Johanna Warren – “Less Traveled” (Stereogum Premiere)
Johanna Warren is a celestial body, and it’s impossible not to get drawn into her orbit. Later this year, the Portland-based songwriter will release her sophomore solo album, nūmūn, a magical and alluring collection of deftly-strung folk songs that are sprightly and timeless. “The album is dedicated to the moon,” she writes and, appropriately, she chose to announce it on the day the cycle starts anew. “By honoring her phases, I am restoring balance to my body and making peace with the cycles of all natural things; and to the divine feminine: by collectively cultivating her, may we restore balance to our world.” Don’t be put off by the New Age bend of her sentiments; Warren is the real deal, and she’s down-to-earth enough to balance the spaciness out. “Less Traveled” is the lead single from her forthcoming album, and it carries with elegance and grace. Warren writes evocative songs, fluttering hymns dedicated to nature and finding peace within yourself. When I listen, I smell fresh lavender and hear a stream in the distance, I can feel the satisfying crunch of freshly fallen leaves underfoot. I also feel a sense of peace, of tranquility and comfort — the one time I saw Warren’s mystical performance live during her tour with Mitski, I cried. It’s hard not to. It’s transportive and transformative music, completely divorced from this world but also wholly, painfully of it. “There is a time and a place in your mind more perfect than this world will ever be.” Listen and read some words from Warren explaining the track below.
This is a song about forging your own path and finding your authentic purpose in life by quieting the external noise and tuning into your own heart. It’s about reacquainting yourself with your intuition and the rich inner world that many of us have access to as children but have squeezed out of us by society’s soul-crushing clutches.
The first verses are framed as a conversation between a wise maternal archetype and her child. The child, scared of the dark immensity of the world, wants comfort and easy answers. The mother’s advice is that to find real answers, the child will have to look within.
When this song came to me, I received it gratefully as sage advice from my higher self: stop comparing yourself to others and thinking you need to model yourself after people you see “succeeding” around you. The truth is, you have a unique and sacred purpose on this earth, and if you look deep enough within yourself, you will come to see how you fit into the big picture with jigsaw-like perfection, filling a perfectly you-shaped space. When you identify exactly what it is that only you can do, there is no such thing as competition.
Your highest self is always calling, just waiting for you to listen.
The road less traveled is the road that leads you to yourself.
02/05 Portland, OR @ The Waypost
02/06 Olympia, WA @ Rhythm & Rye
02/12 Online @ Concert Window
02/14 Eugene, OR @ Lost Valley Educational Center
02/16 Portland, OR @ Valentine’s
03/05 Portland, OR @ Al’s Den
03/11 Portland, OR @ Alberta St Pub