New Braunfels’ Stephanie Macías likes to hide.
She first hid as Stephanie Briggs, her married name, which she performed under and used in her first two albums: Spark (2007) and Birds Barely Know Us (2009). Now single again, she hides behind the name Little Brave and, instead of a photo, uses a painted self-portrait for the cover of Wound & Will, the new album she will present with a show at Sam’s Burger Joint on March 5.
But for those who know where to look — in her music, especially her lyrics — Macías is not hiding. Everything you need to know about her is there. The name thing is not such a big deal.
“I feel there are so many ‘so-and-so bands’ that I didn’t want to be another name,” she told the Current last week.
Wound & Will (read our review here) is her best record, a gorgeous-sounding jewel of confessional singer-songwriter magic by a woman who shed her skin and found her true voice.
“I’ve been playing for a while, but nothing like what I’m trying to do now,” she said. “Before, I had a management company that didn’t know what to do with me, but now that everything’s in my hands I feel I can accomplish what I want. This new album is all me.”
All divorces are tough, but the relationship she was in after the divorce was a lot tougher. Those 12 months were more intense and ultimately more painful than six years of marriage.
“This guy didn’t even have the decency to end anything in person or a phone call,” she said. “He used a text message.” By the time she was ready to record last May she was too depressed to enter the studio. The ordeal turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as virtually every song on Wound & Will is about that break-up.
“I had to postpone `the recording` and I ended up writing the majority of the album in May and June,” she said. “So it worked out for the best, because I got the best material I could get for this album.”
It’s a carefully written and produced album, but three tracks stand out: “You Didn’t Mean It,” a perfect ballad and one of the best regional songs of the year (“But you didn’t mean it/You didn’t mean it/Cut the crap/Tell the truth/Everybody knows it’s not what you say/But what you do”).
“When I write a song I don’t really know how people will react to it until I play it for them,” she said. “But, almost immediately, I knew `‘You Didn’t Mean It’` would strike a chord in a lot of people. People would come to me after any show and they would talk about that song.”
The other key tracks are the Beatlesque “Blame” (“I don’t have a lot to say/No, I don’t have a lot to say about/The way you left in such a hurry/Like God condemned this town/And I’m left with only music/And these inefficient words to say that/I am so unhappy/And I’m closer/To ending it everyday”); and the acoustic folk of “Ruin Mine” (“Just because you gave them life/Doesn’t mean you have the right/To ruin mine”).
“I used to cloak stuff in a lot of metaphors,” she said of her first two albums. “When I wrote these songs so much was happening, and I wanted to say it all.”
Little Brave has a hands-on approach concerning everything related to her recordings, from the production to the art. This time, she co-produced with Pat Manske and let the songs speak for themselves.
“My favorite thing to do is produce the albums, but this time I had so much to say I didn’t want the music to be overwhelming,” she said. “I wanted very simple parts for each instrument, and not too many instruments. And to each person that played on the album I said, ‘Play it like it matters.’ I didn’t really add a lot of harmonies. This one was about saying something, not decorating.”
The album is the typical example of great art produced by pain, but she has reservations about the whole idea.
“The whole pain-equals-creativity thing has some merit to it, but I don’t subscribe to that thought exclusively because I just don’t think that’s a healthy way to look at it,” she said. “A lot of artists are fuck-ups because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do. I don’t buy into that.”
Even though she still performs solo acoustic sets, she’s focused on developing her band side for the first time in years.
“You can be great on record, but performing is a whole different ball game,” she said. “I still play acoustic but it bores me. I want interaction with people onstage. The difference is that before I used to play because I had recorded an album and I had to do it. Now I’m out there and I want to be out there.
“I’m finally at a great place in my life and I’m enjoying it, but I can’t tell you how many times people tell me I’m in the wrong place, the wrong city. Sometimes I believe it, but sometimes I think it shouldn’t matter. If the music’s good, it’s good.”
Little Brave CD release party
9pm Sat, March 5
Sam’s Burger Joint
330 E Grayson