Words by David C. Obenour
With the help of a talented backing band and a like-minded producer, Allie Crow Buckley has created a solo album of staggering depth. The songs on Moonlit and Devious traverse the darker recesses of americana but with a modern approach that explores experimentalism through sound. Each listen reveals previously hidden detail and emotion that make every play through more and more enchanting. The world before saw her supporting the likes of Jenny Lewis and Maggie Rogers and with a pandemic behind us and a debut like this, there’s no telling where she’ll end up.
Off Shelf: It’s been an exceedingly odd time over the past year. How have you been holding up personally?
Allie Crow Buckley: I am doing well all things considered! Lots of reading.
OS: Each musician is dealing with their own very weird temporary normal throughout this time, but I have to imagine releasing a debut adds an additional layer of weirdness. Have you found anything particularly challenging about the lead-up and release of Moonlit and Devious?
ACB: Yes! Layers of weirdness! I think the most difficult part of the process has been simply the lack of connection.
OS: I’m also kind of fascinated by titular tracks, the thinking and meaning behind taking the name of a song and using it for the album as well. Can you talk about what prompted you to name the album Moonlit and Devious?
ACB: I felt that ‘Moonlit and Devious’ both thematically and sonically summed up the record well. There are a lot of references to duality and mythology throughout. Sonically and lyrically there is a sort of moonlit side and devious side to the record.
OS: Lyrically, the album delves into your grappling with the end of a partnership and finding or reclaiming your identity. That’s an interesting parallel with this being a debut and some people’s first introduction to you. Did you think about that in writing these songs?
ACB: I think that the end of a relationship theme comes from more of an internal relationship – shedding old skin. As I didn’t end a romantic relationship. A lot of the record explores the idea of both craving independence and craving devotion. That push and pull. This is where themes around duality come back into play.
OS: You have an incredible mix of sounds and moods, especially for this being a debut – a great example being the depth of the instrumental tracks, Serpentress and Interlude. Were there any moments of sound that really stuck out to you from the record?
ACB: I was so lucky to have the most magical group of musicians, and Dave Cerminara at the helm of engineering. It is both exactly what I had imagined and beyond my wildest dreams. When you all get together and record live on the floor like that, I think it naturally takes on something much bigger than you could have ever imagined on your own. A sonic universe. Hearing how other musicians interpret your music is such a joy for me. So really there are so many sonic moments that have stuck with me.
OS: Did you have other instrumental tracks from the recording that didn’t make it into the record? What did you like about the space and mood of the ones that you did include on the album?
ACB: I had always wanted there to be instrumental tracks on the record. I wanted the tracks to be a sort of meditation, mantra-esque, to allow the listener a moment’s pause. Dylan Day wrote the instrumental that is Interlude in the studio, and he and Jason Boesel wrote the music for Serpentress. Both tracks were first-takes! I feel they add so much to the world of the record.
OS: You assembled some pretty great players for the album, are these folks you hope to be able to collaborate with regularly moving forward? Both in terms of touring and in recording future albums.
ACB: Not only are they all such incredible players, but they are also true wizards in this world! I hope to get to collaborate with them always.
OS: From previous conversations, it sounds like you were pretty open to evolving your songs once you got into the studio to record them. Do you have that same openness for performing them live? How does the song live on when performed?
ACB: Recording live is filled with serendipitous moments – oftentimes even mistakes become intrinsic parts of the record. I try to make space for those moments, which goes for playing live as well.
OS: You also talked about how many of your lyrics started as poems. I’m curious how that process goes. Do you write poems with songs in mind or is it more a separate art and pursuit unto itself? Do they dramatically change for you when you are able to put them to music?
ACB: Yes, many of my songs begin as poems. Being that poetry can be so rhythmic, the cadences and things are already there. Then sit at my organ or my synth and just see what comes through melodically!
OS: The album works remarkably as a whole, going through a journey and I’m really struck on each listen by how well “Hanging Tough” fits but also stands out. Can you talk about how you determined where you’d put that song?
ACB: I love sequencing! It is one of my favorite parts of the process. It really helps you to understand and pave the journey of the record. If “Moonlit and Devious” is a journey through the forest, then “Hanging Tough” is the midsummer night’s dream faerie party in a clearing before you slink back into the depths of the woods.