Faye Webster Reaches For Happiness, Kind Of

Pooneh Ghana

Faye Webster Reaches For Happiness, Kind Of

Pooneh Ghana

Faye Webster is an overthinker. It’s not hard to tell from her music, which is layered with fantasies and anxieties. Her hit “Kingston” begins with the line, “The day that I met you/ I started dreaming,” which promises both excitement and danger within just a few words.

Yet the Atlanta-based singer/songwriter is a woman of few spoken words. In person she is mostly energy — a bubbling, giggly energy that gives her songs a sparkle. Her new album I Know I’m Funny haha, out this Friday, came naturally. When I ask Webster if she went into making it with any ideas of how to make it separate from her previous material, she says, “Not really, I feel like that’s something that I purposefully avoid.”

“The more you think about it, the less organic and natural it’s going to be,” she explains. “You’re just like forcing it to be different, but it’s just going to be different anyways, because that happens to everybody. Every time I took a song to the studio, I would just give zero direction and wouldn’t let anybody hear it ahead of time. Once we’re in the room, I feel like that’s just how you can make the best representation of the song.”

So, Webster is only an overthinker in real life. In making art, not so much. “Well, when you say it like that it sounds funny,” she says with a laugh when I mention this, “but it’s true.”

Perhaps that’s what makes her songs incredibly poignant and relatable. On the endearing “Both All The Time,” originally released just months after her 2019 breakthrough Atlanta Millionaires Club, her unabashedly honest lyricism creates an image so vulnerable that it can make the listener feel invasive: “I’m loneliest at nights/ After my shower beer/ And I’ll go to sleep without turning out the lights/ Pretend like somebody’s here.”

“I just have these moments where I’m like, Oh, that’s it. I have to say this. I know somebody else is thinking it and I’ve never talked to somebody about it,” she explains. Her little quips and wisdoms are revealing; hearing them is like remembering something that’s been on the tip of your tongue forever — like when she sings on that aforementioned track, “I don’t get the point of leaving my house/ ‘Cause I always come back.”

Possibly the best part about Webster’s music is how it can be open to all sorts of interpretations. The title I Know I’m Funny haha felt powerful to me in a specific way; it’s a bold reclamation, an assertion, and a step towards agency. To Webster, it just felt right. The humor in her songs is subtle, and it mostly comes out in situations that portray the irony in intensity, like when she repeats, “How did I fall in love with someone I don’t know?” on “A Dream With A Baseball Player,” her new single out today.

The truth is that self-conviction, when deep enough, is often funny. And sometimes things are so fucked up and depressing that you have no choice but to laugh about it. Like when she sings, “The last thing he said, ‘There’s other things out there to see’/ And then he left me for someone who looks just like me.”

While I Know I’m Funny haha is being marketed as her first happy record because she’s in a relationship and shed most of her loneliness, there’s still a great deal of sadness in this music. This is partially because a batch of songs were written a while ago, but also because Webster has a tendency towards darker themes in her work. “I’ve always liked sad music just because it’s easy to be happy,” she says. “It’s harder to be sad and hear something and relate to it so much. And I feel like that’s all I want — to feel understood.”

This is the reason she gravitated towards slow songs and western country. She started making music because she was inspired by her older brother: “I grew up watching him going into band practice in our basement,” she recalls about his garage rock projects. “I think just watching it made me really want to do it.” It’s also why she started so early; her first album, 2013’s Run And Tell, was released when she was around 16. “Sometimes I look back and I wish I could just start my career yesterday. Literally start from ground zero,” she says.

I Know I’m Funny haha would be a great beginning. It doesn’t linger in its self-pity for too long; it sees the bright side and reaches towards it, even if there’s still temptation to keep one foot in the melancholy. Her repetition of the line, “You make me wanna cry in a good way,” on “In A Good Way” proves that Webster’s still her candid, disarming self, but she’s heading towards somewhere lighter and more pleasant.

I Know I’m Funny haha is out 6/25 on Secretly Canadian.

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