On the follow-up to her debut, 2017’s Playing House, Brigitte Naggar a.k.a. Common Holly is experimenting with darkened, dissonant sounds. While the first album dealt with personal troubles, When I say to you Black Lightning aims bigger, exploring the broad emotional challenges humanity comes up against.
“Measured” is one of the album’s most solemn tracks, a song Naggar called her “thesis statement on love + pain.” As she considers the loving/losing/healing/repeat pattern every person must learn to begrudgingly accept, a repeated line is, “I think we’ve been measured out for pain since birth.”
“I was pretty set on this song just being one verse and lasting about thirty seconds,” Naggar tells us. “But, on better counsel, I took a few minutes one morning at the cabin where we were recording, to flesh out some more words. Now I think it’s a little thesis statement on the cycle of loving and losing. It definitely also feels like an old Jewish folk song to me, but with more flutes.”
When I say to you Black Lightning is out October 18 on Barsuk Records & Solitaire Recordings in the U.S. Pre-order it here. Check out tour dates and a short Q&A with Brigitte Naggar below.
What specifically do you think “Measured” adds to the album as a whole?
“Measured” feels to me like a moment for pause in an often dense and whirlwindish experience. It’s also a bit of a “remember this” gesture to the more solo/intimate feeling of my first record.
What made you realize there was more to this song than the thirty seconds you originally had in mind?
It was my manager’s idea at first. I think he felt that there was more in there, because he loved the first verse and probably just didn’t want the story to end there. I think that first verse definitely lended itself to more iterations of the initial image I was trying to convey, and then expanding it created space for this small world full of pauses and emptiness. Ultimately I feel that the repetition is probably what gives the song its impact, and represents a sort of cyclical feeling of loving and losing over and over again.
Do you often recognize the inadvertent (or intentional) influence of Jewish folk music on your songwriting?
I think this might be the first time it has happened. It was unintentional, though I definitely like that the connection gets made. Judaism has a really extensive and interesting musical palette that I’m honored to borrow from!
What, more explicitly, is your thesis on the cycle of loving and losing?
This is probably really annoying of me to say, but I feel like “Measured” is a short essay that concludes with the same point at the end of each body paragraph—”I think we’ve been measured out for pain since birth.” The first paragraph talks about the initial vulnerability, then expands into a deeper sharing of the self, and then the repetition of that cycle with each new person. In the end, you know that wherever there is vulnerability, there will also be pain. That’s just part of the process.
Common Holly Tour Dates:
11.26.19 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Poppolo
11.28.19 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake Hotel
12.02.19 – New Haven, CT @ Cafe Nine
12.04.19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits
12.05.19 – Princeton, NJ @ Terrace Club
12.06.19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Trans Pecos
12.08.19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
12.10.19 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
12.12.19 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
12.16.19 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
12.17.19 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
12.18.19 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
12.21.19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echo (Early Show)