“Nature’s Way” is the second single from the forthcoming record ‘Excelsior!’, out May 14th on Mama Bird Recording Co. (US/World) & Basin Rock (UK/EU).
Directed, shot & edited by Matt Kazman.
With a special knack for balancing bright pop melodies with a drifting sense of melancholy, LA based Johanna Samuels new album “Excelsior!” is a tender, honest document of the importance of companionship above all else.
“Excelsior!” was recorded in a small cabin in West Shokan in NY State, in the middle of the winter with her band and producer Sam Evian, Evian’s first full album production was at his own Flying Cloud Studios. Recorded mostly to tape, the album is as a gorgeous combination of vintage instrumentation, strong melodic hooks and Samuels’ elegant voice.
“Excelsior!” finds Samuels exploring the nuances of friendships and the importance of meeting people in the middle, of being open to self-examination and change. “Before making this record, I was feeling the furthest from myself I ever had,” Samuels explains of the album’s narrative. “I was trying to figure out the kind of life I want to live and the kind of person I actually want to be. There is a lot of cognitive dissonance. I want to be a good person, but also a musician. How does that work? I had never really asked myself those things.”
Samuels seeks those answers through companionship, exploring the depths of her relationships and then calling upon a handful of womxn to provide the album’s backing vocals–a task she’d always performed herself until now. As such, Excelsior! makes a space for the voices of Courtney Marie Andrews, Hannah Cohen, Lomelda’s Hannah Read, A.O. Gerber, Louise Florence and Olivia Kaplan. “I made the record mostly with men and that’s a space I find myself in constantly in music,” Samuels says. “So it was a very important and special part of the record to have these different womxn that held me up. I really looked up to all the womxn that sang on the record.”
A number of those artists, along with family members and other friends, appear in the video for first single ‘Nature’s Way’. A defiantly upbeat track, exploring how easy it is to take empathetic nature for granted and how the loudest person is so often the most celebrated as she sings: “I’ve got a funny thing about saying what I want aloud / You push it so far down below / It’s here with its hands around my throat.”
The album takes its name from the signature that Samuels’ grandpa would use before he sadly passed away last December. “He was a very important person to me and he helped raise me,” Johanna explains. “He signed all of his letters and emails ‘Excelsior!’, including the exclamation point. It means ‘ever upward’ and that’s what I wish for everyone: to grow from listening with more empathy and from hearing each other out. I hope this record makes people want to be gentler with each other and themselves.”