Leyla McCalla has long been one of the most under-celebrated folksingers working these days. Her albums have all been deep dives into important subject matter, exploring the human experience through the confluence of poetry and melody in ways few artists are capable of.
As a multi-instrumentalist, she seems to follow her instruments into unexpected journeys. And on her latest album, Breaking the Thermometer, she travels through time and culture to explore questions about identity, migration, democracy, power, and place via her remarkable songwriting.
The project sprang from a commission she had from Duke University to create a theatrical piece about the history of Radio Haiti. The production was so inspired, she chose to rework it for an entirely audio medium and release it as a recording.
It’s a stunning accomplishment and easily one of the finest folk recordings this year. So, I was excited to talk with her about all of this—and more—for the latest episode of Why We Write. Tune in and enjoy!