Back in mid-March when the shelter-in-place order was put into effect, Santa Cruz musician Aurore Sibley suddenly found herself isolated and without an income. And to top it off, two weeks later, the person she was in a relationship with left her.
“It felt like loss on top of loss on top of loss,” Sibley recalls. “The loss of my income, and my children’s school community, and being able to be around friends. The relationship was an emotional experience that was blown up because we were estranged in so many other ways in our usual lives.”
The next day, Sibley sat down and poured her heart out into a song called “Once I Loved,” which dealt with everything she was going through.
“I’ve been a lifelong musician. Music is what got me through any kind of difficult period,” Sibley says.
The songs didn’t stop coming. In a month, she had an album’s worth of material dealing with isolation and grief. She then plugged a microphone into her laptop and recorded all the tunes using GarageBand. She’s releasing her first album, Book of Song, on July 24.
“I never felt confident enough about the songs I had written [before] to take them anywhere. I was okay playing them in a coffee shop. That’s about it,” Sibley says. “It’s a project that came by surprise. I would wake up and have a line in my head. Then I would sit down and find a chorus. That was a thrilling experience because I didn’t know I had that many songs in me.”
The songs directly reflect the intense emotions of her recent experiences. For instance, on the track “Not Afraid To Stay” she sings about her frustrating feeling of not being able to communicate with a partner in a relationship.
But the outpouring of new music wasn’t just the result of her emotional journey. The shelter-in-place order put her in a position of having more time to herself than she’s had in a decade and a half. With no work, no significant other, and her kids staying with their dad two days a week, she could get lost in her creative space.
“I usually write a couple songs a year. This was definitely the gift of time,” Sibley says. “I do think that being quarantined and having lost my connection with so many other aspects of my life at the same time contributed to the intensity of emotion, and probably plays a part in the songs as well.”
Sibley has played in several groups over the years, like Mountain Folk, and in her 20s with the Twin Cities-based Mila Vocal Ensemble, but she’s never attempted to record any of her solo material before. The songs are varied stylistically, going from folk to blues to rock to pop, and she played different instruments on the songs (guitar, mandolin, keys), layering her parts and vocals as she saw fit.
“I wish I could have been in the studio and done it professionally, but it was really fun to do it myself,” Sibley says. “I didn’t use any pre-recorded loops except for drums on a couple of tracks. Even the bass is me, playing into the keyboards. I was surprised at how that process came together.”
The songs on Book of Song are all connected to her experience in this tough time, and they tell the story of what she went through. But now that she’s ready to put it out into the world, she’s hoping that, after a lifetime of her solo music being a hobby, this album will help her take her songwriting to the next level.
“What my hope is with this project going out into the world is to connect with some more musicians and to be able to collaborate on future projects,” Sibley says. “I really love playing with other people. Right now is not the time to do that. I am trying to figure out how to get the word out there about these songs.”
For more info, check out auroresibley.com.