“In another life, in another galaxy, on a different planet,” describes exactly where Sara Curtin and Maureen Andary were when they recorded the song, “In Another Life.” Sure, they were on planet Earth, but, when the two songwriters recorded it in March 2018, they were both childless women. And what happened next in their lives completely defies logic. In the ensuing year, each artist gave birth to a set of twins, around seven months apart. “You’re witches!” Sara’s husband shouted when the eerie news sunk in. That’s the heart of The Sweater Set, the thing that keeps audiences coming back for more: the magic between close friends.
The duo’s upcoming album Fly on the Wall, due out May 8th on Local Woman Records, was recorded in that vein. It was conceived as a creative way to celebrate their decade of performing together: a recording session of all new work and an audience of fifty fans who paid to be just that – a fly on the wall. The event functioned on so many levels: live show, recording session, and party. Refreshments were served, the recording studio was adorned with collages: pictures spanning from their first shows in 2008 all the way to their performances at the Kennedy Center and touring days with Michelle Shocked.
The simple format is something of a return to their roots. While The Sweater Set began in 2008, Curtin and Andary’s relationship harkens back to a simpler time and place. The two began singing together in 1996 at a DC-area church where their harmonies were nurtured and showcased, accompanied only by the piano playing of their choir director. And while this album has no piano and contains no biblical verse, it is comprised only of voice, guitar, and the occasional flute or tambourine, an instrumentation not unlike a folk mass.
But the content is wildly different: breaking free from old ways of thinking, wrestling with disappointment, global warming, consumerism and addiction, death and the afterlife.
Today Glide is excited to premiere “Sucker,” one of the standout tracks off the upcoming record. The quiet, acoustic guitar allows Curtin and Andary’s charming harmonies to shine, immediately showcasing the chemistry that has made them so close as musical partners and friends. Lyrics filled with vibrant metaphors and upbeat vocals offer a playful contrast to the pointed commentary on the not so fulfilling experience of getting trapped in unhealthy patterns. Drawing on the throwback blood harmonies of acts like the The Louvin Brothers, the duo balances a classic folk-pop sound with modern and edgy lyrics to make for a truly original sound.
Listen to “Sucker” and read our interview with The Sweater Set Below…
What was the inspiration behind this song?
MAUREEN: Back when I wrote this song, I found myself stuck in a trap that I’d seen myself fall into again and again, and so I felt like a sucker. Because, by this time, I totally knew better. It was like watching myself from the outside going, “No no no! Don’t do that!” But it’s progress to even SEE the unhealthy patterns. That’s the beginning of breaking the chain. And the song does progress into breaking the chain, once you get to the chorus, which is about therapy.
Is there a particular story behind it?
MAUREEN: Yes. I’ve been in therapy faithfully for 16 years. It’s helped me build my life to what it is today. Therapy has helped me break free from unhealthy relationships with both people and with substances. This is why the chorus is so important: “It’s you I’ve given my power to, I had to pay a woman to tell me that and it was worth every penny my love.” My therapist helped me become sober, she continues to guide me in building a healthy marriage with my husband, therapy is helping me thrive in my businesses and career, and it’s helping me keep tabs on my mental health. Honestly, it’s completely priceless. I don’t know how you possibly could put a dollar amount on the value of therapy. I wish it were more affordable so that everyone could benefit from therapy. I have gone through phases of doing therapy online via Carefirst video visit, and at $40 a pop that’s actually pretty affordable. Had to mention it in case there’s anyone out there in need!
Speaking of inspirations, do you typically find more inspiration from your own life or from outside sources?
SARA: Although I tend to draw most of my inspiration from my own life, I have written some songs based on a story I read or heard, or even one time I was inspired by an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s TV show “No Reservations.” However, even in these cases, my own personal perspective always tends to creep in and color the action in the song.
MAUREEN: I typically draw inspiration from my own life. Music tends to be therapy for me, and so there has to be some catharsis in the song for me to care about it and enjoy sharing it. Every once in a while, though, someone else’s story resonates with me, and I explore that in a song.
Outside of the album recording session/show, have you played this song live yet? How has the audience responded to it?
SARA: We have not played this one live as The Sweater Set yet, but transparency about mental health is not a new theme for us to explore with our audiences, so we’re pretty sure it’ll go over well. Maureen wrote a song called “Happy” for our previous album, Goldmine, and the lyrics are, “I’ll tell you why I’m happy / I’ll tell you why we are in love / Years in therapy / And the medication that I’m on / Health is sexy / Health is sexy / Health is sexy!” We got to perform this one at an NIH (National Institutes of Health) department awards ceremony, and it was received with thunderous applause. Maybe one day we’ll be able to perform “Sucker” for a similarly medically minded crowd.
MAUREEN: I have played this once or twice, solo. People think it’s funny, with the references to tootsie pops, puppets, and the plain way I’ve said, “Boy do I feel like a sucker.” The few times I’ve performed the song, I’ve introduced it by saying, “Look in the chorus – it’s about my therapist. Listen for the line ‘I had to pay a woman to tell me that and it was worth every penny!’” and people like that. They think it’s funny and surprising. A lot of people in DC are in therapy. But there isn’t a ton of art that references therapy, right?
How do you think this song fits into the overall vibe and themes of the album?
MAUREEN: I think this is a song about self-reflection, taking responsibility, and growing up, things we’ve really engaged in over the last few years, especially since getting married and becoming mothers. You hear self-reflection, taking responsibility, and growing up throughout this album.
Photo Credit: PlumePhotography (AmandaReynolds)