Ali Enlow's songs are pop song operettas told at a whispered pace. “Hush” off her debut EP Rough Drafts places her powerful vocal up-front-and-center alongside the intermittent coos of Rhodes keyboard suggesting a kinetic combination of Ingrid Michaelson and Regina Spector. The song’s power comes a restrained accompaniment that allows for Enlow’s clear-eyed lyricism to dazzle the listener. Enlow joined me for a brief chat about her inspiration, repetition and the importance of flow.
Listen to “Hush” here.
SC: I love the different ways you use the word “breathe” in this song. Can you tell me a little bit about the repetition?
AE: Using the word so many times, I like to think of it as me telling myself to do it. I needed to take a step back and just breathe and think things through.
SC: There’s a tension in this song between keeping a secret and not being able to breathe. Can you talk about that tension?
AE: I've only ever told two people about who this song is about. At the time I was falling for a friend of mine who wasn't the best person. I knew it, our friends knew it, and I knew that it wouldn't work. We were very different people and I had to tell myself no.
SC: Tell me a little about writing “Hush”
AE: A lot of the time when I write something extremely personal, the process is really simple. The words just kind of flow and I don't think too hard about them; they just fit. Writing “Hush” was a big relief on how I was feeling since I couldn't really tell anyone about the situation.
SC: What’s your writing process like? Do you write daily? Or do you wait for inspiration?
AE: I typically try to write as often as I can, but there are times when I can't write anything. I start with my instruments, because I'm not a big fan of writing lyrics first. I'm not the most technically skilled on any one instrument. I'm self-taught in pretty much everything and learning new chords and how to use them in my music is probably my biggest struggle. But even though I get frustrated about it, I try to improve at least a little on each song I write. Whether that be a new strumming pattern, plucking, learning how to flick my hand a certain way, etc.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
AE: I'm not actually that involved with the songwriting community around Columbia. I'm one of those people that sits alone in their bedroom and writes and writes. I used to go to a bunch of open mics, but they would be with the same people and I'd play the same songs and I wasn't learning anything. After a while I just stopped going.
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