Colorado-based American folk singer Teressa Mahoney has recently released her new song "American Elegy" (LISTEN HERE) close to President's Day, February 15, to encourage dialog about the country's complicated history with Indigenous people and racism. The pared down narrative-style folk song featuring Mahoney and a guitar will officially be available across all popular music streaming platorms today.
The song, co-written by Hannah Slay and Seth Slay, and produced by Lori Chaffer of Waterdeep, is a lament for the America that the singer thought she knew. The lyrics intertwine phrases from America the Beautiful with images of current events in an emotionally evocative way. The song opens with "waves of grain on stolen land" and goes on to express a sense of grave distress over the country as a place that represents life and land torn from Indigenous people, and an infrastructure built on the backs of slavery.
The American Elegy track will appear on Mahoney's summer album Disillusions, which the artist raised money for through Kickstarter.
Mahoney is a singer/songwriter, photographer, graphic designer and soap maker in Colorado. On most summer Sunday evenings, you'll find her on her front porch singing to a gaggle of family, neighbors and friends while they merrily throw corn hole bags and eat and drink interesting things. Her albums Beyond (2019) and Made New (2017) can be found on all major music platforms.
Q: Teressa, it has been a while since our last interview. How have you been? What have you been doing in between your albums?
So much has happened in the world since then! Personally, I have had both high and low points in the last year.
Q: You have a new album coming out. Why did you entitle your new album "Disillusions"?
This album is a compilation of all the ideas that have been banging around in my head lately. I have discovered that quite a few things that I had assumed were true needed some extra examination. The songs are a sort of record of how I worked my way through sorting which things I still believe to be true and which things I no longer hold.
Q: Did you approach the sound and direction of this record any differently from your previous two albums?
While I absolutely love the producer I have worked with in the past (Ryan Corn), I knew this group of songs were different. I felt strongly that they needed a female producer. They have a certain delicate sensibility that I thought would be best served by a woman. I met Lori Chaffer through a mutual friend and I knew right away that she was the right person to produce this album.
Q: You have written on your website that the songs are not "light and fluffy." What are some of the issues you have dealt with on this record?
This record deals with so many things our world is facing at the moment. There are songs about abuse, misogyny, racism and embodiment. I'm trying to open a conversation about these hard issues, rather than offer conclusions.
Q: Talk to us about your new single "American Elegy." How did this song come about?
I felt a really strong sense of grief last spring as the news of the racial unrest and riots in our country emerged while we were already reeling with the news of a global pandemic. As I read story after story of the ways people had suffered and were continuing to do so, I had a range of emotions.
One that stood out to me was the feeling that I had been tricked. The America described by my history books (at my private Christian grade school) did a very poor job of educating me on the actual history and issues faced by black and indigenous peoples in America. I vowed to correct my educational deficiencies, but I stilI had to go through the grieving process to reconcile with the image of America that I could no longer believe in.
I felt like a lament would be the appropriate way to handle this idea, so I did some research on how to write laments. I needed some help to capture the essence of this idea, so, on Indigenous People's day 2020, I sat down with my friends Hannah and Seth Slay. We talked for a while about what we see as some of the facets in this issue, and then came up with the song. I decided to release this song on February 12, just before President's day and during Black History Month, in hopes of encouraging dialog.
Q: Who have been involved with you (in terms of production and song writing) on this new album?
My producer Lori Chaffer (Waterdeep) was absolutely instrumental in this album. She helped me refine and rework the songs until they turned into their true selves. Both Lori and her husband Don Chaffer are co-writers on Emma, along with my friend Karis Dougherty. Don Chaffer helped me write Hey Honey, and as I mentioned, Hannah and Seth Slay are the co-writers for American Elegy. We also had Eric Peters and Jac Thompson in the studio to do harmonies on several of the songs. Lori played most of the instruments herself and did quite a few vocal harmonies as well.
Q: Is there a take-away message that you hope listeners will grasp after hearing this new record?
I want people to develop the skill of listening to someone with an opposing view with the intent of understanding the other person's position. I think at the end of any such discussion, each person involved should understand the opposing position well enough to argue in favor of it. It is so much harder to hate people when you can truly see where they are coming from. I think if we could all do that, we could work together to make the world a better place.
To find out more about Teresa and her music, visit www.teressamahoney.com