Roots/Americana singer-songwriter Naomi Westwater’s Feelings EP begins with a sparse, powerful statement: “My body is not my home.” That tension weaves throughout six songs, both in subject matter and arrangements, as Westwater and her band play with the listeners’ level of discomfort, consistently asking them to further identify their thoughts on racial injustices in America, the importance of climate change, relationships with their own bodies and where they land on the spiritual spectrum. “Americana” is out now, a reckoning with what it means to be multiracial in America, asking, “What am I to you?”
Westwater’s Feelings EP started as a single day of recording; as a graduate fellow at Berklee College of Music, she had a few hours in the studio available. Wanting to record something with a little more substance, she and the band decided to work on a song about climate change, a song about chronic pain and a song about racism and being multiracial in America. Then, realizing there was time for one more, they added a cover of the Billie Holiday jazz standard “Strange Fruit.” And suddenly, things shifted.
The six songs on Feelings reflect on the complex identities that make up who Westwater is: a Black, multiracial, queer woman who lives in New England — the Greater Boston area, specifically — who is dyslexic, who has endometriosis, who is spiritual and also a witch.
“This project felt like a storybook, like a complete collection of things that I’ve been meaning to say to the world, things I need to scream out into the void, and things that I need people to hear,” she says. “These songs were all written at different times: ‘Strange Fruit’ in the 1930s, ‘Americana’ in 2012, and the others in the last few years, but the stories are so relevant to now.”