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lighthearted Releases Delicate Indie-Folk Album From Here On Out

Soft and silky indie-folk band lighthearted delivers the angelic, light tones its name might lead you to suspect, but the songwriting is far from carefree or unserious. The group’s debut full-length album, From Here On Out, primarily owes its songwriting and vision to Gracie Huffman. However, the rest of the band—Huffman’s twin sister Eliza Lemmon (guitar, vocals), Win Cawthorne (guitar), Aidan Hill (bass) and Toni Hunlo (drums)—provides a skillful, introspective and dreamlike landscape to fill the space around the words.

The album’s recording process and final product display a lot of maturation in ability from the group’s first EP released in 2020, says Huffman. At that time they heavily leaned on former Athens now Atlanta-based producer Andrew Blooms for direction, both in navigating unknown studio territory and differentiating their songs from one another. This time around with producer Tommy Trautwein, of We Bought a Zoo Records, the band came ready with a more diverse array of songs still nestled within its defined and delicate sound.

The twins grew up in Marietta before attending the University of Georgia, and up until that point, Huffman had taken high school chorus but never written a song. When she arrived in Athens, singer-songwriter Elijah Johnston was one of the few people she knew, who in turn introduced her to Trautwein, Blooms and other Athens musicians. The fabric of the local music scene would quickly come to change Huffman’s trajectory.

“When I came to school, I went to a couple of concerts, and I was like, ‘Man, I guess I can do this,’” says Huffman. “It felt a little bit more within the realm of possibility.”

From lighthearted’s inception in 2019, piecing together the full lineup was a slow build. Huffman and Lemmon met Cawthorne as leaders at a Young Life retreat, and he accepted their offer to start a band. The trio began playing and recording together, and then they met Hunlo, who was the production assistant for the band’s first EP. Huffman recalls that the group “existed for a while” without a bass player, until Hill completed the group late in 2021.

From Here On Out represents a polished package of where the band stands today musically, but for Huffman, it’s also a very personal reflection on a relationship. The title track was written by Hill, the only one not by Huffman, as the male perspective and counterpoint to the narrative woven into the rest of the album, and it adds a sense of completeness. However, the rest of the songwriting is very representative of Huffman’s process.

“The thing about the whole album is it’s very much metaphorical, like reaching a point of self-realization through processing a relationship,” says Huffman. “I like to hide behind metaphors. So if people are listening to a song, they know bits and pieces about my life, but they don’t know exactly what’s going on because it’s shrouded in this thing that’s not me.”

The best songs have nothing to do with the songwriter, says Huffman, they’re more so a channeling of inspiration. In these terms, Huffman is most proud of the track “wild woods” for how effortlessly the metaphors of an eclipse and a stream winding back to the sea flowed from her. Connections to nature make a common appearance, and in this one, there’s a message of waiting being necessary before rightness can be restored. This relates to a moment Huffman had in her relationship where the couple was faced with the age-old question, “Are you willing to wait for me?”

“For nature to be restored again, it has to wait. It has no other choice. Because we’re humans and we’re really impatient, it was kind of me calling this person’s bluff,” says Huffman. “My songwriting is taking some very fundamental feelings then looking at them through the lens of nature.”

However, the straightforward “again & again” makes an obvious divergence from ambiguous metaphor that symbolizes Huffman’s own lesson learned. It’s a retelling of what happens when thinking about life’s problems through an outside lens no longer serves you. Sometimes moving forward requires directness, and the songwriter makes that explicit in this track. Straying the farthest from folk and furthest into rock, it makes a strong statement as the album’s final song.

One influence that makes From Here On Out particularly unique can’t be overlooked: family ties. Of course the band is fronted by twin sisters, which adds a degree of closeness even more than your typical musical family collaborations. Huffman says that she often uses Lemmon as a sounding board for her songwriting, and the two provide encouragement when the difficult realities of being a band starting out set in. But they also have support from a third sibling, Miller Huffman, whose favorite song is the darker-toned “Harvester.” When Huffman first heard how much her brother loved the track as they were working on it, she insisted that he feature on the song as well. 

The album’s family influence doesn’t stop there. All of the artwork for From Here On Out and its singles came from the twins’ mother Mary Lyn Huffman’s high school portfolio, circa 1988. This was an idea in the making since the family came across the prints while sheltering in place during COVID. Simplistic yet familiar, the artwork feels relatable to a passing first listen to lighthearted, but it holds so much more meaning underneath.

“We are the best we’ve ever been, but we’re not the best we’ll ever be,” concludes Huffman.

WHO: lighthearted, Sophia Barkhouse
WHERE: Flicker Theatre & Bar
WHEN: Thursday, Apr. 27, 8 p.m.