Zoe FitzGerald Carter's "Before the Machine" Due June 7th

Article Contributed by Mixtape Media | Published on Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Singer, songwriter, and memoirist, Zoe FitzGerald Carter, will release her newest LP, Before the Machine, on June 7, 2024.  Featuring nine original Americana songs tinged in folk, jazz, blues, and rock, the album was produced by Jeffrey Wood, mixed by Alberto Hernandez, mastered by Ken Lee, and recorded at Opus Studio and Alberto Hernandez Audio, in the singer’s hometown of Berkeley, California.

The video for the first single, “Magic Pill,” premiered via Americana Highways who raved, “this video captures, visually, the psychedelic underground theme of obsessive attractions expressed in the song. If you’ve ever been absolutely addicted to a person or something else, as there are metaphors afoot, this song will bring it all back – the thrill, the pain, the feeling of being wild. Zoe is onto something with this one. We applaud the new direction.”

In addition to Zoe’s acoustic guitar and vocals, she is joined on the record by drummer Dawn Richardson (4NonBlonds, Tracy Chapman), bassist Paul Olguin (Maria Muldaur), flugelhorn player Erik “Mr Tasty” Jekabson (John Mayer), keyboardist Greg Sankovich (Times 4), electric guitar/lap steel player Michael Papenburg (Petty Theft), violinist Lila Sklar (Joanna Newsom, Bjork), and vocalists Pam Delgado (Blame Sally), and Vicki Randle (Mavis Staples).

Written largely during the pandemic, inspired by memories of a pre-smart phone world, and serving as the album’s thesis statement, the title track explores how technology has irrevocably altered our experience of time.

“Before the Machine is about the way technology, specifically smart phones, has changed how we participate in, observe, and experience time,” says the songwriter. “We spend less time in our own heads — daydreaming, scheming, observing, and interacting with other people — and more time scrolling through our private internet landscapes. We have the world at our fingertips, but are more isolated and less connected than ever before. I’m not preaching a purist, anti-tech gospel, but I believe many of us feel a sense of melancholy and unease about what we have lost through technological innovation.”

The album kicks off with the gentle, “Before the Machine,” and poses the question, “when did I give away the time I used to waste?” “Once free to roam in our own heads, to be present in conversation with loved ones and strangers, we now move through our day with computers attached to our wrists: distracted and increasingly isolated,” observes Zoe.

The album’s driving rocker and first single, “Magic Pill,” evokes the experience of infatuation and addiction – whether to a relationship, drugs, or other activities. The song is elevated by the soaring backing vocals of Vicki Randle, the nimble electric guitar work of Michael Papenburg, and buoyed by Greg Sankovich’s 70s inspired keys.
The soothing and delicate, “Angel Bus,” explores the joy and mystery of birth through the lens of the songwriter’s experience with her own children. “Though I don’t believe in God, and I’ve never seen an angel, I believe we all go back to where we came from, and if the angels want to meet us, that’s ok,” she sings. While exploring the idea that a newborn child travels to earth from some other realm, Zoe also admits that she does not believe in God or angels, but if one were to appear, she would be happy to reconsider.

Papenburg’s tremelo guitar and Lila Sklar’s violin guide “Starlight Blue,” to its place firmly in the Americana realm. It was inspired by the tragedies of the many young women like Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears who have been shamefully exploited by self-serving male executives in the musical industry. In a surprising twist, the song is told from the POV of one of those men. We hear him telling the star things like “Keep your smile on, take your dress off. Don’t worry about the money ‘cause I’m keeping it for you.” The song’s refrain, “starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight,” evokes the childhood innocence that has been stolen from her.
 “One By Land” was inspired by living in a five-story tenement in Boston’s North End in her twenties, the songwriter describes how her kitchen looked out at the historic North Church–the church where Paul Revere famously began his midnight ride–and was flooded with light from the steeple every night. This dreamy, dropped-D guitar driven track shows the songwriter falling for a new lover while suspecting that the steeple is silently warning her it will never last.
A nod to her jazz influences with a muted flugelhorn, “Let’s Just Stay Friends,” is a sultry trip through the songwriter’s past. With a Tom Waits-ian swagger, the narrator evokes her efforts to find love in the colorful milieu of 1980s/1990s New York City. Although predating the swiping and ghosting of modern dating apps, the city often resembled an ‘in real life’ (IRL) dating app: Full of endless possibility and prosaic disappointment.
“Zodiac Maniac” is a playful, upbeat tune and a humorous send-up of astrology and the way it can be used to explain our worst impulses. “Much of my bad behavior – in particular my selfishness and impatience – can be directly attributed to my astrological sign (Aries),” claims Carter. “I’m here to give fair warning to anyone expecting more from this zodiac maniac.”
Steeped in blues with an overdriven guitar solo and wheezy harmonica, “Staying Home Tonight” was written during the pandemic when the days were long, but the nights were still fun if you were lucky enough to be stuck at home with the right person. “I’m gonna tell you all my secrets, you’re gonna tell me what I need to know… we’re staying home,” sings Carter.
The open D tuning of “Lockdown” closes out the album and it soars and recedes as it captures the enduring qualities of living through the pandemic, “Every day feels just like the day that came before it…”
Zoe FitzGerald Carter grew up in Washington D.C. where she began playing guitar and singing as a teenager. But while music was her first love, writing was her first career. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, the songwriter has written for numerous national magazines (The New York Times, Newsweek, Vogue) and, in 2010, published an award-winning memoir, Imperfect Endings.
In 2018, Zoe released an album of original songs with her band Sugartown, Waiting for the Earthquake, and in 2021, Zoe released her first solo album, Waterlines. Ranging in style from folk to funk, the album featured an impressive crew of musicians and established Zoe as an exciting, literary lyricist. The critics took note:
“There aren’t any boring moments. They’re all well-crafted songs. On ‘Below the Waterline,’ Zoe sounds like she’s channeling the songwriting style of Nanci Griffith thru a Mary Chapin Carpenter tone. Zoe’s lyrics are applied with expertise. The accordion drenches the melody in a Parisian flavor. The showcase is refreshing.” – Americana Highways
Picking up where her last album, Waterlines, left off, Before the Machine further showcases the artist’s vivid, literary sense of language while weaving a rich and confident fabric of folk, country, rock, blues, and jazz.

Zoe FitzGerald Carter will perform select dates in support of Before the Machine.
Find Zoe FitzGerald Carter Online:
Official: https://www.zoecartermusic.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZoeFitzgeraldCarterMusic/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zoe.f.carter/