Why We Write with Kim Ruehl, Eps. 6: Anna Tivel

For Anna Tivel’s latest album, Blue World, she found herself drawn to the spacious echo of piano—an instrument she doesn’t actually play. But there was something in the songs she had been writing that called for that sound and she was inclined to follow her instincts. The result is haunting and emotionally arresting, as is true of most of Tivel’s songwriting.

Indeed, there is a spaciousness in all she does, a certain poetry that doesn’t stop with the lyrics but stretches into her melodies and instrumental breaks. Tivel has a knack for leaving room for the listener to bring their own thoughts and feelings to the song, which is something few songwriters have the courage to do. It is, after all, far easier to fill a song with notes and words and various instrumental sounds. As Pete Seeger famously said, anyone can make something complicated; it takes a genius to make it simple.

Anna Tivel may be toward the beginning of her career—not quite genius yet—but her impulse toward simple poetry is laudable. I was interested to learn more about how she got to this point of trusting her instincts and keeping things simple—and of course why she writes at all. Press play and dig into the simple beauty of Anna Tivel.

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