It’s hard to imagine a bigger change in setting than going from a DIY/BYOB batting cage in Kensington to a dinner theatre listening room on the campus of UPenn, but that just happens to be the case for folky singer/songstress Ella O’Connor Williams — better known as Squirrel Flower – who had her upcoming Philadelphia date moved from the now-closed Everybody Hits to the Lounge at World Café Live. “It’s bummer that Everybody Hits closed!” she tells me in a recent chat: “I’ve played Girard Hall like twice, which is above it, and always thought it would be cool to play there.”
Williams is currently touring behind her debut LP, I Was Born Swimming, which dropped this January, courtesy of Polyvinyl, but she’s from an exceptionally musical family (Her grandparents were classical musicians and her father a jazz and blues bassist) and has been playing music for the majority of her life. “It’s hard to pick a point when it started because I’ve been playing music for so long,” she tells me when I ask her of the highlights of her musical career, before going on to say, “In terms of highlights, all of it, but in terms of milestones, I had this small feature in the Rolling Stone print magazine, which is fucking awesome! And there was this article that came out yesterday on WBUR – which is like Boston’s local NPR – that said of the title track, ‘a sense of self that remains steady even as her view of the world grows larger and more complex, an anchor in a vast and expanding sea,’ which was just so cool to read.”
Although I Was Born Swimming’s original inspiration, and that behind the title, comes from the fact that Williams was born under the unusual circumstances of still being inside of the amniotic sac, when I ask her about the album’s most significant influences, she tells me it has more to do with the lifestyle she was living when these songs were conceived: “The main influence of the album was being transient. I wrote the album while living in several different places and going from the East Coast to the Midwest and then back again.” And when I ask her if she thinks there’s anything especially important for fans and potential fans to know about her, she tells me that a lot of it is about just that experience of being on the road and playing live.
“I’d tell people to come see me play live. A huge part of my creative process and artistic process is playing live shows. So much of what I do is conceived at live shows when I’m playing half-finished songs. I’ve always felt, as a musician, the real magic happens as I’m playing for people.”
Squirrel Flower will be headlining the Lounge at World Café Live this Tuesday, March 10th, and Williams tells me that she’s actually quite excited for the show (change of venue included), even though it’s not her usual setting.
“I definitely don’t play listening rooms often. We played one last night though and it was really good. I prefer playing when people are really close to me in the audience, but I love getting to play in different spaces. My music is so varied that it lends itself to all of those settings. We’re definitely gonna be doing a lot of songs from the new album and doing some jamming out with them, and some deep cuts from the first EP. It will be a dynamic musical journey!”