Since we wrapped our huge local music issue, there have been a few local albums that remain in my regular listening rotation. Perhaps the most surprising of these (to me, anyway) has been Firefly by Eryn Bent. It isn’t that the album—recorded at Jono Manson’s Kitchen Sink Studios—isn’t wonderful and all, but rather that it isn’t usually the kind of thing I’d be listening to of my own free will.
Usually I'm blasting indie or emo or punk or metal, but Bent's emotional, introspective take on a style that dwells within the realms of country, pop and rock speaks to me from behind its highly personal lyricism. It's hard to not respect a singer-songwriter who cracks open her personal life in order to access the depths of loss and sadness, as well as the heights of hope and love, and Bent accomplishes this while neatly sidestepping any saccharine bullshit or overtly calculated musical marketing ploys; homegirl really means it, and then some.
This is partly due to a year spent studying at the University of Idaho's music program.
"I enjoyed it and did well with the opera program, but it just didn't feel right," she says. "It wasn't the program or the people, I just didn't want to bust my ass and pay shit-loads of money, and in the end not be able to do anything with it."
Despite leaving the program early, Bent maintains an obviously trained style of songwriting. Firefly may touch on well-worn territory, but there are unexpected elements and unique touches everywhere. Bent produced the record herself, an impressive feat considering the minimal studio experience she had prior to her debut. Still, it shows her commitment to music and speaks volumes about her work ethic and songwriting prowess.
"[It's] is full of songs about specific individuals, but I'm nervous to say that because that's kind of what Taylor Swift does and I don't want to be related to her…she's a little too 'Disney' for me," Bent says. "But the good thing about heartbreak is that it taught me I could do things on my own and on my own terms."
Indeed, good art usually stems from some form of adversity, and Bent having suffered a near-death experience in 2011 at the hands of prescription meds certainly fueled her inspirations.
"I had some pretty severe reactions [to the medication] to the point I had to be hospitalized," she says. "I've struggled with mental health most of my life, but it was a bitch slap to reality that taught me a lot about myself."
Bent was raised Mormon and points to her hospitalization as a turning point in both her personal and professional life.
According to Bent, "I don't think I realized how deeply Mormonism affected me until I was in the hospital; like the veil had been lifted and I realized that even though it was how I was raised and all I knew, I just didn't believe."
She left the religion shortly thereafter to focus on her music. "It was like I was always this person, but I had just never realized that I was always super into people-pleasing and pretending to be someone I wasn't…I was in the darkest place someone could ever go, and I think I appreciate music—everything—more."
This shows in her songs, which are definitely sad in places but do showcase that all-important element of hope. Country and Americana can fall victim to overused tropes or an almost cookie-cutter style of lyricism, yet Bent deftly avoids these.
"I don't write songs about drinking beer," she says.
The best word to use here would be authentic.
Firefly is out now both digitally and physically, but Bent can already boast six new songs and plans to get back in the studio by spring.
"I put a hiatus on myself for songwriting while I was recording," Bent tells SFR. "Now that that's over, they're gushing out."
In the meantime, you can catch a solo set followed by a full-band performance (including Manson) at the original Second Street Brewery on Friday. Trust me, it'll be worth it.
Eryn Bent w/ Jono Manson
6 pm Friday, May 30. No cover
Second Street Brewery
1814 2nd St.,