It’s been three years since local singer-songwriter Anna Gilbert was dubbed Eugene Weekly’s Next Big Thing, and she has been busy. Since then, she has released an acoustic-themed holiday release (2011’s Christmas), spent time writing country songs for other artists and now she is back with a new album, The Able Heart, which was released Nov. 5. According to Gilbert, it was time for a shift in her songwriting priorities.
“I decided to take a break from all that because I wanted to write something for myself,” Gilbert says. “I wanted to do an album and I wanted it to be something I could sing myself and believe in.”
Heart, arguably Gilbert’s strongest and most complete work to date, is a meditation on what keeps us going during difficult times. A deeply introspective record, Heart examines some of the struggles that Gilbert, her family and her friends have endured the past couple years. If you have an affinity for songs that do not necessarily resolve, and end with just as many questions as when the song began, this record might be for you.
“The last couple years have been really crazy for a lot of people, not just myself,” says Gilbert. “I’ve seen a lot of my friends go through cancer, divorce, people cheating on each other, losing their homes, betrayal. But the glory of all of it was I wrote songs from these experiences, and while they don’t all get tied up in a pretty bow at the end, sometimes art comes from something sad that’s happened so it’s kind of redemptive.”
Gilbert doesn’t pull any punches, especially when examining her own life through the most objective lens she can find. The swelling orchestral pop track “Be Still My Heart” finds Gilbert chastising herself for — among other things — letting jealousy and doubt cripple her emotionally and spiritually, while on the minimalist piano-and-percussion-led opener “O, Freedom,” she laments the loss of a time in her life when she was unfettered by expectations, filters and the weightiness of life. The ambient piano rocker “White Noise” even finds her struggling to hear the proverbial still small voice of God in the midst of life’s sorrows and cares. For Gilbert it all came down to being honest and finding a way to grow in each situation.
“It was important for me to get comfortable with knowing that I don’t have an answer yet and I don’t know if I ever will,” Gilbert says. “But here are some things I do know: I can learn to be strong, I can learn to have hope, I can find something to learn from this.”
Anna Gilbert performs at The Able Heart CD release party 7 pm Monday, Nov. 11, at Cozmic; $5.