Willow Avalon Bares Her Soul in Debut EP 'Stranger'


Photo: Kristin Karch

Georgia-born, NYC-based singer-songwriter Willow Avalon emerges as an artist to watch in the resurging country-folk scene with the release of her debut EP, Stranger. The seven-track collection is an impressive body of work that explores the artist's upbringing, creating a cathartic experience that's equal parts unique and nostalgic.

"My upbringing was so turbulent, and I went through a lot of trauma that I still haven't fully processed—but I process it more and more every time I write a song," shared the artist. "All of this music on the Stranger EP is so wholeheartedly me; it's me with my heart on my sleeve."

EP opener "Gettin Rich Goin Broke" is a heartfelt exploration of the sacrifices and obligations of pursuing a dream while balancing the needs of those we love. Avalon's passionate delivery and reflective lyrics make this song a touching testament to the complexities of family, success, and selflessness. In the verses, amid classic country production, she lists her family members' various needs and wants, such as a new roof for her aunt, a house for her mother, and a blue truck for her father. She explores more somber themes, like a grandparent needing a new stone for their grave, highlighting just how heavy the emotional weight of financial struggles within the family can weigh on her. On the hook, lines like "Gettin' rich means goin' broke" and "Every dollar that I make finds its way back home to my family" convey the bittersweet reality of success in the music industry, where the more she earns, the more she feels she needs to give back.

The following track, "Honey Ain't No Sweeter," immediately recalls a different era of country music. With its structural simplicity, lyrical depth, and natural vibrato in Avalon's voice, her artistry becomes reminiscent of Queen Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire herself. Still, as the strings dance around the story she so expertly weaves, Avalon croons, "Love don't make you weak / I wish that you could see it from my eyes."

This overwhelming vulnerability sweeps into the title track, "Stranger," a sharply melancholic lament on the connection that channels trans-generational trauma and the warped representations of love Avalon grew up with. It's an appealing uptempo song that grows with each listen with its hooky melody, lush harmonies, and a thoughtful lyric about overcoming the distance she's felt in her relationships with her parents. It highlights the longing for meaningful connections, the fear of being a stranger to loved ones, and the impact of past experiences on one's ability to form deep bonds, encouraging introspection, vulnerability, and a willingness to break down emotional barriers to foster genuine connections.

Trekking through the summery "Silver Spoons," the piano-led "Call Me On My Way Home," and the gentle ballad "The News," the EP ends on an uptempo note with "Drivin." The breezy track flows with pop-infused percussion patterns and piano arrangements, catchy guitar riffs, and rich bass lines, stylistically paying tribute to Stevie Nicks' iconic discography and sonic trademarks. In the chorus, she laments her former lover with her soaring vocals, singing, "So I'm drivin' down the highway / Thinkin' of you, babe / Smokin' menthols to ease my brain." The road trip anthem is a reeling rollercoaster of emotion that rages with a tidal force inside. As Avalon holds nothing back, she shares not just what the wave of emotions feels like but how she's handling the chaos within her heart and mind.

Listen to Stranger below:

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