For her latest EP, Nobody’s Woman, singer-songwriter IVA has packed a lot into just four tracks. Rather than just a small sampling of what she’s made of as an artist, IVA has thrown her heart and soul into this album, formulating four very personal songs that deal with heartbreak, addiction, friendship, and the dissolution of a long-term, abusive relationship. The lyrics are confessional, and the vocals are ethereal, someone similar in tone and nature to Aimee Mann or Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood.

The EP was recorded at the well-known and well-regarded Turtle Studios in Philadelphia with friend and producer Ross Bellenoit. Bellenoit has been a longtime collaborator of IVA, a musician she trusts and has great faith in, and who is very versatile and useful from a writing and recording point of view. They began recording these songs after the Covid-related lockdowns lifted, and it felt reassuring and cathartic to write and create like they always could.

Joining us today for a special track-by-track rundown of Nobody’s Woman is IVA herself, who explains the background behind the songs, working with Bellenoit, and where she was emotionally heading into this recording project.

“A couple months before releasing this album, I decided to stop drinking, and so far, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve struggled with addiction for many years, both my own and other people’s. I have lost people that I love, and I have gotten in my own way, much to my mystification. The only way to heal was to reveal to myself what was going on, and that’s what I did when I wrote this album, even though I didn’t always know that was what I was doing.

“For producer of the record, I chose Ross Bellenoit in Philadelphia. I’ve worked with Ross Bellenoit as a bandmate, and he is excellent at capturing full band sounds and big energy. He is also a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and one hell of a love of a person. Working with him and with engineer Doug Raus was a fabulously good time. Ross and I had played through the songs already at shows and making guitar demos after my writing trips to Nashville. We lined up Turtle Studios in Philadelphia, which has a magical, earthy, vibey energy to its live room, and got in there with the band after not having been able to play together during the depths of the pandemic. It felt like a celebration to be playing again. Those tracking days were just the best.”

IVA ‘Nobody’s Woman’ EP album artwork
IVA ‘Nobody’s Woman’ EP album artwork

1. “Mid Air”

“After meeting Kim Richey during a residency at the Banff Center, she invited me to write with her in Nashville. We went to the home of one of her favourite songwriting partners Bill DeMain, and I brought them the line, ‘I feel poor in the morning, rich at night.’ Kim asked me what it meant, but I didn’t know. ‘I guess we’re gonna find out,’ we said, and off we went. It became about a way I was performing in my personal life in order to avoid being seen. I was hiding from myself while doing this and feeling like I was ‘one step ahead of the avalanche’ when it would all come crashing down.

“I was dating a man who drank heavily, and I would drink heavily with him, and I was often on edge after some of our partying. After writing the song, I went to a 12-step meeting, and one of the readings was about feeling like an avalanche was coming. I read the lyrics to ‘Mid Air’ in the meeting as I was completely dumbfounded that I’d written a song about feeling the very same way.”

2. “Nobody’s Woman”

“I wrote this song after seeing Margot Price at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. My boyfriend and I had broken up as the over-drinking had come to a head. And I was heartbroken and felt powerless. I wrote ‘I’m Nobody’s Woman’ because I was in my late 30s and this had been one in a line of heartbreaks, and I was also feeling that I had to stand up for my values and be a woman on my terms and not a man’s terms. Most of all, my primary value was to be honest with myself, no matter what. That has been a process, I must say, and in the song, I tell him that ‘I understand,’ ‘I’m finding my answers where I need you the most,’ and ‘I hope that I see you when you get the answers you need,’ because I knew we were both fighting our own demons.

“I sang this song to acting coach Larry Moss during a pandemic Zoom session and told him I was having trouble embodying the character of IVA because I didn’t feel empowered the way I imagined her to be. Larry helped me get right to the heart of the matter and sing the song with a humility I hadn’t known before. It took me many, many rehearsals to get through this song without openly weeping, but I processed that great heartbreak, and here I am, stronger, more able to be honest with myself and others, and still, ‘Nobody’s Woman.’”

3. “Oh, Christian”

“The man in this story had been through a great deal of heartbreak and disillusionment. When he tried to do good in the world, he felt thwarted. He was suffering. I wanted him to know that I saw that and that it was ok with me, because I was broken, too. And I wanted the song to be a lot of fun, because that’s what we were having together, and it was a happy time.

“I took the idea to Nashville songwriter Thom Donovan, and we wrote. It was a Bob Dylan feel in mind. Initially, it had many more words, but I whittled it down to these key verses. I decided to be brutally hotness with the line ‘I wish I could be your prisoner, your remedy, a life set free by sending you to me’ because I had this narcissistic wish to make some kind of difference in his life. And part of me wanted to belong to him, which the feminist in me considered a dangerous situation. But it was a real desire of mine, despite my better judgment.

“That is one of Ross’s favourite lines in the song. A similar ‘aha’ moment line shows up in ‘Nobody’s Woman,’ ‘This Mother Theresa is living a lie,’ because I cannot save people. I can only save myself, and first, I have to admit that I need saving. For some reason, I have a soft spot for beautiful people who are somewhat broken. Perhaps because I am the very same. Broken, I mean.”

4. “Heart”

“This is the song that got the record off the ground. It’s about my friend Eric, who passed away in his sleep in his 30s. He had a condition that made it hard for him to walk and caused a speech impediment. I remember how full of life and love he was when we were kids. We were on the swim team together, and when he swam, it looked difficult. Yet he finished every race, no matter how long it took, and with scores of kids and parents watching. It was heroic.

“Later in life, he worked at a hospital, taking people in and out of surgery. He provided a beautiful service to people in need. When he died, I considered it somewhat unjust that someone of his bravery and selflessness died young. And I wondered why I had doubted myself for many years when I had all of my faculties, and he had lived with bravery and heart when he did not have the kind of physical capabilities that I had. Most of all, I remembered the inspired look he had in his eyes, and it moved me to my core.

“For this song, I wanted an old-school rock feel as I was imagining my friend Eric’s parents courting long before they conceived him. I imagined it as a time of celebration and youthful love, not knowing the kind of challenges they and their son would face later. During the depth of the pandemic, we invited his parents over to our house in Delaware so that I could share the song with them. I was really nervous, but other friends had told them about the song, and they wanted to hear it. When I played it, they seemed to feel that it captured his essence. They asked for a recording of the song, and I thought, well, it’s time to record a new record.

“Eric and I lost touch after childhood, and I wished we hadn’t. He inspires me to this day, and every time I play the song. This record is dedicated to his memory, and to his family.”


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