July 6, 2015

Featuring: Sianna Plavin

Getting to know musician and wanderer Sianna Plavin.

Farmer, drifter, city-dweller — for musician and artist Sianna Plavin, the inextricable tie between a sense of place and self is omnipresent. “It all just sort of revolves around this feeling of being torn about those choices of place,” Plavin said of her debut album, Go On Now, out this summer. Plavin, who formerly performed in Baltimore folk ensemble Soft Cat and made up half of folk duo Backyard Betties, always wrote solo music. It wasn’t until working on a farm in Massachusetts, however, that she realized how much she yearned to do it. She headed back to Baltimore, where she had lived for five years, to take up residence rent-free with a friend (under the condition she worked on songs). “I really wanted to be making music, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted that to sound like, and so focused my energy more on the other projects,” Plavin said. “I just really, really missed it and was kind of going through a darker time — one of those winters.”

Many of the songs written in those two months made it onto Go On Now, which Plavin will self-release after raising more than double the funds she requested with a Kickstarter project (the extra money went toward making more merch, extra CDs and keeping Plavin out of debt). The album, written and recorded between Baltimore, Providence, and a shack in Maine over the past couple of years, is a haunting and mythical exploration of place and uncertainty. “Some of the songs on the record that might be seen as more love songs are more about place than about people, and kind of struggling with this desire to be somewhat isolated and out in the woods and then also this desire to be back in the city and feeling really torn about that decision,” Plavin said. Her time in Baltimore involved pancakes every day, “drinking a tiny glass of whiskey at 11 in the morning” and working all day until she was sick of herself, ultimately forcing herself out of the house each evening. She was working through a difficult breakup and navigating her identity. “[The album] definitely is a reflection of being unsure about where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be with and near, and kind of evaluating all of those things,” she said.

 Baltimore’s presence also asserts itself on Go On Now in the form of Soft Cat’s influence; Plavin said Neil Sanzgiri, the man behind the rotating ensemble, taught her to allow space in songs and let them unfold on their own terms. But Go On Now is also a departure from Plavin’s past projects. “In some ways it’s a lot more personal than a lot of the music that I have made with other people, because working alone really gives you the opportunity to sort of dig in with the songwriting in a way that I hadn’t felt with the collaborations that I worked with before,” she said. Collaboration is not divorced from the album, however, and intersections between artistic mediums permeate Plavin’s work. The Kickstarter page for Go On Now features a crankie made by Plavin - an illuminated moving scroll with images and words - and the album’s last song, “Who Do You Love,” resulted from a project about the collision between humans and the wild, orchestrated with friend Fay Strongin. “That’s always been something that really interests me --where different mediums can collide and make each other better and offer a new perspective on each thing,” Plavin said. “One of my goals over the next few months is to write new music that has a visual collaborative component in mind.” The successful fundraising campaign, and earning artists’ residencies through the summer and fall, have afforded Plavin the opportunity to devote all her time to music and creation. For now, she’s not living or working anywhere in particular, instead wandering everywhere from California’s deserts to Michigan’s woods. “Having the space and the time and the place to create art is everything,” she said.

Listen to Sianna Plavin on bandcamp.

Quinn Kelley, a Baltimore-based writer, who has never not finished an open bag of Swedish Fish. She tries really hard on twitter.