Rae Fitzgerald is a self-described “queer midwesterner” who writes autobiographical songs that drift between ethereal wanderings and intimate confessions. Her new album Say I Look Happy will be released September 1 via Keeled Scales.
Hard and simple, complex and delicate—the songs on Say I Look Happy deliver private meanings and broader extrapolations, culminating in a folk album dusted with poetry and sonic debris.
If you see me, say I look happy. Say you see sunshine for miles.
And if it ain’t true, honey I’d do it for you. I’d say I saw sunshine for miles.
In the title track, Fitzgerald explores the role of friendships in navigating the peaks and valleys of mental health. Uptempo and energized, this single’s playful yet intricate arrangement adds levity to a heavy topic and spotlights the ambient finger-picking of virtuoso Chaz Prymek (Lake Mary, Fuubutsushi) on guitar. After meeting in 2009, Fitzgerald and Lucas Oswald (Shearwater, Jesca Hoop, Appleseed Cast) have collaborated on countless projects. Oswald co-produced and engineered the album, as well as playing bass, drums, and a variety of other instruments.
In addition to Prymek and Oswald, Fitzgerald’s new album features Austin staples Thor Harris (Thor & Friends, Swans), Lindsey Verrill (Little Mazarn), and Jeff Johnston (Bill Callahan, Okkervil River). The 11-track project explores a range of topics, from personal anecdotes to political musings to philosophical quandaries, and is threaded together by an accessible yet compelling sequence of imagery and metaphor.
Born in Southern Missouri and raised in the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama, Rae Fitzgerald’s music is imbued with an undeniable discomfort and winsome appeal that speaks to her geographical origins. Traversing dream-pop, dark folk, and Americana genres, her songs showcase a variety of sonic palettes and textures.
On “When Heaven Touches Ground” Fitzgerald discusses capitalism and consumption and all the artificial things that don’t keep us safe. Debt and wealth always weighing heavy on the mind:
“When it all comes down: the world your father built, the home your mother prayed for, the gates that guard your neighborhood… When heaven touches ground, the only thing that I know is everything I have, I owe."
For more than a decade, Fitzgerald has called the small college town of Columbia, Missouri, home. After taking a two-year hiatus in Austin, Texas, she returned to Columbia in 2016 to rejoin a tight-knit music scene, volunteering at YAAL Rock (a rock camp for girls and gender expansive youth) and booking music for Columbia’s world-renowned True/False Film Festival. Fitzgerald has also shared the stage with Lomelda, Palehound, and Twain.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Fitzgerald made her Keeled Scales debut with the release of her luminous and meditative EP, Lonely Listener. Recorded primarily at home and co-produced by Columbia’s premier studio engineer and musical compatriot Wil Reeves at Centro Cellar Studio, she arranged and orchestrated a small cache of highly personal, atmospheric songs that brought in synthetic elements, leaning hard on muted drum tones, guitar presets, and roughly-constructed loops.
Described by The Wild Honey Pie as “hypnotically relaxing,” and “dense with poetry, philosophy and celestial metaphor,” the EP’s title track served as its first single, offering longtime listeners and new fans an atmospheric deviation from typical folk offerings. In a review of Lonely Listener’s second single, “I’ve Got a Vision,” Post Trash lauds the six-song collection “a folk record at heart, built on dreamy atmospheres and intimate recordings, capturing Fitzgerald’s thoughts in raw portraits that channel honest performances and soft melodies.”
Say I Look Happy taps into that same sonic language while digging in deeper thematically. These are heavy songs about mental health, the fall of an empire, and finding elusive peace in dreams, and Rae Fitzgerald is the gifted shepherd guiding you along.