Feb 16, 2023
By Jennifer Irving
Photography by Sophia Matinazad
It’s 93° outside and tens of thousands of people are packed into Zilker Park in Austin, Texas for Austin City Limits Music Festival to see a laundry list of artists perform in and in spite of the heat. Samia Finnerty (who just goes by her first name) begins her afternoon set in a pair of brown cowboy boots, and spends the next 45 minutes spinning to her delighted audience. With a cover of Keane’‘s “Somewhere Only We Know” (also famously covered by Lily Allen), ballet choreography, and one of the first premieres of “Mad at Me,” the second single from her then upcoming album Honey, Finnerty charms the Texas crowd until the moment she steps off stage.
Samia’s 2020 debut album, The Baby, erected her a place in the “sad-girl” canon despite the album’s primary exploration of vulnerability and self-discovery. Honey expands upon these musings, and begins to study the aftermath of growing up.
Created in Sylvan Esso’s studio in the woods of North Carolina, Finnerty’s sophomore album revels in honesty and the waves of being in your 20s. The album features a collage of name-dropping of her friends and family, and that’s no coincidence. Finnerty calls the album both a “family record” and a “deathbed record” in the same breath.
“It’s just like a combination of a lot of little thoughts,” she says. “Like zooming in and zooming out, seeing how they factor into a bigger picture.”
The creation of the album was spread out across a two-year period, with the first single and opening track, “Kill Her Freak Out,” written right as Finnerty finished her first album. The song opens and ends with over a minute of combined organ music and acts as the perfect transition between albums.
On The Baby, Finnerty wrote about her experiences alongside living them. On Honey, the stories being told have already happened, Finnerty is just finally organizing her thoughts.
“I feel like if there’s a through line, it’s probably just like a lot of contemplation and reflection,” she says. “Nothing was happening during COVID and then I entered into a really stable relationship and I have a dog and I live in a house in a quiet neighborhood. So I spend a lot of time writing songs about a more chaotic time in my life.”
Although Finnerty originally imagined the album as a folky, acoustic LP, the experiences she wrote about were more “abrasive” and called for a more direct approach. “It’s still a lot of sad slow songs for sure,” she says, but songs like “Breathing Song,” with its heavier vocals, and “Mad at Me,” with its poppier edge, make the album rise above trite “sad girl” labels.
Finnerty doesn’t see the two albums as diptychs but instead sees The Baby as the seedling that Honey expands upon. While The Baby gives personal details, Honey completely rehashes specific events. At times they can feel overly specific, but still channel the feeling of unrelenting chaos being in your 20s brings.