New album out now
Praise for Undesirable
—NPR Music (Brittney McKenna)
—Billboard Magazine (Isaac Weeks)
—Rolling Stone (Marissa Moss)
—Paste Magazine (Ellen Johnson)
—Pop Matters (Michael Bialas)
Becky Warren's sophomore album, Undesirable, is about humanity. Distilling the stories of a group of homeless and formerly homeless entrepreneurs in her home base of Nashville, Warren relays the essence of the human experience, and shines a spotlight on the relatable, common ties that bind us together, regardless of our demographic.
Following the success of her first solo album, War Surplus, the gritty love story of an Iraq War vet and his girlfriend partly inspired by Warren's own life, many asked her, "How the hell do you plan to follow that up?" After the album earned her a Veterans Day feature on NPR's All Things Considered, a regular opening slot with The Indigo Girls, and an A rating from the dean of American rock critics himself, Robert Christgau, Warren admits that even she sometimes worried she wouldn't be able to make a second record she was as happy with. With this new and inspired set of compelling, catchy, guitar-driven songs in the spirit of heartland rock n’ roll masters like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, Undesirable puts those worries to rest.
"The rewarding thing for me about the response to my last album," Warren says, "was that it gave me a chance to write about veterans—a group of people who are often seen as somehow different or 'other'—in ways that showed listeners that their struggles and lives are actually really similar." So when Warren started planning her second project, she looked around for another group of people who seemed "othered,” and right away she thought of one of her favorite things about Nashville: The Contributor, Nashville's street paper, which is sold around town by homeless and formerly homeless vendors. The vendors buy the paper from the non-profit that produces it, and then sell it for a profit. Warren went to a few "paper releases,” the weekly event where vendors can buy the new issue for the first time, but quickly realized that the best way to learn people's stories was to approach vendors as they were selling, introduce herself, and ask to talk with them while they sold the paper.
In less talented hands, the result might have been political, didactic, depressing. But for the protagonists of Warren's songs, homelessness is never a defining characteristic. Instead, they're people who are mourning loss, ditching bad relationships, striving against ruthless odds, falling in love—in other words, completely human. "I actually thought there would be a fair amount of overlap with subjects I already knew well from writing about a veteran with PTSD—mental health, substance abuse—but I learned after just a couple interviews that those were complete misconceptions," Warren admits. "To make a living selling The Contributor, you have to get up every day, no matter the weather, take a long bus ride, and stand outside for hours making a real connection with your customers, like any good salesperson. You have to be incredibly hardworking, with an unshakable belief in yourself to make it work."
Supporting Warren on Undesirable is an impressive musical cast led by producer/guitarist Dan Knobler (Lake Street Dive, Rodney Crowell, Kelsey Waldon), including Warren's longtime bassist Jeremy Middleton (also of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen) and her friend and musical mentor, Indigo Girl Amy Ray, whose vocals make the blistering first track, "We're All We Got", a standout, and an anthem for the people portrayed on Undesirable, who've been dealt a tough hand but are determined to play it and win.
Jake Lanier/Susan Hubbard, Lucky Bird