LA Singer-Songwriter Karen Dezelle Releases Intimate New EP
Karen Dezelle is no stranger to soul-deep confession. For the past few years, the LA-based singer-songwriter has been diving deep to extract the rawest, most revealing parts of her heart to share with her listeners. It’s an intense, emotionally exhausting task, but Karen’s always done it with grace. It’s a gift what she does with her words. Nowhere is this clearer than on her latest EP, The Secret in the Heart of the Poet, a collaboration with songwriter and producer Gavyn Bailey.
When we asked Karen to tell us a bit about the EP, she spotlighted its main theme — the difficulty of wanting love but needing to feel comfortable being alone too:
The three songs are meant to tell a story. They are standalone pieces but also fit together as a larger message. ‘The secret in the heart of the poet’ was a line in a play I read once that struck me — I felt like I knew exactly what that line meant — and it's the concept for the EP.
The title track itself is about a struggle I think is at the core of the human disposition, one that artists try to escape through their art, [which] is that we all want to be connected and protected at the same time, we crave love and are terrified of its implications, we are both afraid to be known and also afraid to be alone. I think we all handle these two opposing drives differently, and probably differently with different people and at different points in our life, but it seems we eventually find out the only answer to it is to figure out how to be both — to be known and to be alone.
“The Secret in the Heart of the Poet” is about that struggle in every human heart and especially [about] how art requires such a huge level of vulnerability and exposure and artists often evade personal connection. We all have the ways we are comfortable revealing ourselves to the world and the ways that we are not, I guess. “Skin on Skin” follows that track and it is about the sacred connection, intimacy, bonding, abandonment, healing, confusion, the emptiness left over, how we often see what we look for in others and miss what we don't want to see in them. It follows “The Secret in the Heart of the Poet” because it’s about an attempt at solving that struggle for connection and protection gone wrong because of disillusionment, because of looking to love or human connection or sex to solve an emptiness that it can't.
“Begin Again” is the sort of resolution of the story. It's about healing, transformation, and how it's never too late to shift your perspective, get rid of your army, see another's light, how it's never too late to write a new ending.
The EP overall is about intimacy, transformation, and the relationship with others revealing the relationship with oneself. The production was kept intentionally raw, almost like a live recording, to celebrate the authenticity of the singer-songwriter genre. We wanted it to feel intimate. The songs are what felt like the raw truth. We wanted to keep the production pretty simple and stripped down to reflect that.
The Secret in the Heart of the Poet opens with its title track, a minimally arranged acoustic composition built on quick layers of tender strums. Karen’s voice is a flutter, Gavyn’s harmony is sweet, and together, they deliver too-real lines one after the other like “I can’t let anybody hold me / But I’ll always be lonely / And I need someone to know me,” that endless cycle of wanting love but not being able to let it in. “Skin On Skin” follows, a stunning lo-fi track shrouded in shadows. There’s an emotional quality to the guitar here, like it’s alive or crying or hurt, which is one of Karen and Gavyn’s talents — they’re able to anthropomorphize their instruments and their voices so that the music becomes a story and the story becomes an emotion. The songwriting here, too, is a subtle soul-crusher, especially when Karen sings “You say you don’t believe in love / Maybe you’re just afraid of not being enough.” The EP ends with “Begin Again,” the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel — there’s a sweetness to it so it’s automatically more hopeful. There are layered harmonies and faster acoustic strums, a quicker pace that suggests things have lightened up a bit after such a painful past ten minutes of love gone wrong. With The Secret in the Heart of the Poet, Karen Dezelle continues to do what she does best — strip her soul on beds of bare-bones indie-folk rhythms.