Photo credit: Ian McFarlane
LeeAnn Peppers music is a blend of roughhewn poetry and rich Folk arrangements. Her song “Annabel” is a fingerpicked character sketch about growing up and learning to deal with the adult pain. LeeAnn relates the story of Annabel who is “skinny in the sunset, / [an] only child fatherless in blue jeans” as a spinet piano keens clustered whole notes that sound like a gavel on a courtroom bench. LeeAnn sings with just enough ache to make you feel as bruised as her characters. You’ll want to listen to her fragile narratives again and again.
Listen to “Annabel” here.
SC: I love how well you enjamb your lines in these verses. Each line in the verse leads into the next by providing information that drives the story: “to save you from the blackness / that you feel inside / crying at the clothesline as the fire burns / the trailer where the neighbor boys made you feel / the need to please in / a simple game of truth or dare”)
I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about how you approached the rhythm of these lines and/or how you think about your lines on paper and in song.
LP: I used a cut up method for “Annabel”. I gave myself a short period of time to write down every word or pair of words that passed through my mind—words which fit the scene or mood of the overall tone. After filling the page I picked a word to begin with and then a word to follow, so and and so forth until it was complete.
LP: Lucas McAuliffe arranged the song after I gave it a melody. He brought in Liz Brooks to sing a harmony part—which devolves—so, throughout the entire second half of the song, she repeatedly sings the word "Annabel" to add to the quiet urging.
SC: Tell me about your normal writing process. Do you keep a songwriting schedule? Or do you wait for inspiration?
LP: I think any kind of writing is good for using the muscle. There are exercises which train you to go to that place inside yourself, the well you draw from, intentionally and effectively and on command. An excellent resource for writing exercises is Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison. I also think reading is a great writing exercise.
I don't currently have a writing schedule. From the time I could write as a child (not spell, but write!) through the first few years after college I journaled extensively and I still carry something to write on and with everywhere I go. I like to write the moment I'm inspired--which is how most of my work manifests--though Annabel is not an example of that. I've experimented with writing first thing in the morning or right before I go to sleep, writing with a time limit, writing with a page limit, and sometimes I just sit with a pen in hand and write nothing.
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