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A pandemic-era album that brings 'a surprising amount of hope and joy'

A black-and-white portrait of singer-songwriter Anna Tivel facing the camera
Kale Chesney
Anna Tivel
Anna Tivel's latest album was written and recorded during the first year of the pandemic. She grew up in La Conner, Washington, and is now based in Portland, Oregon.

Anna Tivel’s new album Living Thing was created at a precarious time in the world – at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The Portland-based singer-songwriter told KNKX that songs on the album were also written at a time in her life when the subject of children kept coming up, and how best to raise them in a time of uncertainty.

"Maybe that's just the age that I'm at, that we're having kids or trying to have kids or thinking about that, just kind of going through that general stage of life,” Tivel said. “We sort of welcome each other into the world and then say, 'I don't know, maybe you'll be the one who figures it out.'”

Earlier this month, we chatted virtually for KNKX's All Things Considered about her new album, which comes out May 31, and her childhood in La Conner, Washington. That’s where she learned the fiddle and grew up playing both classical and folk music, and honing her powers of observation

Interview Highlights

On her childhood in La Conner

When I think about growing up in a small town, that's kind of farm culture and fishing culture, there's a slowness to it. And there's also maybe just the kind of this last pre-internet moment of slowness. There was a lot of landscape and a lot of nature and a lot of just sort of real people working hard. And a lot of artists also in that area that are sort of falling in love over and over again with the way that nature touches lives and trying to express that.

The illustrated album cover for Anna Tivel's Living Thing, featuring several people embracing each other with hugs
Fluff & Gravy Records
Living Thing is Anna Tivel's sixth solo album, released on Portland-based Fluff & Gravy Records

On how the pandemic lockdown changed her songwriting

When I kind of looked back at the batch of songs that I wrote, there was a surprising amount of...hope and joy. And I think I just needed to find those stories and see that in people and in that moment in time it felt so dark and so shifting and I think I really craved seeing people in beautiful ways and being moved by the way people reach toward each other.

On experimenting with different sounds on the new album

I've always just made albums and many with with the same producer, Shane Leonard, but we've always just made things live in the room. The band gets together and we just sort of play and feel what we feel in the moment. And that wasn't possible for this one. So just the two of us played everything. Shane was the entire band. We did all sorts of sampling and backward looping of tape machine symphonies. And it really felt like a very vibrant collaboration. And there were a lot of times that my small, quiet, dark, folk, home self thought 'No no no, I don't want to... I don't like this' but then it really felt kind of like the spirit of saying 'yes' to everything. And there's so many things that Shane brought to the table that I ended up loving.

Tivel’s new album is out Friday, May 31. She plays at Miller’s A Gathering Place in Carnation, Washington June 6 and at Tractor Tavern in Ballard July 31.

Emil Moffatt joined KNKX in October 2022 as All Things Considered host/reporter. He came to the Puget Sound area from Atlanta where he covered the state legislature, the 2021 World Series and most recently, business and technology as a reporter for WABE. Contact him at