SONG PREMIERE: Doriana Spurrell Spins Lyrics and Melody into Beautiful Folk on “Never Needed Words”

Photo credit: Donavon Garrett Photography

Artist and songwriter Doriana Spurrell makes captivating songs that feel unabashedly and beautifully human. Supported by the lush, velvet timbre of her voice, her style shifts effortlessly from upbeat alt-rock Americana anthems to elegant folk ballads, fueled by narrative, tautly poetic lyrics. Through her music, Spurrell observes the world around her with clarity and nuance; she sounds both vulnerable and completely at ease in her own skin, despite her ongoing struggles with anxiety. “Music is a wonderful teacher,” she says. “It’s hard to figure out who you are and where you fit in—I’m still discovering what I want out of life and in my music. But writing helps me make space for myself.”

Inspired by other storyteller-artists like Brandi Carlile, Elliot Smith, and Nick Drake, whose music narrates a relatable mixture of joy and pain, Spurrell’s songwriting often explores the real-life experiences of friends and relatives in rich, vicarious detail. “I’m drawn to powerful emotions, moments in life that feel crazy, or exhilarating, or sad. Life experience! That’s how it works. You have to vent your sadness and share your joy.”

With the release of her debut solo EP Forward (due out August 19th), Spurrell offers the world a glimpse of her keen perspective through a series of five stunning folk-Americana tracks about the small things in life. Written entirely by Spurrell, Forward was recorded and mixed at Night Sounds studio in Carrboro, North Carolina by Meghan Puryear and features a cast of talented North Carolina musicians, including bass guitarist Billie Feather, a fellow UNCSA graduate and Spurrell’s first guitar instructor. Each song presents a hyper-focused story about the kinds of exchanges and events that, combined, make up the intimate fodder of daily living. “I wanted the album to capture all the small, immaterial things we pass through and beyond. Things we don’t always notice when they’re happening,” she says. “It sometimes feels like you’re not making progress until you see in hindsight where you’ve been, what you’ve been through. But we move forward. We move through these things, and keep going.”

Today Glide is offering an exclusive premiere of Spurrell’s new single “Never Needed Words,” a song that captures her talent as a singer-songwriter. Inspired by loss experienced as a result of the pandemic, the song is a moving work of Americana-folk. Spurrell’s soft and beautiful vocals convey a sense of loss and emotion, accompanied by a simple beat and acoustic playing.

Listen to the track and read our chat with Doriana Spurrell below…

What prompted you to write this song? What was the inspiration behind it?

The pandemic has affected millions of people in different ways, and, unfortunately for my family, Covid took my grandfather from us. I was in my senior year of high school at UNC School of the Arts, a boarding school, when he passed in September of 2020. It was strange because it felt like my whole world changed, but I was still stuck in my dorm and going through school, nothing around had changed. Due to Covid restrictions and the state of things, my family wasn’t able to get together to mourn.

The pandemic put many things on pause for me except my music. I’ve said this to many people, but my music is like therapy. Lyrics are a big part of what I love, especially the ability to tell a story or share an emotion.

When I decided to write this song, “Never Needed Words,” for my grandfather — Pops as we call him — I was thinking of moments that people couldn’t particularly see on the surface of him. I was thinking of how I could capture a piece of him in a song, and that’s when the phrase “never needed words” came to me. Pops was fairly quiet when I knew him, yet the love he had for his family was never lost on me and my observation of his presence during family gatherings, parties, vacations, or Christmases he would sneak over for. If you knew my family, you would know we could get rowdy, forgetful, always late for things, but Pops would stick through it all just to be around. He never had to say anything to show that he cared.

How did this song come together when you wrote it? What was the songwriting process like?

Often when I’m having trouble finding a melody for a song, I switch my tuning around just to have something new to work with. That’s how I approached this song. I wanted something a little different than the normal chord progressions I work with — I’m not a super technical musician — so I was messing around in open D tuning when I came up with the melody. A lot of the progressions and shapes you hear in “Never Needed Words” are inspired by Mumford & Sons, who I was really big into when I first started playing guitar, and that’s when I learned about alternative tunings.

This song is so special to me, so when I first got the idea, I was worried it wouldn’t click in a way that I thought would be “good enough,” especially since the subject matter was so personal. But it just sort of happened, both the writing and the music came up together, which I really love. I find it harder to do one over the other; writing the melody first or the lyrics first just never completely ends well for me. It’s like the melody progresses the lyrics and the lyrics progress the melody.

When you recorded this song, what kind of vibe were you going for? Did it end up sounding like you expected it to or did it come out different from what you thought it would be?

To be honest, I had no idea how the song would turn out when we first started. I wanted this song to be grander than it was originally with just me and my guitar. It’s a celebration of life, or appreciation, and I needed more substance. I worked with such an amazing crew at Nightsound Studios, who all put their own creative spin in my work, and I’m so grateful. It was my first time ever working in a studio, so I was equally excited as I was nervous. It was also difficult for me to tell where the song was going because I had to leave for Boston in the fall for my freshman year of college, after I recorded everything I could. I would run to my dorm just to go online to watch Meghan Puryear mix the songs, and thanks to her I still felt involved in my music. And overall, I’m so proud of how “Never Needed Words” has turned out.

Something that many listeners might not know is that there is a bell sound featured in the song, and that bell is actually a live recording from the local church in Thousand Island Park, NY, a vacation spot which has been in my family for generations thanks to my grandfather, who this song is written for. It felt like a crazy thing to ask for at the time, but Meghan delivered, and every time I hear it I can’t help but smile. It not only adds a personal touch to the song, but it also sounds amazing. My favorite part about recording this was seeing all the little things added in that make such a difference to the song as a whole. It was truly such a wonderful process.

What do you hope listeners get from the song?

As I said before, lyrics are such an important part of music for me. My ultimate goal in my music, and specifically in this song, is to share a feeling that I hope resonates with many others, of thankfulness and love. I think sometimes we get lost in the grandness of life, and what I found while thinking of my grandfather is that there were so many simple yet beautiful moments and feelings that I think are stronger than any material thing. I hold those feelings so close in my heart and in this song.

Who are your biggest influences, musically speaking?

I listen to a lot of music, and there are many musicians who influence me. However, it’s truly the lyricism of music that gets to me. A lot of my inspiration comes from artists like Elliott Smith, The Lumineers, Nora Jones, and Neil Young especially, who I think are great writers. The list could go on, but ever since I started learning the guitar and teaching myself how to write songs, my biggest influence and inspiration above all else has been Brandi Carlile. The first time I heard one of her songs, “Turpentine,” I was in love. Her writing is so powerful and so personal at times, and her voice is so strong. I’d like to say that her music has really taught me a couple things about singing and about songwriting, and she continues to teach me. Just by covering some of her songs, I’ve been able to improve and practice the range in my voice and the emotion I put into my songs. She is such a wonderful role model for me in so many ways. I think great songwriting really comes from the soul, and Brandi really taps into that. It’s taught me to not shy away from putting personal things down on the page.

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