Phoebe Hunt’s sparse and vulnerable new album, Nothing Else Matters, feels like an exercise in stripping things away - peeling back all the layers to get to the heart of who and what she really is.
After years of writing, recording, and touring as a band member and bandleader, Phoebe Hunt's latest recording finds her as a woman standing alone, just her voice and her fiddle. In that empty space left behind, Nothing Else Matters is an album that asks many questions, the most central being, “Is this enough? Am I enough?”
This question has quietly loomed in the background of Hunt’s entire career as she’s searched the world and herself for the purest expression of her art. Though born in Texas, she has been a citizen of the world and the road. From Austin to Brooklyn, India to China to Africa, Los Angeles and Colorado and Nashville, her journeys have all added to and colored who she has become as an artist. She was classically trained as a violinist, but an affinity for fiddle and old time music led her on the path to where she is now. She played for years with genre-bending folk band the Belleville Outfit, and more recently served as bandleader with her own backing band the Gatherers. But through all of the added layers of her illustrious career, the “enough” came when she returned to herself and her fiddle – the two voices singing to one another in harmony.
The songs that comprise Nothing Else Matters were written in 2020 at a time when Phoebe was off the road in Nashville, far from her bandmates in Brooklyn. As she sat in the guest room of her house, flipping through a notebook of around thirty song ideas she’d written over the course of several months, she knew that she was ready to make another record. But it would have to be different than the ones that had come before. Whereas previously it was a challenge to find ways to strip down her songs with the band into arrangements to perform alone for solo gigs, these songs had been born out of total creative isolation - just her voice and fiddle had given life to each of them from the beginning.
For being her most stripped down outing to date, there is an unmatched sense of strength at the heart of Nothing Else Matters. While there’s a fluid sense of questioning throughout, working its way through the streams of Phoebe’s consciousness, the final takeaway is the deep, authentic expression of a woman who knows she is in fact enough. In spite of her circumstances, in opposition to the difficulties, she has the answer to all of it already - flowing through her hands and across her instrument, moving through her chest and out of her mouth.