American singer-songwriter and actress Alison Sudol will release her autobiographical and intimate new album, ‘Still Come The Night’, on September 30th via Kartel Music Group.
There are songwriters who write constantly, plucking at their guitars in every spare moment, turning every overheard conversation, experience, thought and feeling into songs as a daily practice. Then there are the songwriters who wait until something seismic and life-changing happens, before disappearing to inject their entire soul into their work. The America-born, London-based singer-songwriter, musician, actress and video director Alison Sudol is from the latter camp. This was especially the case with Alisons exquisite new album ‘Still Come the Night’.
On Valentine’s Day 2020, Alison found out that she was pregnant. Five weeks later, she was jamming as much toilet paper, canned goods and prenatal vitamins as she could fit into a rental car, leaving just enough room for her partner and their dog. Filming on Fantastic Beasts had been indefinitely suspended, the tour with Goldfrapp that was meant to start in a matter of days postponed, and for some reason she couldnt taste or smell anything. The mood in London was strange, tense. No one knew how long this thing would last, or what the risks were if you were pregnant. Friends with a farm had told them to come stay. There was a cottage there for them. There wasn’t any wifi, but there was fresh air, a fireplace. They could stay as long as they liked.
They stopped to get more supplies on the way. The giant Tesco shelves were empty, bewildered people roaming the aisles at 8pm trying to work out what they could live on for the foreseeable, the energy apocalyptic. But they arrived to calm, quiet, stars at the farm. Soon after, London went into lockdown. Days later, they lost the baby. ‘I have always struggled with processing big emotions, says Alison. ‘I have met grief with resistance at best, pushing down feelings, cutting the pain off as much as I could. But this I couldn’t fight. It was too big, too physical, too overwhelming. It was a tidal wave and it demanded that I feel it. There was nowhere to hide’.
The days, weeks and months that followed are chronicled in songs from Alison’s fourth full-length album, ‘Still Come the Night’. ‘I needed to do something with all the grief pouring out or I would drown in it. Needed to name it, to give it a shape to hold onto. I found a little shitty guitar that belonged to my friends’ son and started writing’.
Set with the changing seasons and the quiet solitude of their borrowed cottage as the backdrop, the first songs of her intimate and introspective yet powerful, poetic record, came quickly and quietly. The quietly haunting title track, ‘Still Come the Night’, with its vulnerable vocals against spare, aching guitar, was the first song that she wrote, in the heavy days immediately following the loss. ‘I very nearly didn’t put it on the album because of how painful it was. It’s hard to sing in front of anyone. But I needed to sing it, needed to try and find something to hold onto. I tried to bring as much light as I could to it, to find the beauty in a moment where it was really hard to move through the day,’ explains Alison.
‘Mary of the Willows’, inspired by one of her favourite poets, Mary Oliver, was another one of the first songs she wrote. Immersed in a new slow pace of life, Alison found herself looking outside the window and going out every day to just watch buds grow and blossom from the leaves. Several months later back in East London, in a friend’s local studio Sudol played ‘Mary of the Willows’ for one of her partner’s best friends, London-based multi-instrumentalist producer Chris Hyson, who is also half of experimental duo Snowpoet.
‘We’d never worked together before, but I think both of us had a feeling we could make something good together. We were there for maybe a couple of hours and I played Mary down a few times. I didn’t know what to expect but Chris came back a few days later with a beautifully produced version, with guitar and drums by Welsh musician twin brothers Alex and Lloyd Haines, which ultimately ended up being on the album’.
Alison only had four songs – including ‘Come on Baby’ – but she asked Chris if he would be up for making an album with her. They booked a week in Giant Wafer studios in early August, three days of which were set aside to finish a previous record that she had been working on. So four days to make a record, having never worked together before. Seemed reasonable enough… Alison laughs. Giant Wafer studios, nestled between sheep fields in the Welsh countryside not far from where her partner grew up, turned out to be the perfect place to make the record. There they worked together to retain a hushed intimacy and sense of space even amongst the many layers of songs with their subtle harmonies and intricate instrumentation.
The single ‘Playground’ – about loving somebody so much that you want to start a family with them – is a summery burst of exhilaration, full of acoustic strumming, driving percussion and dreamy vocals that captures the carefree joy of a loved-up couple. It’s as close to a love song as you’ll get from Alison. ‘Playground’ had us all dancing, and reminded me of the place that my partner and I had been in in our early days, pre-pandemic, pre-miscarriage. So much joy. We worked from 10am until midnight, taking turns cooking because there was nothing around us but a petrol station with some ginger cake and crisps in stock. Even though I cried at least five times a day, it was one of the best weeks of my life. The guys were so kind and held space so gently for whatever I needed to go through. Each of them brought so much creativity and thoughtfulness to what we were doing. It was so healing.’
The resulting album is surprisingly light on its feet for such a heavy topic. Light, love and hope are interwoven into every song. Alison points to the vast weight of grief that people have carried these past two years: isolation, fear, sadness, illness, loss, and the ensuing rush to resume normal life, without the opportunity to process it all. This is an album for us all to listen to and connect with, one thats open, giving and full of emotion.
This is Alison’s first LP since the three acclaimed albums she released under the moniker A Fine Frenzy, when she was signed to Virgin Records and toured with Rufus Wainwright and opened for The Stooges at SXSW. Its a project she abruptly put to bed in her late 20s, when she destroyed her former project, never to be reunited to the surprise of her fans. Now, from her maturer perspective as a mother, she can reflect on her younger self trying to process things.
After A Fine Frenzy, Alison made her television debut in the twice Golden Globe-winning Amazon series ‘Transparent’ in 2014 with Elle Magazine hailing her as one of “The Seven Most Exciting Newcomers on TV’. In 2016, Alison co-starred in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, the first of five ‘Harry Potter’ prequel films, playing Queenie Goldstein, a role she reprised in the 2018 sequel ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’, and in the April-released third instalment ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore’. The day before the latest film’s UK release, she supported Goldfrapp at London’s Royal Festival Hall; both music and acting are key parts of her creative identity.
I think that art informs art,’ Alison says. ‘One of the most important things for me as a writer is to have perspective and I find that having different interests gives me more tools and colours to work with. Music is my most personal form of storytelling and when I have something to tell it’s magic, but it’s collaboration and the connection with other people making things that I find most fulfilling. I need the people as much as I need the art. Every person that has been a part of this has helped me heal. ‘
Alison Sudol forthcoming album ‘Still Come The Night’ is due for release on September 30th via Kartel Music Group. Pre-Order ‘Still Come The Night’ Here