Bettendorf Native Singer-Songwriter Has Very Productive Pandemic – New Baby, New Album
Like a lot of us, Molly Conrad has learned a lot about light and darkness during the Covid pandemic.
The 29-year-old singer/songwriter and Bettendorf native — currently living in Buffalo, N.Y. – has had a pretty productive pandemic, producing a new boy with her husband, and a new album, “Light of the Dark.” One took nine months to make, and the other just three days.
“I really love sad songs,” Conrad said recently, noting she’d written the new music over the past couple years. “I love melancholic truth with glimmers of hope sprinkled about, and tried to capture the nuance of those feelings in this record.”
“Light of the Dark,” which was released Oct. 15th, was created in the span of three days in the former garage at her home, this past July. Nashville producer and recording engineer Alex DeVor was surprised how much they got done in one long weekend.
“I think we’ve got some really special songs,” DeVor commented in a recent release. “We recorded them in a whirlwind of three days.”
The record includes nine tracks with intimate, thought-provoking lyrics accompanied by an
indie/alternative ambient vibe. Along with Conrad and DeVor’s work, the record features Buffalo musician John Franco (her husband) on guitars and bass and was mastered by Kerry Tucker, St. Ambrose professor and Quad-City musician (a member of Einstein’s Sister).
“Light of the Dark” was recorded “in 3 days which feels impossible when I listen to it,” Conrad recently posted on Facebook. “Alex Devor, recording engineer, mixer, keyboard player, producer, friend, worked his butt off and it shows. The album wouldn’t be what it was without him.”
Conrad has lived in four states, and toured many parts of the U.S. and northern Germany. She lived and worked in Nashville from 2015 to the end of 2017 (where she recorded her previous album, “Mind Over Mirror,” with DeVor), and then moved to Minneapolis for a year. Conrad moved to Buffalo since her husband (they met in Nashville) grew up there; they married in 2019.
Conrad had her first child, Timothy, in December 2020, her personal pandemic project.
“I kept feeling like I’m not creating, I’m not doing anything, but I was literally creating life, like a human being,” she said in a recent phone interview. “There actually was a definite lull in my creative process. I had already written a lot of the songs. I just, I hadn’t had time to record them because of life and moving and the baby and everything. While I was pregnant, I was just very much so absorbing and I feel like that’s
also necessary in order to create kind of taking everything in and having that break and then it comes out. So, I was kind of not being as prolific as usual, but then I kept remembering that I’m creating life, which is the biggest creation. So, but then I came back and I started writing a lot this year. And it feels like during the pandemic, it feels like I wish we could get everything done. And like this is our time to do everything, but then it’s like hard to truly do that.”
Conrad described her style as “emotional singer-songwriter vibes. I feel like I sing more about life in general and the different ups and downs rather than focusing on certain relationships,” she said. “I feel like it’s more my internal struggle, like there’s some anxiety and just nuance of emotion in this one that feels true to who I am and who I feel like a lot of people are. I feel like a lot of people experience all sorts of feelings, and then we value the positive ones. So it’s like, so you’re happy, right? But so, it kind of shows with many different feelings that come with just being a person in the world.”
The first song on the record (“Devin”) is about social anxiety, “which I think could be relatable to a lot of people post Covid-19,” she said.
She’s worked with Kerry Tucker (her teacher and mentor from St. Ambrose, her alma mater) on all her albums.
“Everything I’ve learned from him has helped. You know, he always told me, I would show him a song that I wrote, and I would say, help me play them better or something, and then he would say no,” Conrad recalled. “He would tell me to keep the stuff I had how it was, so he could help me by, like, encouraging me to accept myself. And to keep writing, he would always encourage me. Any time we caught up, he’d say, so, are you still writing? He gave me the freedom and independence to write, and I would show him songs and he would show support, but yet having that support to keep going and just accepting me allowed me to accept my songwriting style more. Because it is kind of different than like traditional pop.”
The title track, “Light of the Dark,” has Conrad making light of difficult times (also very relatable), but also finding the silver lining in the clouds.
“It’s like accepting the both sides of it also, because it can be hard but life can also be bright,” she said. “There’s silver lining and it’s also okay for there to be a struggle as well. And like, I’m just going through this life and don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to laugh it off sometimes, I guess.”
During Covid shutdowns, Conrad did some livestreaming and posted some videos. She filmed two official music videos for the new record, made in Rochester, N.Y. You can see the first, for “You Don’t Look Like You’re Dying,” HERE. She did some outdoor shows before the album came out, including at Crawford Brew Works in Bettendorf this past July. Conrad did an album release show in Buffalo in mid-October.
“There’s definitely something about having a live audience that changes what a performance is,” she said. “That energy. You can play by yourself all you want, but that connection really puts a spark in the music.” The music scene in Buffalo is pretty strong, Conrad said. “It reminds me of the Quad-Cities. A lot right now, there are pockets of live music and a nice community that they’re building,” she said, noting they have a big outdoor festival in September called Music is Art, started by the bass player for the Goo Goo Dolls.
“That festival is always free. So there’s that every year,” Conrad said. “They have different things, like workshops and co-writes and songwriters sessions. Different things that they do weekly. Yeah, it’s really picked up.”
Her home music studio turned out to be very convenient to record, so Conrad could be able to watch her baby and nurse, during the writing and recording process. DeVor came up from Nashville for the sessions. She hopes to be back in the Q-C to play live in December.
“Light of the Dark” is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes. For further information, visit www.mollyconradmusic.com.