations that comprise this gorgeous, introspective album.
“The meaning behind the words ‘witness’ and ‘unweave’ revolves around self-study, and the very nature of study is to attempt to remove one’s own ego and narrative,” McWilliams explains. “Witness refers to a thing, an entity, studying the crevices within myself. Whereas deeply personal, the idea of a witness makes it more like research in a lab. To study oneself without judgment.
“In yoga and pranayama, or breath work, many teachers present the idea of a “witness,” like a friend who is there to study you and help you along. It’s not cold and threatening. It’s helpful but ego-less. This is the state of observation, which some could argue is an actionable thing, but observing in itself is just observing, taking in.”
“Unweave refers to the doing that is sometimes a damaging ritual that occurs prematurely, before the witnessing and observing, that then leads to more action and change,” McWilliams continues. “But in much of this song cycle, it refers to the doing that comes after the observation. The ego-less, non-judgmental self-study leads to awareness and a call for action to change, and then comes the changing/the doing. This is somewhat in line with Ravel [Silver Godling’s previous album], which was more about external situations that cause problems in one’s life. But this goes deeper into the self—unweaving those ravels or knots inside to be a better human.”
Produced in the spring of 2020, right at the start of COVID, McWilliams was forced to record Witness, Unweave at home rather than at the studio, where she is accustomed to working.
“This is the first time I have recorded myself, another huge learning curve with this album,” McWilliams admits. “The recording process became part of my writing process. It was inspiring to be able to go back and listen to something other than a voice memo on my phone—I can notate on staff paper for everything, but hearing my own voice or my own piano make the sound it will make in the finished product is a whole other realm.
“I found myself listening after I thought I was finished with something, and weeks, or even months later, starting to hum that high piano part, or another vocal harmony, or hear damper or hammer noise in that spot. In the studio, the only way to achieve this, I guess, would be to record demos, then sit with them for a few months. At home, in my own space, I was completely uninhibited—out of that freedom came a kind of trust of myself I don’t think I have had before. And whereas I lost myself to the process many times, I also had a load of fun.”
Witness, Unweave feels lived-in, in a way that might not have been achievable in a traditional setting. The artist’s DNA is thoroughly ingrained in every phrase and tone.
“I want Witness, Unweave to mean whatever someone needs it to mean. I want it to affect them,” McWilliams says. “I also hope that anyone who has dealt with anxiety, depression, or trauma, finds something in there to help them feel less stunted. It’s refreshing when someone understands what you’ve done in the way you yourself understand it. However, having an effect on someone and being with them by way of my music is a gift to me, just like I hope my music is a gift to someone who needs it.”
Watch the video for “Descent to Heart” here:
For more from Silver Godling, find her on Bandcamp.
Photo courtesy of Silver Godling and Craig Mulcahy