A classically trained musician with a love for great songwriting, Roxi Copland’s innovative sound is forged at the crossroads of Americana, roots, and jazz. From her confessions that “the things I speak aloud might hurt the ones I love” to professing seductively “I prefer my arms with yours entwined,” the five songs that make up her I Come From Crazy EP reveal an artist unafraid to divulge her shortcomings, frustrations, and desires.
“It took a while for me to be self-confident enough to write a song without complex chords in it,” she recalls, referencing her previous life as a singing pianist in jazz clubs. “I noticed that what I really loved as a kid were songs that told stories, and a lot of those were country and Americana … my songwriting started to have more of a tilt towards that direction.” Throughout the EP, Copland’s sultry vocals are framed by country-tinged instrumentation from a stellar lineup of some of Austin’s finest—including Warren Hood on fiddle (Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, The Waybacks), Adam Nurre on drums (David Ramirez, Jeremy Pinnell) James Bookert on banjo (Whiskey Shivers, Wild Child), Devin North on bass (Arielle), and Justin Douglas, who also engineered and co-produced the album with Copland, on pedal steel and guitar. The resulting sound is akin to a rowdier, rootsier Madeleine Peyroux or Melody Gardot.
Lead single “Daddy Don’t Do Politics,” which earned an accolade from the International Songwriting Competition (2020 Semi-Finalist, Folk/Singer-Songwriter category), might be the most timely of all the tracks on the EP. In just over two minutes, it offers up a succinct summation of that moment when a father gets a lesson in privilege from his more progressive daughter. “He didn’t appreciate me pointing out that he had a huge head start in life, and I didn’t appreciate him willfully ignoring a massive amount of privilege. So I got a little passive-aggressive and wrote this song and admittedly had a lot of fun while doing it,” Copland recalls.
Looking for an escape of sorts during the pandemic, Copland says she steered her efforts towards simply having fun with music, centering the storytelling, and looking internally to family dynamics for inspiration. “I was focusing on telling a story, whether it was funny, sarcastic, or getting a political dig in, and trying to write to that story rather than coming up with a song and then writing a story to fit.”
When almost all of her gigs fell off the calendar due to Covid, most of her income did as well. Serendipitously, Copland noticed that Douglas, an award-winning producer/engineer, had also lost all his bookings and was offering a “pay what you can” option for time at his King Electric Recording studio in Austin. Having worked with a massive list of artists that span every genre imaginable, from Celine Dion to Jimmy LaFave, Douglas proved to be the perfect guiding hand for putting Copland’s self-reflective musings to tape, and the EP came together very quickly. It didn’t hurt that Copland came in with a solid sense of direction in terms of how she wanted things to sound; “I knew 90% of what I wanted on every song before I went in there,” she explains. “When I took it to Justin, he added these interesting touches that I don’t think I would have come up with.”
The EP closes with one of the most well-known of all traditional folk songs, “House of the Rising Sun.” As Copland details, she crafted an arrangement that harkens back to the lesser-known original version. “It was initially written for a woman to sing, which changes the meaning of the lyrics from the Animals’ arrangement that most folks are familiar with—about a guy that apparently just can’t stop visiting a New Orleans brothel. The original version is about the sex worker herself, and my arrangement goes back to that.” The resulting darker, more dissonant take is the perfect showcase for Copland’s most unique strengths, her ability to play with tradition and give it her own stamp, one of equal parts confidence and wit, and one that will have you returning to I Come From Crazy again and again.