If you’re a Paper Bird fan, you will probably be surprised to hear that they have decided to split paths with one of their lead singers, Esmé, and are now working with a different vocalist. But good news: lead singer Esmé Patterson is launching her solo career and we are loving it.

Just watch this video of Patterson bringing down the house with Shakey Graves:

Having just been blown away by Shakey Graves in a chance-encounter backyard concert in Nashville, we can hardly believe that these two rockstars are putting their musical genius together.

Swelling emotion threads through Patterson’s voice, at times hushed but insistent, at times escaping in a shout. She holds a hum of potential energy, and can leap into kinetic vocals with skin-tingling grace.

On the inspiration behind her new album, Woman to Woman, Patterson says:

“I was sitting in a hotel room in Spearfish, SD learning to play a Townes Van Zandt tune called “Loretta,” and as I was singing the words, I started to get angry. I started thinking about how one-sided and subjective a lot of ‘love songs’ are, and how a lot of women immortalized in songs might tell a different side of the story if anyone ever asked” (Greater Than Collective).

Woman to Woman is a full set of responses from the perspectives of women defined by famous songs: Jolene (Dolly Parton), Alison (Elvis Costello), Loretta (Townes Van Zandt), Caroline (The Beach Boys), Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles), Evangeline (The Band), and Irene (Leadbelly).

If you know these songs, Patterson’s giving voice to these women will be all the more subversive. Let’s take “Alison” by Elvis Costello, countered by Patterson’s “Valentine.”

Costello sings, “…I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress.” Patterson counters, “I’ll put on a dress and I’ll take off a dress whenever I want.”

Costello croons, “I’m not going to get too sentimental like those other sticky valentines, ’cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody. I only know it isn’t mine.” Patterson responds, “Valentine, valentine, nothing is yours and mine….”

Journeying through the album, we hear Eleanor Rigby generously correct the Beatles’ diagnoses of her “loneliness,” the Beach Boys’ Caroline explain her side of the break-up, and the oft-assumed Jezebel figure “Jolene” offer a more nuanced response. If you’re looking for a curated auditory adventure, we recommend listening back-to-back to the original song to which Patterson refers, then to her crafted response. If all that Googling is too much work, the album shines on its own, independent of referencing the original songs, based purely on Patterson’s vocal prowess.

What’s next for Patterson? This fall, she’ll be on tour opening for and singing with Shakey Graves, with dates all over North America and Canada.

Download the album here.


Sarah Connette and Marybeth Campeau collaboratively wrote this article.