Many have tried to imitate the delicate, warbled alto popularized by the likes of Patsy Cline—the kind of voice that, despite spilling its secrets, can never be wholly known. No doubt assisted by her training in jazz vocal performance, Austin-based Molly Burch is one of the few who pull it off. Her 2017 debut, Please Be Mine, chronicled the trials of a broken heart, her voice breathy and mournful over sprawling, beachy guitar licks. But her sophomore album, First Flower, demonstrates the power of vulnerability, set against a backdrop of bright vintage pop. In a recent interview, Burch explained how the album was inspired by finding her footing in the music community and facing her anxiety.
Quitting the Band
Amid the shimmering guitar riffs and pirouetting vocal lines on “Dangerous Place,” a frustrated Burch laments the friction of creative collaboration: “Why did I question myself / Why did I alter the tone / Love it or leave it alone.” After the first round of tours supporting Please Be Mine, she no longer sings with a set band, preferring the freedom to shake things up with minimal outside influences. “As much as I would love to have a band where we’re all best friends, at the end of the day, it is my name and my music,” Burch says.
When Burch wrote First Flower, she and her boyfriend and guitarist, Dailey Toliver, had joined the wave of Austin creatives decamping to Lockhart. The foray into country life allowed her to refocus on writing after the hectic tour schedule, but the rural romance was short-lived, and the pair returned to the city this year. “It’s just a different lifestyle out there,” she says. “It felt way more isolating than I thought it would, even though it’s not so far away.”
Burch says that after her debut’s release, fans reached out to share how it helped them through their own breakups. So with First Flower, Burch wanted to address a subject she’s all too familiar with: living with anxiety. “Having people say how much [Please Be Mine] meant to them, I was blown away. When people talk about things like anxiety, it makes me feel less alone.” Burch cites the languid, string-laced “Good Behavior” as a particularly raw track. “It’s that feeling when you’re stuck with bad habits and anxiety, and you feel ashamed of it but don’t know where to go.”
Tell That to the Boys
If Burch’s experiences with anxiety are woven throughout the writing, album standout “To the Boys” is a middle finger to the condition. Burch, whose soft-spoken voice in conversation belies her confident jazz lilt onstage, sings: “I don’t need to scream to get my point across / I don’t need to yell to know that I’m the boss.” The self-described “female anthem” is a rallying cry for women to own their narrative, particularly in an industry still dominated by men.
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.