Artist: Abby Litman
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland
Latest Album: Still on My Mind EP
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
The one artist who has influenced me the most is Joni Mitchell. I first discovered Joni when I was in high school, and she became one of the reasons I wanted to pursue music. Listening to her, I was floored. Her lyrics were so relatable yet incredibly smart and observational, grounded in nature and full of poeticism. I spent hours and hours listening to all of her songs, dissecting them, taking them apart and putting them back together. Her albums made up my syllabus in songwriting. I read every biography and article about her I could get my hands on. Now, whenever I feel stuck with my own writing, I often go back to her songs and am quickly reminded why I wanted to be a musician in the first place.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?
I love reading poetry. My favorite poet is Edna St. Vincent Millay. I discovered a collection of her books on the shelves of my great-grandparents’ house in Maine. I was immediately taken in by her writing: blunt, sparse, yet layered with meaning and metaphor. Similar to my relationship to Joni Mitchell’s music, reading St. Vincent Millay’s poetry felt like finding someone who saw the world as I do. I also find inspiration in Sylvia Plath’s poetry and Shel Silverstein.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
Sometimes, I struggle with finishing a song. Often, a song comes out all in one piece, almost seamlessly, but other times it can take weeks, sometimes years for a song to feel “finished.” Learning to enjoy the revising process has been helpful, but I sometimes feel like the constant revision takes away from the song’s authenticity, its initial spark. When I was writing my song “Alright,” I went through dozens of verses, melodies, and guitar parts. And the more I messed with the song, the less connected I felt to it. I was getting further from what the song was initially trying to say. It wasn’t until my producer Tyler Chester and I put some of the disparate parts I had written together, that I felt like the song finally revealed itself. Collaborating with Tyler has been one of the best experiences of my songwriting career.
What has been the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?
It sounds obvious, and maybe a bit trite, but the best advice I’ve ever been given is to “write good songs.” When I find myself comparing my music to other artists’, worrying about whether I’ll ever be successful, or feeling jaded by the music industry, I go back to that advice. I go back to writing songs because that’s really the only thing I can do. As long as I focus on my craft and keep making art that I am proud of, things will fall into place. I know that as long as I continue writing songs and making music, I’ll be happy pursuing the thing I love.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I currently live in Los Angeles and my go-to spot for nature is the beach. My favorite thing to do is grab a towel, sit on the sand and stare out into the ocean. There’s something about the vastness and wildness of the ocean that helps to clear my head. It’s actually a place where I’ve gotten dozens of lyrics and guitar parts. One of my favorite times to go to the beach, perhaps paradoxically, is when it’s cold and cloudy. I love the salty wind, the crashing waves. It makes me feel small and renewed, but most of all, it opens up my mind to accept inspiration that I otherwise wouldn’t find in a city.
Photo Credit: Tammie Valer