Lawson is an alternate folk singer-songwriter currently based in Asheville, North Carolina. However, her upbringing was a bit of a deep south standard. She grew up in Florida and was raised evangelical Christian, largely sheltered during her formative years. “I think when you grow up the way I did, immersed in the evangelical church, and then you decide to leave that life behind, it can feel really isolating and people may not understand,” says Lawson.
And with Flood House, she creates an artistic expression that allows her to process her religious trauma and faith deconstruction.
She invites us into personal moments in her life, sharing her feelings of longing, loss, and love. Lawson’s work on this album has been compared to other singer-songwriters like Kathleen Edwards and Noah Gunderson to name a few.
When asked what she hopes the listener will take from these songs, she said, “It’s my hope that these songs allow others to feel validated in that it’s okay to explore life beyond what you were taught and what you used to believe. I want people to know they aren’t alone and it’s okay to be honest with yourself.”
The opening track, “Highway 33,” is a song that one could envision as an existential conversation with a best friend. Staring at the ceiling, thinking about how at any moment one could “Be in my car at the wrong time / And never make it home.” It battles with wanting more time and yet not feeling deserving of it. Lawson sings about not being a friend to the needy and keeping her head down. It’s a reminder that time is precious, and some things are out of our control.
The next song, “Colder,” starts off with a driving electric guitar and a piercing opening opening lyric of, “Maybe this will be better if I let you down.” Drums kick in on the chorus as she emotionally sings, “I feel so much older than last year.” One could interpret this as Lawson feeling ‘colder’ for the way she treated a certain someone, or just feeling like the world is cold for putting her in this situation. Either way, it has forced her to grow up and deal with situations like this, even though she may not want to.
The fourth track and a single earlier this year, “Cheaper Kind” wrestles with Lawson’s religious trauma and what healing from that means to her. The song highlights the lyrics by having the majority of the song just be Lawson’s moving voice and the picking of an electric guitar.
She sings about being baptized without the chance to make the choice for herself, while still feeling the hands of grace. Notable lyrics in the hook of this song include, “Couldn’t live on bread or promises alone / Used to drink the holy wine / Now I’m dependent on the cheaper kind / The cheaper kind.”
The closing track, “Kids,” wraps up the album with Lawson processing what it meant to grow up religious and what it means to her now. One could see this song as her showing what happens when you force-feed kids strong religious things young. She sings in the refrain, “All the things we were taught as kids / Couldn’t pry them from our hands.”
Towards the end of the song, she ironically has a come-to-Jesus moment about how religion is something people hold over your head and she has nothing to show from it. It is her way of coming to the realization that no matter what we believe or how we act, “we’re gonna die either way.”
Flood House was recorded at Way Out Studios in Seattle, WA, and produced by Trevor Spencer (Beach House, Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes). Lawson, Spencer, and Seattle-based musician Sam Peterson made up the trio that played all of the instruments on the album.
Flood House is a deeply vulnerable album that is like meeting with an old friend and hashing out all of your memories, good and bad. It’s an inspiring debut from Leah Lawson.