Jennifer Daniels
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Jennifer Daniels

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by Mike McCready
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-mccready/a-song-review-every-singl_b_266592.html

I'm a sucker for a good love song but these days you don't often come across love songs that strike the right balance. They're either clichés of themselves, cross the frontier into corny or they're more about sex appeal and desire than about heartfelt, honest, old-fashioned yet never-out-of-style love.

On the other hand, where can you go these days to find such honest songwriting? The closest you get to soul-bearing transparency on pop radio is with song titles like "My Life Would Suck Without You." It's a good song with a non-subtle message and a a non-conventional yet frankly-familiar way of delivering it. But it's also disposable bubblegum pop.

Independent artist Jennifer Daniels' sweet, pure and refreshingly simple ballad called "Every Single Day" is definitely not bubblegum pop. You're not likely to ever hear it on Z100 and maybe not even on Camel Country. However, it is a compelling song that deserves consideration by an industry with plenty of mass exposure opportunities for songs like this one. And gems this well written and this well-performed aren't abundant. It's a true find. There's really something special about this song.

With "Every Single Day," producer / engineer Scott Smith decided less was more and I believe he nailed it. The strings and piano move in and out, cradling the acoustic guitar in a way that's so subtle you don't even know they're there. It's Daniels' vocal performance that captivates your attention and her voice is perfectly showcased by the instrumentation; the acoustic guitar providing just enough of its own hook to become more than just accompaniment but rather a seamless enhancement to the entire piece.

"Every Single Day" is a song about the fulfillment that can be found in a couples' love even through the passage of time. Love that starts young and full of surprises becomes vintage and comfortably worn, but as true as ever. Deeper. Enduring.

Click the link below to hear the song and learn more about this artist.

http://www.musicxray.net/xrays/1306/public
"Every Single Day" by Jennifer Daniels.
- The Huffington Post


On Dive & Fly, folk-rock songstress Jennifer Daniels exudes a persona that is equally gutsy and sensitive, penning confessional tales and attaching them to memorable melodies and rich arrangements. Like Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Delores O'Riordan, and Joni Mitchell, the essence of Daniels' artistry is found in her narratives. Her romantic ponderings are delivered with urgency as she often breaks into a cracking falsetto or strong vibrato to drive her point home with confidence. Whether she's rocking out on the alternative country-tinged "Daylight Running" or flying solo acoustic with "Babylon" or baring her soul a cappella on the hidden track "Oh Danny Boy," Daniels' striking lyrical imagery displays an eloquent sense of language. The ensemble playing on this collection is also noteworthy. The hybrid of acoustic and orchestral textures is tastefully embellished with subtle tape loops and electric guitar feedback, which serve the song every time out. Dive & Fly champions the elementary emotional characteristics of singer/songwriter folk-rock and pushes the genre forward with a sound that is contemporary and commercially accessible. — Tom Semioli - All Music Guide


Swimming somewhere amid Jennifer Daniels’ sparkling compositions and slippery melodies is a deep understanding of the inseparability of Celtic music and Appalachian folk. Never allowing herself to get mired within the confines of either, Daniels flirts with rock, pop and anything else that comes into her musical path. The result is pretty damn great.

Dive and Fly finds Daniels swinging from haunted Celtic laments to college rock grooves and hitting both rural and urban folk on the way. She even hits “Danny Boy” a cappella (and, as many times as that tune’s been done, it never gets old—or fails to bring a tear to the good old Irish eye). Although Jennifer Daniels’ experimentations with style are thoroughly engaging on their own, her lyrics really stand out here. Sometimes plain-spoken, sometimes obscured by lovely, burnished images, they range from classic folk construction to thoroughly contemporary topics. Dive and Fly is sweet, inspired and invigorating. - The Performing Songwriter


Conventional wisdom dictates that an artist must be damn good and constantly touring -- with critical acclaim -- to get signed. But the CW doesn't always work in the real music biz, so we get stuck with Britney Spears and "American Idol" pap flowing over the airwaves instead of the likes of Jennifer Daniels. Sure, Brittany and Idol-pap are easy targets, but it serves the point well: If you're in need of an antidote to all things Britney-like, Daniels' latest effort Summer Filled Sky is like taking 12 doses of sanity in a world gone wrong.

Daniels is everything Britney isn't: namely, talented and pretty. But here's the real reason Daniels will never fly in today's Clear Channel climate: She's deep. She sings about things like birth, life, family, the nature of love, work and death, etc.

In the word of Keanu Reeves, "Whoa."

Summer Filled Sky is the third and most fully realized release from this independent Southern spirit. Some of the songs -- like "Day to Live" and "Water Spider" -- have appeared on previous releases, her two full-lengths Dive and Fly and Fists of Flood, respectively. Anyone who has followed Daniels' career gets the feeling that with Summer Filled Sky she's taking a bigger leap forward than she ever has before. The production smacks of being an overt stab at radio-readiness, but the end result is that your radio should be so lucky.
- Creative Loafing


Jennifer Daniels, a talented, hard-working singer/songwriter based in Chattanooga, TN, has won the SongwriterUniverse “Best Song Of The Month” Contest for April, for her song “Day To Live.” This song is one of 12 cuts featured on her third album, Summer Filled Sky, which was released in June 2004.

“Day To Live” is an excellent, acoustic rock song, which is reminiscent of the appealing, intelligent style of Natalie Merchant or Paula Cole. The song’s lyrics are unique, displaying a mostly upbeat attitude, but also with a subtle, darker shading in the chorus. The key, lyric phrase has a quirky sensibility: “It may be a better day to die…but it’s a good day to live.” “Day To Live” was expertly produced by guitarist Jeff Neal (who is her husband and musical partner) and bassist Mike Steele. Notably, Summer Filled Sky was mixed and mastered by prominent engineer/producer, Rodney Mills (who has worked with Sheryl Crow, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam).

Daniels was born in Knoxville, TN, then moved with her family to Chattanooga when she was 8. She started singing, playing guitar (both 6-string & 12-string), and writing songs at a young age. “I’ve always wanted to do music for a living,” explained Daniels. “I used to sing on my front porch and pretend it was my big stage. Then (later on) in college, I started to play live, solo shows.” Daniels eventually graduated from Covenant College in Chattanooga with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and got her Master’s degree in counseling from Colorado Christian University.

After completing her education, Daniels focused on being a fulltime singer/songwriter and live performer. It was after college that she met (her husband) Jeff Neal, and he helped produce and play (guitar and mandolin) on her albums. He also tours steadily with her; Daniels & Neal now play a remarkable 130 shows per year. The duo mainly tours Texas and the eastern half of the U.S. (they just completed a tour of Great Lakes states). However, Daniels & Neal are also planning their first west coast tour for later this year.

Regarding “Day To Live,” Daniels recalled how she wrote this song. “I remember dancing around with my guitar, and I got the chord schemes going. Pretty soon, the tune started to develop. The lyric ended up being about giving yourself to someone. It’s about being very open, so that they can come along with you, but with a sense of freedom. ‘Day To Live’ is one of my more positive, happy, radio-friendly songs. On my album, there are also darker songs, and sparse, acoustic songs.”

Currently, Daniels is looking forward to more steady touring, and further promoting her Summer Filled Sky album. “We are looking to do more radio promotion,” said Daniels. “We also have some national distribution, and internet distribution for the album. In addition, when we’re on the road, we always try to promote our CD in advance of any cities we play. Eventually, we would like to place songs in film and TV. And of course, we are always writing new songs.”
- Songwriter's Universe


Jennifer Daniels hails from Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The South that she writes of is the Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner South. Darkly romantic, hot and humid, haunted and gothic.

Imagine a more folkish Celtic-sounding Sara McLachlan and you'll have a handle on Daniels' voice. It has that cry in it when she flips into her head voice that has been known to make grown men go weak in the knees. (Well...some of us anyway). Her songs, however, inspire darker thoughts. She's content to let many of her characters keep their secrets. You don't always know who's who and what's what and Daniels seems to think that's just fine. And so it is.

In the moody "Tremblin'," it may be a lover or it may be a ghost who "wakes me in the morning like a satin slip stealing through my window." "She Returned," the meancholy first track, never really explains who "she" is or where "she" has been. It's a portrait of a moment, out of time, out of context, yet completely beautiful.

In the liner notes there is a picture of Daniels' hands touching earth and water. That's an apt analogy for her songwriting. This is music that seems to have grown slowly from some rich, dark soil. That sense of being in touch with the elements comes into play most overtly in "Water Spider." There is a timelessness to Daniels music that is hard to find these days. Which might mean no Spice Girls cuts. But that's probably not what she's looking for anyway.
- The Performing Songwriter


When Jennifer Daniels is asked what inspired the title track of her newest CD, Dive and Fly, the cassette recorder taping the conversation actually stops working before she can answer. It's somehow fitting, given the mysterious and unexplainable nature of the singer-songwriter's music. Anyway, as Daniels coyly points out, "If I could explain the song, then I never would've written it."
She has an easier time explaining the album as a whole. "Dive and Fly is about the desire to do something humanly impossible, to get free of gravity," she says. "All of the songs echo that theme in some way. The feeling that we're made for more than we get, whether physically or relationally, is something that drives me to seek answers, to find something I can count on. It also explores some of the grief of my own loneliness and unfaithfulness."

This searching has led Daniels through dark territory in her soul and back -- a painful and reflective process that lends itself nicely to her craft, always seeming to find solace in the haunting power of nature and human commitment. Her music stands as a testament to the beauty that can be found among the painful realities of everyday life.

"If we allow ourselves to think and feel deeply, then we're bound to be deeply disappointed," she says. "My songs reflect that sorrow, but also the joy of intimate love and stability."

Though Daniels performs this weekend -- during Dive and Fly's CD release party at Eddie's Attic -- with a full band, her only accompaniment usually is the mandolin and guitar provided by her husband and constant touring companion Jeff Neal. The two make their home atop Lookout Mountain, on the Tennessee/Georgia border, but for the last two-and-a-half years, they've spent most of their time on the road. Daniels and Neal rely on live shows and the Internet to get their independent releases to the public. Her website, jenniferdaniels.com, averages 2,000 hits a month and online distributor pastemusic.com began receiving advance orders for Dive and Fly weeks ago.

Her music, though, is hardly the product of cyberspace. Like good literature, Daniels' songs have a timeless quality to them. You get the feeling Flannery O'Connor and Emily Dickinson would have been fans. J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Frost also might have a word or two on her behalf. Lost in the overall beauty of Dive and Fly's ethereal songs, you may find yourself scrambling for the lyric sheet to find out what you missed. From the opening pipes of the title track to the closing a cappella of the traditional "Danny Boy," the CD springs from Celtic roots. But throughout, Daniels and Neal pepper the music with good ol' American guitar crunch and backbeat, something that will surprise longtime Daniels fans.

Though she's most often compared to Sarah McLachlan, due to a similar ability to belt out a note and have it sound like a whisper, Daniels considers Suzanne Vega more of an influence. "She taught me that every word has to be placed on purpose -- no filler -- and that rhymes are not nearly as important as meaning," she says.

In the male-dominated music biz, it seems that every other year has become the year of "women in music." More often than not, a talented woman with something to say gets lumped into a broad category -- chick with a guitar, for instance -- which can be especially frustrating for Daniels. After all, where's the corresponding stud with a guitar category? And clubs never seem to advertise "Dude Night" when it's an all-male bill, the way they do "Chick Night" when it's all women.

This intimate oppression bothers Daniels and, while she's not overtly political in her songs, she's also not afraid to get on her soapbox when asked about the subject. "I hope we're coming to a point when it's less important to note that I am a woman than it is to note that I craft lovely songs," she says. "It's odd that 'chick with a guitar' has become a genre of music. To classify something is an easy way to define and understand it, but in this case, women are being misunderstood. Women's songs are as different as their personalities." - Creative Loafing


Get To Know

Jennifer Daniels
Mountain mysticism, and three new deliveries

The Hebrew word “selah,” which punctuates the Bible’s book of Psalms, can frustrate translators because it carries so many definitions. It signals a musical transition, a break for the listener to stop and ponder the importance of words that came before, and it also signifies “forever.” The ancient root, “sel,” means “connect.”
“Selah,” and all its reverent connotations, figure into indie enchantress Jennifer Daniels’ self-released fourth album, Come Undone, where even the weightiest ideas float lightly on her gossamer vocals and intricate guitar work. Daniels, based in Chattanooga, has been a lodestar of the Southeast’s acoustic music circuit since winning the Eddie’s Attic Open Mic Shoot-out in 2000, and her new album charts, with lyric confessionalism, her growth as a “woman, a wife, a Southerner, and a child of God,” and—as if all of that were not enough—now a mother of newborn twins, “who were gestating at the same time as this music,” she says.
It has been a fertile year indeed for the songbird whose thoughtful folk-rock draws comparisons to Sarah McLachlan and Ani DiFranco.
“I had acquired a blank journal, and as I wrote down thoughts and lyrics, thinking through the theme of the album as a whole, I realized that the songs could be divided into three chapters, forming one story,” says Daniels, usually is accompanied by husband Jeff Neal on mandolin and guitar. “I wanted to mark those chapters somehow, so we created the musical interludes to bridge them, and we entitled those interludes ‘Selah I’ and ‘Selah II.’”

Season cycle
The arrangement reflects both her deeply felt spirituality and her rapturous love for poetry. Daniels is quick to cite Robert Frost, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sara Teasdale as “major influences” before getting around to the musicians, such as the Baltimore-based band Naked Blue, with whom she shared a stage at The Bitter End in New York. “I like to create onomatopoeias out of the words sometimes,” she says, “and I love the way it sounds to put certain words together, like the alliteration in the song ‘Spider Noise’: ‘Spider spit and sprawled and so had spelled my name.’ I want my voice to convey the intention of the lyric.”
So in structure and sentiment, Come Undone updates William Blake’s “innocence/experience/Beulah” cycles with all of the resilient wisdom of an earth mother from the Southern Highlands.
“I like to think of the first chapter as the blind enthusiasm of good hopes and dreams,” Daniels says, referring to songs such as the blithely up-tempo “Did You Follow the Moon?” “The second chapter plunges the listener into the devastation of those dreams: death, divorce, any of the disorienting, disillusioning realities that rend us.” (Two of those titles—‘Rage’ and ‘Home Burial’—suggest the existential struggles at work). “And the third-chapter songs are snapshots of things that have reoriented and comforted me during some of those very dark times.”
The soothing wash of sound behind her includes strings, sleigh-bells, and flourishes of ethnic percussion.
“The orchestration and sonic choices were a natural fit not only for the songs, but for framing Jennifer's voice in a way it hasn't yet been heard,” says the album’s producer, Scott Smith. “The complexity of Jennifer's voice, both lyrically and melodically, works amazingly well stripped down with two guitars. The challenge was to add to this complexity while still retaining the intimacy of her message.”

A song of ascents
That message, Daniels says, lies in the deceptively simple-sounding title “Come Undone,” which is “an invitation to allow the weight of disappointment to strip you of things that can be taken away in order to find the stabilizing force of what cannot.” By the time she closes with “All the Glory,” the exalted mood is one of reaching the mountaintop.
Or home, as Daniels might say. She is a lifelong resident of Lookout Mountain, a place that’s shaped her consciousness in all sorts of vertiginous ways.
“I sometimes think of my songs as vertical,” she says. “Having lived my whole life up here, with plenty of reserved land for hiking and climbing, I get to surround myself with bluff views that open up on the valley, and rivers that beg to be ridden. It feeds the art, not always as the subject of songs, but certainly as a spiritual, creative, and grounding force in me.”
So Nashville, New York or Los Angeles might beckon, but Daniels isn’t tempted.
“Livingston Taylor once told me to move to a large city that had a subway so that I could move among the disenfranchised,” she says. “I’m sure that would be great fodder for songs, but I can find the disenfranchised anywhere, and I can only find Lookout Mountain here in the South.”
Besides, who needs the subway when you can See Rock City?
With her zephyr-like voice and fey smile surrounded by a waterfall of brunet hair, Daniels comes across as an authentic wood nymph—or an indie artist who is a little too free-spirited to play the major-label game.
“If a deal made sense, we would take it, but it doesn’t seem like our goals line up with the labels’ goals,” she says, echoing the age-old lament of troubadours everywhere. “One of them wanted me to pretend to be younger than I was, and I was only 25 at the time. Besides the moral dilemma of creating a fake persona, I just don’t have any spare energy to spend on maintaining it. Part of the music for me is figuring life out, and I can’t help but to feel like I have some bohemian blood in me too, searching for truth and beauty and love. You can’t serve the master of fame and fortune and the master of truth and beauty. No path exists for following both.”
So Daniels, instead, takes the path less traveled by—specifically the rocky, pine-scented switchback leading up a mountain that offers a bird’s-eye view of seven Southern states. And that has made all the difference. Candice Dyer

Jennifer Daniels will celebrate the release of Come Undone on Friday, April 17 at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur.
- Georgia Music Magazine


Jennifer Daniels wins intense Open Mic Shoot-Out

Eddie's Attic, Nov. 24 -- At the midpoint during the four hours of Open Mic Shoot-Out XIII, clubowner Eddie Owen stepped up to the Attic's stage and made a surprise, tongue-in-cheek announcement. "The waitresses will be coming around," he told the packed house, "and collecting another $12 from each of you, because we think this show's now worth at least $20."

Owen was only joking about the surcharge, but the variety of talent on display throughout the evening certainly merited more than the nominal $8 admission. Twenty winners from the previous six months of weekly open-mic events had assembled to compete one-on-one for a $1000 prize, with a panel of judges (including myself) evaluating each performer on songwriting, playing, vocal performance, stage presence and crowd response. The event ran till just past midnight, when Chattanooga-based singer/songwriter Jennifer Daniels emerged from a field of exceptionally strong semi-finalists to win the concluding round.
The Shoot-Out had started promisingly at 8 p.m. with a clever song by Andrew Kerr, who traveled all the way from Chicago to participate. A sing-a-long about Kerr's dream of becoming a white rap star, the number included hilarious chouses of "I love you Special K!" and it ran daringly against the Attic's long-ensconced folkie vibe. A little too daringly, in fact, as Kerr was immediately defeated.
Other contenders who vanished quickly included New Jersey duo Russell Wolf, who declared, "After the 16-hour drive to get down here, we're gonna play a song about bein' on the road," (which was, as it happened, the only song they got to play) and Chattanooga-based Ryan Long, whose long-winded introduction suggested he'd mistaken the Attic for "VH1 Storytellers." Zac Brown of Dahlonega had so much trouble staying on key that his song's title, "Maybe It's Time to Let Go," proved instantly prophetic.

Among stronger contenders emerging in the second round was Daniel Lee of Baton Rouge, who had impressive Prince-like looks and mannerisms. Armed with a considerable repertoire of tricks for wringing extra sounds out of his acoustic guitar, Lee even ended a tune with an impressive descending arpeggio which he played one-handed. Defeating Lee by a single vote was graying, gruff-voiced Nashville songsmith Bill Boutwell, whose beautifully rendered, unpretentious songs such as "If Dreams Were Gasoline" and "I Want to Be the Last Thing on Your Mind" rose above the potential hokum their titles suggested. Boutwell lost his own bid for the finals by one vote to Claire Holley and Rob Seals from Jackson, Miss., whose upbeat folk sound alternately evoked Maria McKee and Suzanne Vega.
The only semi-finalist who seemed out of place was Boston troubadour Christopher Williams. Wearing a ridiculous blue beret, Williams delivered his tortuously overwrought material like a second-class Shawn Mullins-wannabe, squinting intently at the neck of his guitar as if lyrics were inscribed on the fret dots. By luck of the draw he managed to squeak through three rounds until Jennifer Daniels ultimately defeated him.

For this accomplishment alone Daniels deserved top honors, but her clear superiority in every ranked category -- particularly vocal performance -- were what cinched the glory for her. Whether throwing back her head to hold a magnificently sustained high note or expertly accompanying herself on a 12-string guitar, Daniels outclassed the strongest competition. Facing considerable challenge from Holley and Seals in the final round, she brought her husband onstage to add mandolin during her last number, "Good Day to Live." That title became a self-fulfilling prophecy when Daniels -- a veteran of five previous Shoot-outs but never a winner before -- went home $1000 richer.
By Gregory Nicoll
- Creative Loafing


Discography

A Thrill of Hope: 6 songs of Christmas (2006), Summer Filled Sky (2004), Live at The Evening Muse (2003), Dive and Fly (2001), Fists of Flood (1998), An Invitation (4 song EP, 1997)

Photos

Bio

Three incessantly busy interstate highways wrap around the foot of Lookout Mountain, a high ridge straddling Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. But tucked into the coves, bluffs and hollers above the freeways are hairpin roads, dirt paths, hidden waterfalls and stunning valley views. Mountain native Jennifer Daniels claims this territory as her own, despite traversing the interstates to make a living. As she puts it, “I sometimes think of my songs as vertical.”
For 10 years now, the singer/songwriter has chosen a narrow, winding, mountain road less traveled than the broad highway frequented by homogenized pop superstars, cluttering the radio with disposable hooks and disingenuous, secondhand sentiment. For her, “part of the music is figuring life out. I can’t help but feel I have some Bohemian blood in me, searching for truth and beauty and love. You can’t serve the master of fame and fortune and the master of truth and beauty—no path exists for following both.”

Alongside husband Jeff Neal, who contributes tasteful guitar and mandolin support, Daniels first caught the attention of music fans in live settings—beginning in 1999—with her supple, dynamic voice and physical, absorbing delivery. It began in time-honored, grassroots fashion, with gigs in Chattanooga, Tennessee—just down the mountain from home—then short forays around the southeastern U.S. and then regular hauls up and down the East Coast and, finally, jaunts across the country, with as many as 200 dates each year.
On the road for long stretches, Daniels made Decatur, Ga’s legendary Eddie’s Attic—an acoustic-music listening room known for launching the careers of everyone from the Indigo Girls to Shawn Mullins—her home away from home. During this period Daniels was a regular contestant at the venue’s “Open Mic Shoot-Out” contests. On one particular night, she made it to the final, but fell just short of the top prize, edged out by a young upstart named John Mayer. Daniels won the contest later, topping another notable singer/songwriter, Zac Brown (whose Zac Brown Band now is blowing the doors off country radio) to do it.
Her stage reputation established, Daniels began establishing herself as a recording artist, independently releasing her 2000 debut, Fists of Flood, to raves in Performing Songwriter, which named it a Top 12 DIY Release for the year and said, “This is music that seems to have grown slowly from some rich, dark soil.”
Despite the occasional conversation with label execs, Daniels has chosen to remain independent, drawing upon her own resources for touring and recording. For Daniels and Neal, a sustainable, fulfilling life creating meaningful music and connecting personally with listeners holds far more reward than chart positions, heavy-rotation singles or SoundScan numbers.

Now, four studio albums and one live album later, Daniels has recorded her most ambitious effort, Come Undone, a song cycle in three acts. The album’s recording was fraught with more than just artistic significance, with Daniels and Neal spending sessions in wonder and anticipation at the pending birth of twins, their first children (if you don’t count songs and beloved dog Bob Marley). As Daniels notes, rather than heavy literature, “during tracking I was obsessively reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting!”
Significantly, for an artist who began her recording career with stripped-down arrangements—featuring guitars, mandolin, a little bass and not much else—on Come Undone producer Scott Smith goes for a fuller approach, with strings, electronics, a choir and a pipe organ at various moments, depending on what seemed appropriate.
“There was a whole new level of artistry, so we felt the production’s depth should fit the project,” Smith says. “The orchestration and sonic choices were a natural fit not only for the songs, but for framing Jennifer's voice in a way it hasn’t yet been heard. The complexity of her voice—both lyrically and melodically —works amazingly well stripped down, with two guitars. So the challenge was to add to this while still retaining the intimacy of her message. There's plenty of ear candy for anyone who wants to listen for it, yet those in love with Jen’s voice and the songs won't be distracted.”
Just as ambitious as the sounds—and owing, in no small part, to the significant life-changes afoot—are the themes, both epic in scope and more personal than ever. To name one example, few artists this side of Bono would have the guts to tackle an argument with God in song, but in “You Slay Me,” Daniels pulls it off. “That song practically wrote itself,” she observes, “during a night when I was grief stricken, angry and exhausted by months of sorrow, unable to understand why God would allow such heartache. Honestly, I’m afraid to perform it—it’s personal, it’s revealing and it leaves me vulnerable to misinterpretation and judgment.”
At the same time, she says, that song and one other close-to-the-bone confession, “Every Single Day,