Singer and songwriter Beth Whitney will be releasing her new album Into the Ground on May 28th. Into the Ground is an introspective collection of songs that transports listeners in flights of wonder, digging into the messiness of our daily lives and inspiring the audience to look inward in search of a common humanity.
The album spans a multitude of topics, from grief to acceptance and gratitude. Whitney wrote the personal single "In Another Life" while dealing with her brother's death and coming to the realization that grief can keep you captive, but the path you're on is a beautiful one. "Whole Heart" has a similar sentiment-sometimes the world can feel so heavy that it's physically weighing down on you, but you have to remember that you are beloved.
We are very honored to catch up with Beth for this exclusive interview.
Q: Beth, thank you for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: who is Beth Whitney?
I am a songwriter who grew up as the fifth of six kids on a small farm in Snohomish, WA. These days I live in a mountain cabin with my husband and two kids where I write and record songs, teach homeschool, fold an endless couchful of laundry, and try to keep a garden and everyone else fed and healthy. I asked my 7yo son what he would say to a brand new person (an adult with no past knowledge/experiences) if they appeared in our living room all of a sudden for their first day on earth. He thought about it, then answered, "You're alive!" I think this is who I want to be...someone who knows to the core that in all the vastness of space and time, she is alive right now.
Q: How did you become interested in music?
On a practical level, I probably stumbled into music because of a softball injury in high school. Shortly after the injury a man from church held out a guitar to me and asked if I could use it, and since my softball dreams were crushed, I decided I would. I started combining the poetry I'd been writing with the chords I was learning, and then realized I could call them songs.
On a more existential level, I had a dream when I was a little girl, where thousands of people were in a big field milling around, but then, and it was like watching a swarm of bees start to simmer with anger, the sea of people began fighting one another. I was very shy but I knew something had to happen, so I stepped up on a small stage nearby and just started singing at the top of my lungs, and as I did, the crowd calmed and eventually sat down together in peace. Maybe this dream sank somewhere in my psyche, and I sing in hopes to bring some calm to the chaos within and around me.
Q: How would you describe your style of music? Who would you say influenced your sound?
It can be tricky to classify music but the closest we've found to describing the style of our recent work is, "wild orchestral folk from the Pacific northwest." Some influences include Hans Zimmer, Mindy Smith, Bob Dylan, Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Jon Foreman, Jeffrey Martin, Anna Tivel, Bradford Loomis, Sarah Gerritsen, and my kids!
Q: Tell us about your vision behind your new album "Into the Ground." How do you hope these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?
Last year was the first year I tested the soil in my garden and made a real attempt at growing food. It seems like it comes so easily to some people but I've always struggled to keep plants alive. So I got a little soil testing kit and learned what I would need to add for a happy garden. The name Into The Ground came from this concept, of looking into the soil to learn what is happening just under the surface and what might be needed to become healthy as individuals and communities. My hope is that hearing Into The Ground would feel like being transported to a hammock in the woods suspended between two strong trees while breathing in mountain air, even if just for a moment.
Q: What would you say were a few highlights in the making of this record?
We recorded the album at Mothership Studios a week or two before lock-down in 2020. The studio sits on top of a coffee shop and some of my favorite moments were grabbing americanos and lunch together between sessions. I loved the moment when we were recording Wild Roses and were all hunched together singing "mmms" in a half circle around the mic. To me this texture and this moment of humming altogether made the album for me. Really just playing with phenomenal musicians on these songs was life-changing. Aaron Fishburn has a magical way of steadying and swelling the songs at the same time on the upright bass. Mark Alvis is a master of tone when it comes to drums and percussion. Natalie Mai Hall brings me to tears from the moment she starts tuning her cello...and Brandon Bee is a blast to work with and a master of dynamics and texture. I feel very fortunate to have make this album.
Q: I believe one of the songs on the new record "In Another Life" is about your brother. Tell us more.
The inspiration for In Another Life was from something a friend had said around the time my brother died. The friend had said, "All I want to do is sit down with you over pie and hear everything you have to say," and it gave me this idea of being taken in and having your name always ready in someone's mouth. The song took on a life of its own as I wrote it out, but really the it is for anyone lamenting an unrealized storyline. I think grieving what is in front of us to grieve is an important part of embracing all the beauty that is.
Q: I really love the song "Two Sons." What's the story behind this song?
Thank you! This one is based off a parable Jesus told called the Prodigal Son.
Q: Where can our readers go to learn more about you and download/stream/purchase your music?
www.bethwhitneymusic.com and most anywhere you like to hear music! (itunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon music, etc)