LA/NYC artist Johanna Samuels has released a sweet new track "Nature's Way" off her forthcoming debut album Excelsior! out May 14 on Mama Bird Recording Co. The track follows up on last year's lead single High Tide For One", a groovy slow dance number that retro slide guitar and glittery Rhodes riffs.
Excelsior! takes its name from Samuels' late grandpa's signature. She says, "He signed all of his letters and emails 'Excelsior!', including the exclamation point. "It means 'ever upward' and that's what I wish for everyone: to grow from listening with more empathy and from hearing each other out."
"Nature's Way" kicks off with a clean drum beat, before offering layers of Rhodes and gentle acoustic guitar that wrap around Samuel's emotive vocal. Harmonies from co-writer Olivia Kaplan add depth and richness as the track explores the ease with which empathy and vulnerability are taken for granted.
Speaking on the track, Samuels says she and Kaplan "had been toying with exploring the pressures that come along with hiding your vulnerability as a woman, which can often manifest by fading out your authentic self, in a sense. We started singing to this fictional guy character who tours in a band and lets the girl he’s sometimes with hold all the weight of vulnerability." The accompanying video captures the warmth and tenderness of authenticity on film with guest appearances from Samuel's friends dancing in their homes.
Across Excelsior!'s ten songs, Samuels' works to re-establish community bonds and connections that have been strained, with specific attention to the way women have been pitted against each other in male-dominated spaces. While recording the album at the snowed-in at producer Sam Evian's upstate New York cabin, and Samuel's called upon the voices of notable artists such as Courtney Marie Andrews, Lomelda's Hannah Read and Hannah Cohen to provide backing vocals. Samuels notes, “I made the record mostly with men, and that's a space I find myself in constantly in music,” Samuels says, “so it was a very important and special part of the record to have these different womxn that held me up.”
Be sure to catch more of Samuel's on her forthcoming album Excelsior! out May 14 on Mama Bird Recording Co.