Savannah Conley was always destined to be a country music star, until she decided she wasn’t. Raised in the Nashville area by music industry parents, her twang was seemingly predetermined. But after touring in an Americana-adjacent vein (I saw her open for Brent Cobb in Denver in 2018), releasing bits of music here and there and even recording (then scrapping) a couple of albums, as 2020 dawned and the songs seemed to dry up, she quit. Then…the pandemic, which brought both new love and new songs, along with focus and direction that eventually became Playing the Part of You Is Me, her proper debut record, which has Conley’s feet firmly planted in the indie world that best suits her.
The album’s first single, “More Than Fine,” serves as an introduction to the newer (and truer) Savannah Conley, a drum-and-synth attempt at a pick-up line – “”You’ll be fine on your own/But just a little bit better with me.” According to Conley, the cast didn’t land, but Playing the Part of You Is Me is more about risks taken than objectives achieved. “Muscle Memory” looks at a gamble on the other end – an attempt at rekindling what’s already burned out: “When everything is falling apart/You’re the only thing that stays the same.” She gains some clarity toward the end of the track (and the tryst) – “I don’t regret a second of it, but I’m hoping you don’t stay.” Sometimes, it takes an attempt to reconnect to remind you why you left in the first place.
“Contortionist,” riding an insistent forward beat, mimics Conley’s own struggle to succeed musically with an attempt to satisfy everyone – “Convince myself into the box I built/But I just won’t fit.” “Past Life,” quietly led by acoustic guitar and Conley’s shimmering vocals, also finds commonality between the singer’s musical waywardness and a more overarching depression, asking why this sunken feeling seems to predate her own existence – “‘Cause this sadness that I have/Could never be mine.” But the setbacks seem to be starting to pay off with the renewed confidence found in “I Love You.” Singing in a hushed tone that reflects the biggest risk, not just of saying those three words, but the vulnerability they betray, Conley comes to realize that the roll of the dice is worth it – “if you left me tomorrow/I still would be sure/That this was important/Middle, end, and before.” Whether the gamble is on a casual flirtation or a major musical shift, following her heart has put Conley where she needs to be.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Don’t Make Me Reach” – What begins quietly as a rumination on bad communication becomes a road song of sorts – “I want to drive across the country/Make you remember why you love me” – with a big, swoopy chorus and a note of self-preservation – “Make me remember why I stayed.”
Playing the Part of You Is Me was produced by Jeremy Lutito, engineered and mixed by Lutito and Reid Leslie and mastered by Adam Grover. All songs written by Savannah Conley, with co-writes going to Lutito, Trent Dabbs, Iain Archer, Anuroop Pillai, Andrew Paul Petroff and Jack Garratt. Additional musicians on the album include Lutito (drums, percussion, piano, synths, bass), Hank Compton (guitar, bass), Tyler Burkum (guitar), Taylor Dubray (bass), Eleonore Denig (violin, strings arranger), Cara Fox (cello), Laura Epling (violin) and Bobby Chase (viola).
Go here to listen to Playing the Part of You Is Me (out May 12): https://symphony.to/savannah-conley/playing-the-part-of-you-is-me
Check out tour dates here: https://www.bandsintown.com/a/1195399-savannah-conley?came_from=257