Fresh from playing two shows as main support for Ed Sheeran at the Royal Albert Hall last week, Brighton-based artist Bess Atwell shares new track ‘The Weeping‘ today. The new track was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, and follows Atwell’s recent single ‘Sylvester.’ This new material marks the first from Atwell following her critically acclaimed album ‘Already, Always‘, which was released via Lucy Rose’s Communion imprint Real Kind Records. She is set to play a string of headline shows in June, including at London’s Union Chapel, followed by support slots with The National, dates below.

The origins of ‘The Weeping‘ stem from Bess’ recollection of a potent vignette from her childhood, growing up alongside her sister who has severe autism. “I saw us as two halves, but two halves of a whole” she sings atop deliberately unfussy instrumentation and production. Although Atwell’s knack for capturing the nuance and minutiae of the human experience in her songwriting is well documented, in both ‘The Weeping’ and ‘Sylvester’ this takes on a new resonance. Shortly following both tracks recording at Dessner’s studio in upstate New York, she received her diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder, bringing with it a wave of validation for her both personally and artistically.

“I knew The Weeping was in me, I just wasn’t sure when it would decide to come out. I only knew I was writing it when I got to the second verse and realised I finally had a vantage point. My younger sister is autistic, the kind of non-verbal autism that requires 24/7 care, and this track is mostly about what it was like to grow up with her. The Weeping explores the parallels between me and my sister which is more interesting when you consider that I wrote it before I found out that I’m also autistic, this year – albeit, in a far less debilitating, disabling way.” Atwell explains, “When we were children, my sister had a toy fish tank that would light up and play music when you hit the button. I used to fall asleep next door to the sound of her replaying the toy’s melancholic piano lullaby. At just seven years old I had some understanding of the loneliness and confusion that came with being unable to communicate effectively, and stuck in your own strange world. I felt, viscerally, the attempts to self soothe with every hit of the button as the song began to play again.

Upon the release of her album ‘Already, Always – Bess Atwell’s missive as a songwriter became fully formed, marking her as one of Britain’s most assured young voices. At the fore of the expertly judged collection is the pairing between Atwell’s crystalline vocals and her raw lyrical depth, which quickly drew comparisons to Marika Hackman and Julia Jacklin. Alongside wide critical acclaim, and with its songs racking up a combined 20 million streams, the release drew fast champions in BBC 6 Music across multiple playlisted singles.

Whilst careful not to romanticise her own tumult and trauma, it’s undeniable that the wellspring of Atwell’s inspiration is her lived experience, her upbringing marked by a wider family life impacted by mental health struggles. This, alongside her own challenges communicating, fuelled Atwell’s need to express herself through music. The result is deeply personal and emotionally charged explorations of her own experiences and the complexities of human relationships, as exemplified on album singles like ‘Nobody‘ and ‘Co-op.’ Atwell’s lyrics also weave pastoral and abstract imagery, using natural motifs to convey themes of both conflict and violence, as well as beauty and defiance – as captured in another album standout ‘Time Comes In Roses.’ Alongside her original music, the album also features a haunting rendition of Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes’ demo ‘Olivia, In A Separate Bed,’ which was released with Pecknold’s blessing. With a unique ability to explore the profound in the familiar, 2024 will see Bess Atwell continue this essential work, with these earlier songs foreshadowing much more from her on the near horizon.

Bess Atwell live dates:

06 June | Manchester, UK | Band On The Wall
07 June | London, UK | Union Chapel
08 June | Bristol, UK | Thekla
25 June | Vienna, AT | Stadthalle w/ The National
27 June | Bonn, DE | Kunstirasen w/ The National
11 July | Edinburgh, UK | Edinburgh Castles w/ The National


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