The first lyric on Daydreamer might be its best. “I don’t wanna waste my time again obsessing ‘bout how nothing fits,” indie rocker Molly Burch sings on the string-heavy ‘Made of Glass’. This lyric, and others like it that jumped out when listening to her fourth album, are astoundingly tuned-in to the angst, loneliness, and sometimes endless yearning all young people can relate to. “I’m so fragile, it’s not even funny,” she sings on the same song; “I’ve fallen out of love with myself” on synthpop lead single ‘Physical’; “I chase the feeling of being your favorite” on the jangly, upbeat ‘Unconditional’. Armed with inspirations ranging from Kate Bush to Ariana Grande — which was surprising at first, but after hearing her cover ‘needy’ on tour, it totally fits — Burch uses her soaring vocals amidst lush arenas of sound to create an ethereal and dreamy album.
We caught up with Molly Burch for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight series to talk about the process of recording, her relationship to the music industry, and the relatability of her lyricism.
There’s this really entrancing quality to the record — your vocals soar in the realm of Kate Bush and they’re backed by this lushness of chamber pop. Who were some of your inspirations for this record, either with writing or its sound?
I love Kate Bush so much. Such a compliment. With this, sonically, Jack [Tatum] and I listened to a lot of city pop and 80s music. We both really wanted strings and horns, and really lush instrumentation. I think he did a really great job of like the balance of synths, but also a lot of natural sounds. And for vocal inspiration, I always have Ariana Grande on my playlists. It’s always like a mix of modern pop, lots of Madonna, ’80s throwbacks.
When I was listening to Daydreamer for the first time, the word that kept coming to me was ‘astute.’ There are so many good observations and snappy lyrics about life, anxiety, and the self. I wanted to ask about your writing process — are you a sit-down thinker, or does stuff come to you in the middle of the day that you hurry to jot down?
That’s so nice. I kind of struggled my whole career with confidence with my writing. And because I always sort of see myself as a vocalist, like, that’s my instrument. And I took a while to get the confidence to write songs. And I really didn’t until my first album, Please Be Mine. My last album, Romantic Images, I was so focused on the sonic shift, I did want the production to be more clean and more pop. And this album, I was more focused on writing and lyrics. I also took longer to write this album — I started in 2021. So it was more of a year and a half of writing a lot of songs, and being really nitpicky.
My process is just yeah, sitting down. I wrote both on the piano and guitar and I’ll basically finish a song: chords, lyrics, pretty much, and then take it to Dailey, who’s my boyfriend and guitarist. We’ll make the demo and flesh out parts and have an idea. And then of course, some of those ideas changed a lot when Jack produced them.
In the first track, ‘Made of Glass’, you talk about the downsides of being a sensitive person, which I can totally relate to. You sing “I’m so fragile it’s not even funny.” Can I ask what inspired this song?
This song is totally in the perspective of my 13-year-old self. I just kind of wanted to paint the picture of that angst and that first wave of feelings of insecurities. I really struggled with body dysmorphia: that was sort of when it first started with disordered thinking and eating. I would just stay in my room a lot and just really obsess over getting dressed and not being able to feel okay in my body and feel okay socializing. I still feel a lot of those things today, even though I’m past a lot of it and can mask better. I still will obsess over things not fitting. I just truly wrote that line to just help myself get over that. Because, logically, I know, it’s ridiculous. But that anxiety will really take over a lot, and I can become very obsessive.
You also end with the lyric “I’m made of glass/ And I’ll always be like that.” This finality, this personality trait you just know of yourself — do you think that makes being a sensitive person easier or harder?
I think easier. I was always kind of shamed because I’m different in my family — I always feel like my sister and my mom are tougher and I’ve always been called the sensitive one. I always felt so much shame about that, and that I needed to be change to be strong. Over the years, I’ve grown to accept that and love that about myself. I’d rather be extra sensitive and empathetic than rather not. I feel like it’s a strength. I do still feel like I’m fragile, but I’m also very strong.
Totally. I’m from a Jewish mother and an Italian father — growing up at family gatherings, all I’d hear is “You’re so quiet!”
My mom is Jewish as well, and the first time she met Dailey, she said, “Do you ever talk? Is he mute?” I love them so much, but there’s a lot of big personalities, and as the youngest, I shrunk down.
‘Physical’ was the first song I heard on the album, which made me really intrigued. Even though the instrumental is so upbeat, there’s this lyric that sticks out to me: “I guess the pills help/ But they really only make me feel less.” If it’s not too personal, would you mind explaining the meaning behind this lyric?
Absolutely. The whole song is really about my struggles with PMS, which goes hand in hand with anxiety, depression, and body issues. I wanted the lyrics to be broad enough so that people who don’t experience that can also relate, with generalized anxiety or something. I started taking anti-anxiety meds for PMS, and it really did help, but I just started feeling less. It didn’t fix everything, just brought everything down. Which can be good, and bad.
I also enjoyed it because I took it as a means of sticking up for yourself even when you feel awful, even when you don’t feel like a person. In all of the verses, you describe feeling flat, maybe not even physical, but in the chorus’ ending, you counter: “I’m not the one-dimensional girl of your mind/ I’m a literal woman moving through life.” What was the thought process behind this dichotomy?
Yeah, definitely. I wanted the verses to feel more insecure and the chorus to feel powerful, telling someone who doesn’t understand what you’re going through and can write it off. I feel like that happens a lot, with PMS, or periods, like, ‘Oh, you’re just on your period.’ But people don’t really understand that it’s so under researched. Women’s health in general, is just horrific. Nobody cares. And you’re going through so much mental illness during that time. It’s pretty intense. I wanted that line to tell someone off, like, ‘Don’t downplay what I’m going through.’ I have to remind myself of that all the time. Literally every month. I have to go through mental gymnastics of calming myself and saying, “This will pass.”
I read that ‘Tattoo’ is an ode to your late friend, and I think it’s a really beautiful song, especially the part where you say you got one of her tattoos in the same spot to remember her by. What does this song mean to you and what was the writing process like?
That song was the hardest song for me to write, ever. I’d never taken so long to write a song, and it went through a lot of different forms. I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll write a pop song.’ I wanted to write a song that maybe she would like. I really like where it landed, with the help of Jack’s production. I wanted it to be this ballad, but I did want weird elements. In the chorus, he added this strange ethereal guitar part. I love the ups and downs of it.
Basically, one of my best friends passed away in college. She was such an important person, and totally changed my life. I never wanted to write a song about her because it was too personal, but with this album, which is about my relationship to music and how I feel as an artist, she was the first person I played music with and really brought me out of my shell. She was so, so opposite. The only person I feel like I can compare her to is Sinead O’Connor: someone who is so bold and different. I truly feel like there was no one like her. She was so fun and extraverted and had this big orange curly hair, so beautiful. Everyone was drawn to her. I wanted to basically write a letter to her now, and wanted to talk about her and capture her essence and think about what she’d be like now. Part of me thinks she’d have a really hard time with it. She missed social media: that would have made her so anxious. She would have been blocked from everything. She Facebook messaged me a video of her talking out of her vagina. Yeah, she would have been banned on all platforms. That’s the line where it goes: “You wouldn’t believe it/ I think you would hate it.” Pandemic, everything that’s happened… She was so deeply sensitive, I think it would have been too much. That’s something that I tell myself, to make myself feel better, almost, that she would have hated it here and she’s in a better place. It’s definitely a special song to release, and why I wanted it to be a single too.
That’s so beautiful. So ‘Unconditional’ mourns a relationship where you inhabited the ‘giver’ role, and the other person was the “taker,” who was afraid of commitment. What was the turning point for you, of realizing, like, “Hang on. This isn’t benefiting me”?
Basically, I was thinking about how I felt being an indie artist in the music business. This feeling really started when the pandemic hit, feeling like I have no control over anything. That’s just how it is in this business — up and down, sometimes you feel good and sometimes you feel horrible. It’s sort of a confident perspective, like, “Hey, I’m great, why don’t you like me?” I just wanted to have fun with it and have some salty, cheeky lines.
Let’s talk about ‘Heartburn’, which I think is the most interestingly-produced track on the record. It has nods of city pop with these big, explosive horns. How did this song come to be?
Dailey and I were just kinda messing around — the demo is so different, it’s a synthy, much chiller 80s track. I made lyrics afterwards and Jack took it and was really city pop-inspired. It was something he’d always wanted to do, and he sent me a little taste, like, “Do you like this?” Every time he said that, I was like, ‘Go for it!’ It was the first time he completely wrote all these parts for horns and strings, and it was a really cool experience to watch him do that.
Even though you start with the incredible lyric, “First time in a while got no man on my mind/ I’d rather chase my dreams on a Saturday night,” on the chorus, you admit that “Heartburn season” always gets the best of you, and you find yourself yearning. What is “heartburn season” and why do you think it’s so powerful?
So the title’s a nod to Nora Ephron, her movie Heartburn. I associate her and her movies with fall, and to me, whenever it’s fall, I get so nostalgic. When it’s not fall, I get so focused, but when it turns, I get this yearning vibe.
I really enjoyed how ‘Beauty Rest’ has this analysis of capitalism and how we’re forced to segment our lives in order to even live. You sing, “Too many people out here, I guess / Realizing their dreams on a daily basis.” Where did the inspiration for this song come from?
I believe this was the first song I wrote for the album, which kind of formed it. It was right when I was putting out my last record, Romantic Images, and the summer of 2021. Summer is my least favorite season, and I hate being hot. It was still pandemic-times, and we couldn’t tour. I think there was this misconception that, “Okay, 2020 bad, 2021 good! Normal!” I feel like we were all confident, putting out an album, and then it was like every single person on earth put out an album. I was feeling so overstimulated, so depressed, not being able to tour. I was basically dealing with all of the things I don’t like about putting out an album: thinking about how it’s doing, what’s the press like, etc. I get very seasonally depressed in the summer and happy in the fall and winter. I was thinking about capitalism commodifying your art. It just felt like everyone was working so hard. I felt like, “I wish we could all just chill out and not worry so much.”
What are you most excited about when touring this album?
It’s always fun to play new songs live, and we’re doing all the new songs, except ‘Heartburn’, because it was too tricky to figure out with all the horns. It’s just fun to see the fans. I love the structure of tour. We brought our dog, which is so fun, and kind of crazy, but it’s been nice. He loves the van, and he takes the tour well, which is good for mental health. I’m hoping to tour Europe and the UK next year, that’s something we haven’t been able to do since the pandemic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.