Paulina Fae: in dreams…
by Patrick Ogle
Paulina Fae is a musician and fine artist. There is a dreamlike quality in her work be it aural or imagery. There is something about both that seems to slip through the fingers just as you feel you are about to define it.
“I think there’s a running theme with my music in that the songs are elemental and explorative. There isn’t really one specific thing I’m aiming to communicate; it’s more a ceaseless desire to make and share music, however it may be,” she says.
Fae has been releasing music since 2007 with her discovery of Garageband.
“DAWS were completely new to me. I had no knowledge of the technicalities of mastering songs. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it and was debating whether this was something that I wanted to keep doing as a solo recording artist. But as I experimented and learned, the more I improved. I was playing around mostly with piano and vocals at first. It took trial and error to unfurl the technical issues in finding my sound.”
And that sound is refined and perfected in her latest record, Glow. It calls to mind ambient artists and performers as divergent as Zola Jesus and Kate Bush. The comparisons are specious and only a vague point of reference for the uninitiated; Paulina Fae really sounds like Paulina Fae.
To get to this point she experimented and figured out what worked… and what didn’t.
“The opening song on my debut album Bloodroots was a song I’d written for a friend and fellow music enthusiast who’d passed unexpectedly. It’s called ‘Rachel and Sitka.’ That one I think catapulted me into a song-making obsession. I discovered how exciting it was to create this way, and it opened up a new way of thinking for me. I might remaster some of those early songs one day. Maybe. That first album is no longer available to the public,” she says.
As a kid in the 1980s she wrote songs and lyrics but, as is often the case, had no outlet for them except, as she puts it “hissy tape recordings.” She left music behind and delved into visual arts.
“Eventually I learned how to use Logic Pro, which I started using after my third album. That was a game changer in enabling me to do what I really wanted with my music, to fine-tune and master better than previously,” says Fae.
Her music and art do intersect.
“One complements the other. The visual lends voice and interpretation to the sound and vice-versa. They play off the other, and both forms act as narrator. New directions and ideas pop up. That’s how The Secret Language of Trees happened in 2019-2020,” says Fae. “It’s a ‘graphic novella’ book of 11 lyrical stories intertwined with 11 songs. The drawings evolved with the songs; the songs evolved with the drawings. It was a really exciting project for me. Part of it was planned ahead of time, part of it was spontaneous.”
Fae takes different approaches when writing her songs.
“For the most part I’ll play around on the keyboard, the guitar, the ukulele, or in Logic. A little whisper of something happens, and I build it from there.”
She notes this is similar to how she draws.
“The songs have a will all their own and once they begin, it becomes an obsession to structure and layer in a way that complements the personality of a song. It’s always a journey and I never know what will happen — the possibilities are endless; I like that. It fuels me.”
The latest record, Glow, is, according to Fae, part of a trend toward happier songs and her figuring out how to get the best out of her voice.
“I have more fun making songs these days, a little less frustration. The frustration is still there but not the way it used to be. I play guitar and ukulele and incorporate those sounds into the songs, which I didn’t do before. I play a lot more with the sounds than I used to, organically,” she says.
Like many musicians she looks back at earlier work and wishes she knew then what she knows now but it doesn’t bog her down in creative nostalgia.
“As artists we’re often critical of our own work. But of course, it’s how we progress. I try to honor the earlier work; it’s all connected.” says Fae.
If you are looking to see her live you may need to take a trip to the Land of Nod. She says she hasn’t played live in the earthly realm.
“I mean, I remember a lot of dreams playing live. But playing live here, for real — I haven’t. I enjoy recording and mastering songs, putting them out and then making more songs when I’m ready,” she says. “That’s where I put my energy and time. It’s an invigorating experience, personally. A passion. But the idea of playing live — I’m always open to possibilities.”
To paraphrase Delmore Schwartz, “In dreams begin possibilities!”