In her relatively short, still-emerging musical career, Elizabeth Moen has worked very hard to earn everything that has come her way. A self-taught guitarist, it took Moen until university when she started to try her hand at songwriting while attending the University of Iowa, close to her hometown of Vinton, Iowa. In that small-town atmosphere, she was exposed to a culturally diverse environment of musicians, interdisciplinary artists, and writers. Partly because of the smallness of the arts scene, it meant that all of these worlds came together, with these different factions of artists meeting and interacting with one another. It helped Moen greatly in becoming the strong, distinct artist she is.

In November, Moen released her debut full-length record, Wherever You Aren’t. The album features ten new tracks and a solid introduction for listeners to her unique songwriting, inspired by indie rock, indie folk, and soul music. As a whole, the record reflects life and its many lessons, an artistic statement that she has arrived and has a lot to muse on, based on her views on life and experiences growing up as a young woman and an artist.

Moen is joining us today for a special track-by-track rundown of every song on Wherever You Aren’t. Read on as she discusses, in great detail, the meaning and significance behind this impressive collection of tracks.

1. “Headgear”

“‘Headgear’ was the first song written in the timeline of this record. I had the idea and brought it over to Ireland for my first rehearsal with the band over there. We ran through everything else (older material), and I mentioned a new idea. It was an instant connection with Caoimhe, Oisín, and Alan. Their instrumentation solidified it as one of my best songs. We recorded it a month later before I headed back to Iowa. It’s about the ups and downs of a day and knowing that even getting through one day, whether it be an easy or hard one, is a triumph.”

2. “Synthetic Fabrics”

“Ooh, boy. This one’s about a panic attack. One on a train in Ireland (where the chorus was written frantically on my notes app) and one in my parent’s guest room (where the verses were written about secret, hard, scary decisions I needed to make for my future and body).

“The production is intentionally tense. The violins are meant to add a scary element. Panic attacks, these kinds of choices having to be made in secret, are scary. I decided to release this with the hopes that it brings a sort of emotional release to anyone who might hear it and connect with it.”

3. “Where’s My Bike”

“Plot twist (just kidding), this one’s about a 20-something-year-old in an existential crisis. I was out of college, living in my parent’s guest room or out of my van, recently dumped (via text), and just overall lost. I was pushing through and not admitting that I wasn’t ok. I finally felt it, and this song spilled out. The words were written in a 20-minute daze on my parent’s living room floor while they were, like normal adults, at work. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to realize you’re there and something needs to change. Realizing it is the first step. The second step, which is more important (in my opinion) is actually making the effort to change.”

4. “Ex’s House Party”

“SAD SAD SAD. Wrote this one after I went to an ex’s house party, if you can believe it. It was at a house I had memories in. He was with someone new. I was trying to be cool with it, but I wasn’t, so I ordered a cab to leave. The line ‘turn around to see if you would stop me even though it’d hurt more if you tried’ came from that moment. I found out much later on that he ran outside looking for me. Oh, the drama.

“Luckily, after healthy space and time, we’ve become sincerely close friends. I think friendships with exes are possible, so long as real healing has been done. It hadn’t been before this party. Sometimes seeing the other person truly moved on helps reality set in more. It’s hard but necessary. Being stuck in the past (‘I’m stuck in the hallway afraid to close the door’) will never do anything good.”

Artwork for the album ‘Wherever You Aren’t’ by Elizabeth Moen

5. “Soft Serve”

“This is unabashedly and intentionally cheesy. It’s a love song. I wanted this to sound as gooey as possible. Like a song, two new lovers listen to in headphones simultaneously while roller skating together in a really bad movie whose only positive feedback from critics is the soundtrack being really, really good. The ooohs at the end, the saxophone, the guitar parts. Saxophone (this is not a diss, it’s a compliment in my eyes) is the cheesiest sounding thing to me and I wanted that on this.”

6. “Emotionally Available”

“An homage to people who love the benefits of your affection and attention, but aren’t emotionally available enough to reciprocate or actually take you seriously. It’s hard to admit you’re not available, but you gotta do it. The verses are the seductive part, where you kind of let them take advantage because it feels good, and the chorus is intentionally wild and not pretty.

“The reality of someone you’re into is NOT going to take your feelings seriously or to the next level sucks. It really, really sucks. ‘I am not your old love’ is the first and last line of the song. I’ve had multiple people admit to me that I was a vessel for getting over their ex. I think we all compare new people to past lovers, but to use new people in such a way isn’t ok. Those circumstances combined created this messy, sexy, angry, sad song.”

7. “Differently”

“This song was about already having grown for the better and knowing that growth needed to continue. Relationships are worth the work when they’re good. I had fun leaning into a more pop zone for the songwriting in this. The structure, simplicity, and repetitive aspects of it were fun to do. Stacking harmonies for this one was a lot of fun too!”

8. “Clown Song”

“I think we all naturally put our best self forward or try to show the best parts of ourselves when we meet new people, especially in a romantic way. After a certain point, it can become a crux or way to avoid being your true self. Fear of failure in actually being worthy of love. When we’re so focused on what others might think or want from us, we forget what we want or need for ourselves. We forget who we truly are. This song is about all of those things.”

9. “You Know I Know”

“This is me trying to write a holiday song. It has pieces alluding to the season both in the lyrics and the production (jingle bells and a guitar line during an interlude playing off of a timeless Christmas classic). It’s about being back home for the holidays and getting a call from someone in your past. Talking to them isn’t good for you, and it isn’t for them either. It’s about addiction. It’s about the pain and confusing decision to have to leave someone you love for their own good.

“The holidays are a hard time of year that bring up old wounds, dynamics, and memories during a cold time (in the Midwest). This one is the most honest I’ve been, and I’m so grateful my bandmates Caoimhe, Alan, and Oisín helped me paint the picture of this time of year in the verses.”

10. “Wherever You Aren’t”

“Title track and the last song written for the record. Similar to the last song, it’s about being in a place you used to be. Staying strong and knowing that although talking with someone or stepping back into the past might have a short-term reward, it’s just not worth the pain it’ll strike up. I used to pretend I was ok with everything all the time. The more growing and healing I’ve done, I’ve come to terms with it being ok to not be ok. Hence the last line of the record ‘wherever you are, wherever you aren’t, that’s ok.’”

Author

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