The Story Behind Every Song On The Staves’ New Album Good Woman

The Story Behind Every Song On The Staves’ New Album Good Woman

Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor introduced themselves as the Staves with 2012’s Dead & Born & Grown, an album that began with nothing more than the sisters’ harmonized voices. Those spiraling, cascading, tenderly yearning harmonies have always been at the core of the band’s sound, but over the past decade the Staves have fleshed out entire worlds of sound around their voices. On their 2015 sophomore outing If I Was, wildly colorful post-rock symphonies expanded and contracted in the Watford natives’ wake, infusing their aching folk songs with new layers of breathtaking beauty. It may be the best album producer Justin Vernon has ever been involved with — and yes, that includes his four classic Bon Iver LPs.

Until today, the Staves had yet to deliver their proper follow-up to If I Was. In the years immediately following the album, there were a couple EPs and The Way Is Read, a full-length collaboration with the experimental classical ensemble yMusic. Then came a hiatus marked by writer’s block and personal tumult. The sisters’ mother, Jean, died unexpectedly in the summer of 2018, just two weeks after their grandmother’s death. Within a couple more weeks Camilla, who was living in Minneapolis with a romantic partner, ended the relationship and returned home to England. Emily gave birth to a daughter named Margo in 2019. Their lives in flux, the Staves weren’t always sure they’d even continue on as a band.

Slowly, inspiration crept back in. They challenged themselves to attempt fresh techniques, to incorporate new sounds, to channel the pain and uncertainty that was plaguing them into songs about the struggle to become a better human being. The Staves wrote and recorded the new Good Woman over the course of several years, at first self-producing and then recruiting indie-rock legend John Congleton for a fresh perspective in the home stretch. They ended up with an album that could not be mistaken for any other band, yet one unlike any prior Staves release. Taking inspiration from neoclassical composition, found sound, classic rock, and more, they continued to build out exciting new corners of their sonic universe, turning some of their most downtrodden songs into glowing creative triumphs. Arriving nearly six years after If I Was, Good Woman is worth the wait.

Last month, I got on Zoom with Camilla and Jessica to discuss the origin of these songs, going track-by-track through the new album. Press play on Good Woman and read our interview below — and if you’re into the album, buy a ticket for their virtual release show tonight from London, starting at 8PM on both coasts.

1. “Good Woman”

You made this the title track and the first song on the album. Is it fair to call it a thesis statement for the album?

CAMILA STAVELY-TAYLOR: I think it kind of is. I think when we were writing it, we realized that certain themes in it did crop up a lot of the time. The idea of trying to figure things out and trying our best to be good people and to be good women, and what does that even mean? Sonically it felt like a good introduction to the album and to a lot of the new sounds that happen in the album. It’s not so quite stripped back. There’s lots of vocal looping type stuff. As with the other songs, we tried to be very up front and open lyrically. So yeah, I think you’re right.

It feels like as the song progresses, the phrase “good woman” almost goes from sarcastic to more genuine, like “I’m a good woman, playing the role” to “I am a good woman.” Am I reading it right?

CAMILLA: Yeah, I think so. Definitely, when it first happens, it’s like, “OK, I’ll be quiet, I’ll shut up, I’m a good woman.” And then, yeah, as it continues, I guess it’s partially kind of exasperated, like, “Oh, come on! I’m a good woman. Don’t be such a prick.” And then I guess it ends in more of a kind of defiance. I am, despite all of the chatter and all the mixed messages that one might receive in this strange day and age. I am. I’ve decided I am.

JESSICA STAVELY-TAYLOR: I think by the end of the song it’s like, “I am a good woman, fuck you.” And I remember when Milly was recording it, yeah, the vocal delivery is quite laid back throughout the song and there’s a really cool groove throughout the song. And then by the end, Milly was kind of screaming the lyrics, kind of doing an almost more like rock ‘n’ roll performance of the lyrics. It was like, “Can I get away with this? Is it cool? Does my voice sound alright?” And we were like, “Absolutely. You should be screaming the line, ‘I’m a good woman, I’m a good woman, I’m a good good woman’ over again. It’s fucking powerful and it’s your truth.” It became really clear — that was one of the earliest songs we’d written for the record, and some songs we’d written, we just kind of got rid of, and they didn’t make it onto it. And that one, we always knew it was going to be on it, and it became really clear it just had to be the album title.

You mentioned introducing new sonic elements. Did you intentionally set out to bring new ingredients to your sound this time?

JESSICA: It was actually driven a lot by Milly’s ideas to use ambient recordings. From the beginning I think she was really into that as a thing for the record. So to be able to have the studio recordings with a proper mic, but to incorporate, I guess, a different perspective from a different sonic space. So we had recordings from our iPhones, recordings on field recorders, being outside or just being in a much bigger room that echoed, and we just kind of kept recording anything we found interesting. With “Good Woman” there’s a moment in the song where there’s lots of female voices in the background. They’re voices of our friends and family. There’s a recording of our mom’s voice in there, our grandma, and they’re all kind of laid up pretty far back in the mix. And the idea was to create the kind of inner chatter in your mind — and especially as a woman, all the worries that go around your head. You’re not worrying just about yourself, you’re worrying about so many other people that you care for in your life, that you feel responsible for. And when you add together a number of women’s worries, it all just becomes this noise. I thought of it as if you could put a lead coming out of your brain, that might be the sound, maybe, that you would hear.

2. “Best Friend”

The beat on this is very urgent. What came first here, the words or the music?

JESSICA: The music came first with this song. It started as a piano motif, and that runs through the whole song. It’s just a three-note progression. [mimics piano notes] I wanted to do — sort of inspired by the music of Steve Reich and that kind of stuff for this. Lots of cycles, and then introduce different notes and different cross rhythms going through it. I always love it in a song where, when the drumbeat comes in, it comes in in a place where you weren’t expecting it to. It’s one of my favorite things. And I really like that about that song. But yeah, it was all totally driven by the piano part. We didn’t put drums on it. We demoed the track and had that kind of existing for a while. The drums didn’t go on until we were actually properly tracking the song in the studio. So it was so great to finally hear that strong backbone to the thing, to stop it from being too drifty and ethereal.

The song is about friendship and youth. And pretty specifically it was about my group of friends growing up in high school in Watford where we’re from, our hometown. Shout out to them! And I think that sort of heightened sense of awareness and drama you have when you’re a teenager — you’re experiencing these things for the first time, and there’s no time in your life like that. But you don’t realize when you’re in it. And so there’s a lot of nostalgia of being older and looking back on that time. It’s kind of a magical time. Friendships are such a huge part of your life. And you’re sort of standing on the precipice of your adulthood and your future. And at that point, everything is kind of wide open, and it’s all possibilities. I think there’s a magic to that innocence. So that’s what was kind of driving the song for me.

CAMILLA: I think the piano and those cross rhythms, it sounds like the beginning of things to me. There’s an urgency and there’s a kind of promise to it.

JESSICA: And like you were saying, there is that sense of urgency in the song that comes around in the choruses. I think it’s that idea of you’re charging toward your future, you can’t wait to grow up and be this version of yourself. Then you actually look back and think, I wish I hadn’t run so fast towards it. I wish I could slow down and sit in that moment a little bit longer.

How does that fit into the big picture of the album? Does the album have a big picture narrative?

JESSICA: I think this song provides a moment of optimism on the record and of joy and nostalgia, which is perhaps not happening that much on the rest of the album.

CAMILLA: Yeah, happy nostalgic memories with a bit of regret.

JESSICA: There wasn’t any kind of preconceived theme for the songs to be about. They were all written over a period of like three years or so. So it’s very much kind of writing as things are happening and you’re experiencing things. But often you find once you collect a body of work that themes suddenly emerge and reveal themselves, usually quite clearly. Obviously we’re all women, and during the process of making this record, we lost our mother, who was the ultimate good woman in our life. And also Emily had a baby girl, so another woman came into the family. So that was a huge theme running through it. But also we said from the beginning to just be bold and not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to be too honest in the lyrics. Don’t be afraid with sonics to try new things and push things. So I think that, at the core of it all, is the thing we kept returning to.

3. “Careful, Kid”

This is more of a heavy, lurching beat thanks to that squelching low-end sound. It’s real nasty. How’d you make that sound? And was it the foundation of the song, or was it added later?

CAMILLA: Yeah, that initial loop thing was the initial seed of the idea. It’s a loop of my voice as sung through a mic into a distortion pedal and then into an amp that we further distorted. It was just a voice memo on my phone. I had this voice memo for ages and was like, “I kind of really love that sound.” It sounds not like a voice. It sounds like a guitar or something. And it’s got very sharp, abrupt ending of notes because of the type of pedal it’s using.

JESSICA: I remember hearing it for the first time and it reminded me of a Led Zeppelin riff. I was like, this is fucking cool, we should do something with it. But it ended up being a song that was finished much later. It was written much later in the process. It was one of the last ones that we wrote for the record.

CAMILLA: I was kind of carrying around this memo for ages. And after we’d come out of this hibernation and me and Jessie started working on things again, we played the demo, and we looped it, and Jess played some guitar over it. And it was one of those ones that as soon as I started singing over it and actually trying to put melody and lyric to it, it came out very very quickly. One, it’s always nice when that happens because we’re lazy shits. But I think it also speaks to needing to get out some of the emotions, some of the anger and the scorn. It’s a slightly patronizing song as well.

JESSICA: There’s like a parental tone. “Now be careful!”

CAMILLA: Yeah, and it’s kind of a warning, a karmic warning to someone about their behavior and the way they’ve acted towards people. And yeah, I think it felt very very complete once we actually got in a room with warm bodies and musicians. I think when the drums were added, we put a certain stress on certain beats — it felt as full-throttle as it felt when writing it. The sentiment feels like it matches the energy.

I appreciate that there’s an element of skewering the idea of self-care as an excuse to be oblivious to everybody else.

JESSICA: Yeah! “You’re working on yourself and you’re killing it!” So it’s like, good for you that you’re putting your stuff up, but I’m still carrying around all the mess in your wake. So be careful because that shit’s going to catch up with you.

CAMILLA: Good job! Good job being a selfish prick.

4. “Next Year, Next Time”

One of my favorite things about your band is the way the vocal harmonies go spiraling across the song and interacting with the arrangement. Even though it’s so musically intricate, it feels like these vocal parts must grow out of the lyrics. Is that how you tend to write? Like, you’re writing these words and then they bloom out into harmonies, or do the harmonies come first?

JESSICA: That was the first song that I had written for this record. It was January. I actually forget now which year it was, but it was a few years ago.

CAMILLA: 10,000 years ago.

JESSICA: I guess I was thinking about starting the new year, kind of a New Year’s resolution type idea behind the song. And already, within writing that, I was saying — New Year’s is all about looking to the future and all the things you’re going to do, and in the song I already kind of talk myself out of that and say, “Oh, we’ll put it off ’til next time.” So it’s this juxtaposition idea behind daring to dream but then being too afraid to actually try and maybe resigning yourself to kind of sitting still in one place and just talking about those things that could have happened. So there’s a kind of push and pull in the feeling within the song. But the lyrics come out pretty well formed. It’s just that repetitive phrase that is sort of the body of the whole song, and I really wanted it to be three-part harmony. I felt like it should be something that we were all singing together. I love the band Midlake, and I really felt like it reminded me of a Midlake song, the beginning of that. And that was always in my head, those great three-part harmonies that go through some of their songs. But the song, it kind of falls apart and slowly slams on the breaks, and then the drums kind of come back in and it goes into this sort of bridge section. Yeah, I don’t think there’s any lines that aren’t harmonized on that one. And I think it was an important one for us to be together in it and all be chanting along — kind of a notion of dreaming together, I suppose, whatever that means.

5. “Nothing’s Gonna Happen”

“Nothing’s gonna happen with your back against the door” — what’s the idea with that phrase?

JESSICA: I think it’s kind of coupled with the idea from “Next Year, Next Time.” If you’re not going to step out there into the world and try, stay inside your metaphorical room — or actually for most people in the last year, perhaps that song will ring quite true — then nothing will change. So that’s kind of what the chorus is dealing with, and that runs through the song. It’s always nice to let people draw their own conclusion from listening to the lyrics.

That song in particular was really important for this record because it brought us together as singers. It’s just an acoustic guitar and our three voices at the core of that song. We added some brass and some woodwind in the studio, which is so beautiful on that track. But we were at a point where we had songs where we were experimenting and we were trying out lots of different sounds in the studio. And that one I felt was really needed as a reset where we all went back to the thing that we do. We mentioned before, three-part harmonies being our thing, I guess. It’s the thing we’ve always done together. When we first started out as a group, we just had an acoustic guitar and nothing else. So I feel like it’s a nice moment that’s really needed on that album. It sits right in the middle, sort of being the core of what we do.

CAMILLA: In the context of the album, I think, having that as an essential anchor point felt important.

6. “Sparks”

The line “In a higher love I’ll love you now” stuck out to me, partially because it made think about the song “Higher Love.” I don’t know if Steve Winwood was on your mind when you were writing the song or not.

JESSICA: He was there! No, man. It’s celestial. It’s dealing with the beyond. For us, its pretty undeniably a tribute to our mom and to trying to express those feelings that we were having of missing someone and the surreal feeling of trying to get to grips with the fact that they’re not here anymore. And wondering how you’ll be able to keep your relationship with them going now that it can’t be in the physical world. It was a guitar part that had been on my phone for ages and a melody that I kept returning to, but it ended up being written much later on in the album sessions. And again, similar to careful kids, it was the first things that I’d sung on that song that made it to the final cut. It was kind of a stream-of-consciousness lyric and delivery, and it makes sense to me. But it’s pretty ethereal, it’s just a trail of thoughts and feelings and trying to express that in some way. When something that big happens to you — I remember somebody saying to me when she passed away, “You’re gonna get a great album out of that at some point.” And it’s like, “Well, it’s not gonna be this one,” because the grief is too new. It’s different for everyone, but for me, I don’t know when I’ll be able to really articulate those kinds of feelings.

CAMILLA: It would take a lot longer to dig in any further than that stream-of-consciousness vibe that happened in that song. It’s such a dreamlike state you’re in after something massive like that happens. And you find that the things you miss are the really small things like the sound of someone’s keys in the door or — you know, little tiny things, not these huge, sweeping, grandiose ideas of it. But ultimately I think sonically we wanted it to sound really, really triumphant by the end because grief for us has just been about love. You only feel that sad because you fucking loved that person so much. You know you love your parents, but I think it really magnified it so much. So it did feel like a kind of lifted up, a higher love.

JESSICA: In the context of the record, it’s the only song I’d say that’s like a love song on the album.

7. “Paralysed”

This is another one that’s pretty minimal until the end. What made you decide this should mostly be a stripped-down arrangement?

CAMILLA: When I started writing it, it was just me on the ukulele, and it’s not a particularly happy song. I suppose it’s metaphorically what you might sing to yourself in the dead of night about a certain situation. A lament to yourself about being trapped and paralyzed and so deep in that you can’t really navigate your way out. And I think when we sung it together, or when I sat down and played it for the girls, it just felt like it didn’t really need that much else.

JESSICA: Speaking about our harmonies together as a trio, I remember Emily and I felt there wasn’t really any place for us on this song. It felt so deeply personal to Millie and her experience. You always have to do what’s best for the song and not worry about [adopts cranky American voice] “I wanna do my part!” It was like, we should just check out for this one and just let you do it ’cause it’s great. But then we ended up feeling like actually there was a moment where the veil is lifted and it kind of reveals the band and us, who kind of come in and join in and kind of protect you during that song? So you’re not so out there on your own.

CAMILLA: Yeah, kind of join in and reinforce me a bit. And in the initial part of that song, when it’s more intimate and stripped back, that was you and me playing around a field recorder, wasn’t it? So it’s just field recorder, and then that idea of the sonic space moving a little bit and things coming into focus gradually.

JESSICA: It’s like lo-fi to hi-fi.

CAMILLA: Yeah, that’s what we wanted to go for. And then have, I guess, an unashamedly quite lush part when the band fully come in. Also, I think lyrically and melodically at that part, it is kind of a screaming out thing, like begging someone, “Oh please, don’t snuff me out! I used to be something. I used to be someone. Why aren’t I anymore? Why can’t I find it?” That just felt like that really needs backup on that bit, sonically.

The language is very vivid there: “I used to be magic,” “I used to be rage,” “I used to be fire.” It’s really quite striking.

JESSICA: Yeah, and it’s the fear that you’ve lost yourself. That’s a pretty paralyzing feeling.

We talked about how it starts out with just Millie and the others almost come in like a support, like, “We’re there for you.” Does that mirror the experience of how the real events played out? Feeling stuck in isolation and realizing you still have a support system there for you?

CAMILLA: I guess there’s an element of that. When I wrote that song I was living in America, and Jess and Em had moved back to London. And yeah, I think it was a pretty isolating time, to be going through some very real stuff, very real emotions. I think that having them coming in full force in that part, I don’t know, it maybe feels like what I wanted to happen at the time, you know? Like, “I want to teleport you guys here and have you reinforce me and have the rest of my limbs back!”

8. “Devotion”

This is another one where it feels like trying to keep some kind of pent-up resentment in — keeping a measured tone, but it still comes creeping out. Like: “I could blow the fucking windows out.”

CAMILLA: Yeah, I think that kind of repressed anger, and I guess kind of like resigned anger as well — being like, “I don’t even know what to do in this situation anymore.” Pretty clueless. All I know is that I’m very devoted to this person and this situation and it’s fucking killing me. I think sonically I wanted there to be a shift from quite stripped down in the verse and then kind of coming in a bit more full-throttle in the chorus. And I quite like that it’s about always being a passenger and finding it very hard to find the strength and the direction to take the reins and be the driver of my life rather than taken along as a passenger by someone else. Trying to find my power.

JESSICA: I think with the idea of devotion, I think about it in religious terms. It almost goes hand in hand with the idea of making a sacrifice. And so it’s the idea of in order to be devoted to somebody or something, you’re perhaps saying goodbye to a piece of yourself or losing yourself in that. If you’re a passenger, you’re not in charge of where you’re going, and that’s a frustrating and kind of fucked-up way to feel. I remember when you brought the idea — it was like a GarageBand demo that Millie had that we worked from — and we ended up re-recording this song a bunch of times with a few different people. It took quite a long time for it to all lock in and make sense. There were core ideas that were there, like the verses on the piano stayed the same. And I remember when we first got the groove that comes in on the chorus, which is pretty poppy, we were really quite excited by it. It felt different from the other stuff we’d been working on.

CAMILLA: Yeah, and there’s a real pulse, I guess.

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s like a pulsating [makes pulsating sound] thing. I don’t know how many versions of the song we ended up with before we just finally got it right, right at the end. And I’m really glad because it’s one of my favorite songs on the record. There was a worry at one point that it just wasn’t tying together as a whole thing, but I think lyrically it was so great, and we really wanted to get it through the finish line. So luckily we did.

9. “Failure”

CAMILLA: Another upbeat title for a song on this record, eh?

There’s the line, “I’m sorry if I ruined the party/ And I’m sorry if all the fuss really killed your vibe” — is this about a real party? Or is this more of a generalized statement?

JESSICA: Every party that I go to, I walk in and everyone just puts down their drinks and goes [makes disgusted and/or annoyed face].

CAMILLA Ruined! She’s here. No, it’s more of like a metaphorical party right?

JESSICA Yeah. We mentioned that there’d been a hiatus period that we took. After the shit hit the fan, we had to go away and just regroup and not do music for a bit. And when you step away from that, you can lose perspective about what it is that you were doing. I think I’d been away from it for too long and I felt lots of doubt about myself, doubt about the record that we were working on, doubt about the band and the directions we were all heading in, and the feeling that maybe somehow we’d fucked it. And I think that by the time “Failure” was written, we were back in the studio and feeling better about things, so it’s kind of taking those feelings I’d felt during one of the worst times and kind of owning them, and feeling a little more comfortable to sit in that and say out loud, “I’m a failure. No one wants to play with me. No one wants to sing with me anymore.” It’s kind of childlike. It’s like a child having a strop and saying, “Boo hoo hoo, no one’s playing with me anymore, I haven’t got any friends” kind of thing. So it’s quite a bratty song. And so I think for me, there’s humor in that, definitely. I guess the arrangement, the idea was slightly like garage band slacker rock kind of feeling. I’m not going to say it was inspired by Wheatus, but I’m just thinking of that kind of “Teenage Dirtbag” persona. It’s saying, “I’m a dirtbag. I’m a failure. But if I am, then I guess I am, so what can I do, you know? Fuck it.”

CAMILLA: Let’s all sing it together.

JESSICA: Yeah, singing it together and kind of owning it. I like to think that it’s sort of turning around those feelings to give a bit of strength to them.

There’s a really cool flickering keyboard sound, or at least I think it’s a keyboard.

JESSICA: Do you know what? I do not know what that is. So John Congleton, who produced the record, he came in right towards the end of the process. We’d been self-producing everything up to that point, and since the last record we’d worked on EPs and singles, and we did another record in 2017 with yMusic, The Way Is Read, and so felt that we really wanted to take the reins and self-produce. And we felt confident in that and excited by that. And then life got in the way, and we ended up feeling that we really needed somebody else to come in with a different perspective at the end of things. And John was definitely the guy to do that. And he gave us a lot of reassurance that we were on the right track and he wasn’t coming in to try to change things. “I just want to help you make the record that you want to make.” We recorded it in London in RAK Studios in North London, and he brought Luke Reynolds — who’s a musician from Nashville — he brought him over as well. They’d worked together on a few records, I think most recently the Sharon Van Etten record that John had produced, Luke had played on. And I’m so glad he brought Luke ’cause they had such a great dialogue together. Really quick. They know each other well, and they work together a lot. And so Luke did all this shit, and I literally don’t know what he was doing. He worked so quickly. He brought so many different instruments with him.

CAMILLA: He was constantly switching between them, so it was really hard to keep track of, like, “What the fuck was that?” And he’s a wizard as well — a total Gandalf — he could play anything and make it sound like anything, so it’s hard to identify, like, “Oh yeah, that’s guitar.”

JESSICA: I’m gonna say it’s a synth. But yeah, Luke was the wizard with all the sounds on that.

10. “Satisfied”

The keyboard is really clutch on this one too. So is the lead guitar as the song builds to the finish. It’s basically a two-chord vamp, but there’s so much going on in the music. There’s this whole world opening up there.

JESSICA: I wanted it to be a band song. That one and “Failure” sit in a similar space to me in that sense. I was into War On Drugs at that time, that kind of feeling — the band, but quite lush, very guitar driven. I play a guitar solo on it. I wanted it to feel — not masculine, but a feeling of strength I think sometimes that the electric guitar and drums and bass bring to a song. Otherwise I think it might have allowed the song to be too self-pitying, the idea of not achieving satisfaction and never being happy and “What am I doing with my life?” kind of thing. The guitar and the arrangement helped it be more of a rock song, like a midtempo, or a slow jam if you wanna call it. It was again one of the earlier ones. It felt pretty watertight from conception. Even just with an acoustic guitar, the structure felt like it made sense from the beginning. It was just a question of just playing it a few times in different studios with different people until we landed on a way. And actually the version on the album I think has probably got tracks from the original demos and every other demo we did since that we just added to. So it’s quite a journey, the song, literally in that way.

11. “Trying”

The way the album is sequenced, this feels like the darkness before the dawn.

CAMILLA: It’s a kind of introspective, dark mood I guess. It’s very very similar to the initial GarageBand thing that I did of it. It was just that organ-y sounding keyboard. I wanted it to sound kind of funeral-y without sounding too morbid.

JESSICA: Like a dirge, sort of.

CAMILLA: Yeah, exactly. And I wanted it to be very intimate. At that point I set off trying to write a song that was not about me. ‘Cause I thought, I always write, like, [adopts mocking tone] “This is about love and loss.” And so I was initially trying to write about just kind of the state of things. ‘Cause I moved over to America in 2016. Right after we moved, Brexit happened. Then old Trumpy got elected. And I was seeing these two places going through this fucking mental time. And also seeing two groups of people having a really difficult time hearing each other or communicating. It was a very palpably tense time, and I wanted to talk about that and the idea of empathy and the idea of trying. And that’s kind of all we can do: Try to hear each other. Try to explain yourself. Try to hear someone else’s side. Try to be empathetic. But then, as I was writing it, I realized that’s also kind of how I felt about my personal life and the relationship I was in. The two became very closely linked, the way I felt about both things, this lack of willingness to communicate. I guess it kind of reaches its apex when I start saying, “I’m sorry, you should be sorry too.” It felt like that needed to be repeated again and again and again and again and again. We again tried to play with the sonic space on that one. We went out to lots of different acoustic areas and did field recordings of it. We really wanted it to feel like people are coming forward and joining you saying that. It’s like, fucking think of someone else. I suppose it ends with saying, “You can say, ‘I don’t know pain, so it don’t exist. I’m in my room and that’s all there is.'” I think maybe that it sums up and punctuates the song for me. It’s that idea of, because you’re in a position where something is not directly affecting you, then to you it doesn’t exist. And all you can see is the room you’re in and a kind of unwillingness to put yourself out there and see what someone might be experiencing.

JESSICA: Again, that one feels pretty on-point for lockdown: “I’m in my room and that’s all there is.” ‘Cause we’re in another lockdown here at the moment in the UK, so everyone’s kind of trapped at home in a big way again. We had thought we might call the album Trying at one point, for all those reasons. The idea of being a good woman or indeed a good person, aren’t we all just trying? But we thought it was too much of a downer in the end for the album title, and Good Woman was much more…

CAMILLA: More of a confident statement, I think. More than [adopts droopy voice] “trying.”

JESSICA: Also, you can imagine the reviews: “Trying … and failing! On their latest record…”

12. “Waiting On Me To Change”

Why is this the closing statement?

JESSICA: I don’t think there is a particularly profound reason. When you’re organizing the songs to be sequenced for the record, we always go through loads and loads of different orders that feel like they really change the experience. And often, because the record’s going to go out on vinyl, I like to think of things as Side A and Side B. I really like the idea of there being a middle point on the record, and then when you get to Side B, you can sort of restart again. I think it’s kind of a plaintive ending to the album. It’s not a defiant, big drumroll ending. It’s like by that point I think we’ve exhausted all our options in a way. We’ve said so much that it’s kind of going back to those themes of working on yourself, of failure, of trying — embracing imperfections that you have and acknowledging them and saying, “I’m not going to change for anyone else other than myself.” But kind of checking yourself and saying, “I know I probably should, but I’m only gonna do it when I’m ready.”

CAMILLA: I feel like it’s slightly playful as well, in that way. Like, “What are you doing that for?”

JESSICA: I think it is defiant, but in a much more understated way given the nature of the song. ‘Cause the song’s just a piano and us singing at the end. I also think it had a very different feel from the rest of the songs on the record and it always felt strange to put it — it just never sat very well between two other songs. We just couldn’t quite figure out where it was going to go. And it ended up just feeling like a really nice way to end things. It fades out at the end. It’s almost the idea of…

CAMILLA: You’re leaving that room.

JESSICA: Yeah, you’re leaving that room. And that’s the thing that’s left.

CAMILLA: Also, I think it felt a bit humorous to have “Trying” and then “Waiting On Me To Change.” ‘Cause it’s a about really really trying to be better, “That’s all any of us are doing.” And then a kind of little sass at the end. It felt quite comical in a way.

Good Woman is out now on Nonesuch.

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