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Faye Webster

BIO

The title of Faye Webster’s new album is inspired by her occasional compulsion to lose herself amongst  concertgoers at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Craving company and distraction but also leaning into  the anonymity of a bustling crowd, Webster often bought a ticket to a performance at the last possible  

second. “Going to the symphony was almost like therapy for me,” she says. “I was quite literally  underdressed at the symphony because I would just decide at the last moment that that’s what I  wanted to do. I got to leave what I felt like was kind of a shitty time in my life and be in this different  world for a minute. I liked that I didn’t feel like I belonged” 

The world around Webster may be moving faster and faster, but despite an influx of new fans and  attention, she’s still singing about it in an almost impossibly low-key way on her fifth album. Indeed, the  first time we hear her voice on Underdressed at the Symphony, she’s navigating the unmapped space  between comfort and vigilance: “I’m asleep in the moment when you’re holding my head / but I want to  remember I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” she sings on “Thinking About You.” Instead of turning the  dissolution of a relationship into a morality play, she details the solitary moments where her brain is in  conflict with itself, allowing unhurried insight to come naturally. 

Webster has never been more comfortable in her own skin than right now, which makes her unique  ascent into the vanguard of young, independent artists even sweeter. At any given moment, Webster  might be making country-tinged indie rock flecked simultaneously by pedal steel guitar and modern R&B  production and songwriting techniques – a bespoke sound which has won her ardent fans and turned  her into something of a stealth superstar beloved by everyone from southern hip-hop heads and alt-rock  tastemakers. 

At Webster’s increasingly sold-out concerts, it’s not uncommon to observe these fans singing along with  every word – even when she unironically performs theme songs from Pokemon. In an even more  delicious twist, Webster doesn’t even have an account on TikTok, where several of her songs have gone  viral, including “Kingston,” “Right Side of My Neck,” “In a Good Way” and most recently “I Know You.” 

Recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas with her longtime band, Underdressed at the Symphony revels  in experimentation, playfulness and adventurousness. Moments of vocoder, flourishes of an orchestra  and spooky harmonies and synths arrive without sacrificing the spacious quality of Webster’s prior  music, allowing each lyric to burble to the surface with added layers of meaning. Matt “Pistol” Stoessel’s  arcs of pedal steel add just the right shimmer, while Wilco’s Nels Cline contributes his undeniably  emotive fretwork on a number of songs. 

Hunkering down at the literal U.S./Mexico border provided the musicians space to isolate, focus and  experiment. All the songs here are live-room recordings, with several captured on the first or second  take. In this way, they can be seen as direct lines to the human subconscious, showcasing Webster’s  knack for pulling a universal experience from a highly specific moment.  

On “But Not Kiss,” her voice lilts “I want to sleep in your arms…” before Nicholas Rosen’s propulsive  piano and Bryan Howard’s sumptuous bass burst in, prompting Webster to rush out the rest of the line:  “… but not kiss.” What better shorthand descriptor for the quietest of moments in a relationship? The  rest of the song echoes that first line, emphasizing the duality of intimacy. To be sure, Underdressed at  the Symphony is a document of what happens once you start to create a new life from the ashes of old  routines. This rebirth isn’t flashy or definitive, but is instead a series of healing moments scattered  across weeks and months.

That new life is documented on the autotuned “Feeling Good Today,” which finds Webster running  through the details of her day in barely 90 seconds. She’s got plans to go see her brother, and she knows  she’ll “probably buy something dumb” because she just got paid. “I definitely think I turn to humor  sometimes just for distraction almost,” she says. “But a lot of it is just like the truth. Even if I’m saying it,  I’m not really meaning to be funny. That’s genuinely how I feel, and I’m feeling good today.” 

A strain of lightheartedness with a melancholic backbone is the driving force behind “Lego Ring,” which  features Atlanta multi-hyphenate Lil Yachty as the only guest voice on the album. Webster and Yachty  have been friends since middle school and have stayed close ever since. At points, his ghostly warble  floats just under Webster’s voice, jabbing through emptiness as it trembles over a low rumble of bass.  It’s the kind of sonic collaboration that succeeds based on a lifelong understanding of each other, and a  close bond predating both artists’ tenure in the music industry. 

“I think I hit a point in songwriting during this record where I was just like, man, I said a lot.” admits  Webster. “The record feels like a mouthful to me, but I don’t always have to be deep. I can just sit down  and sing about this ring made of crystal Lego that I really want.” 

If there’s one song that amounts to a mission statement for Underdressed at the Symphony, it’s  “Lifetime,” a lush slow burner that emphasizes Webster’s brilliant use of space and phrasing. Epiphanies  become mantras, her voice lilting and fading over expertly placed snares and a soft piano twinkle. Is  there any better encapsulation of the vagaries of love than the contradictory “When I said I mean it / I  didn’t really mean it?” 

Like the rest of the album, Webster isn’t providing answers here, nor is she on some epic journey of  healing and self-care. Instead, she’s choosing to just live, to document heartbreak and ridiculous  moments right next to each other until they start to blur, becoming real enough for us all to feel.

Publicity Contacts: Eloy Lugo & Meghan Helsel

PHOTOS

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ALBUM ART

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