Music can serve as a captivating, lively vessel to tell the stories of one's imagination, often blending inspiration from various other forms of media. But even when a song's subject matter is entirely fictional, or even literature-based, the narrator will inevitably add their own perspective and emotions to its delivery. In her latest release, End Of The Line, Elaine Eagle shares aspects of her physical and geographical surroundings, her passion for ancient Greek mythology, and the series of changes currently occurring in her life, as she presents a compelling and relevant narrative.
Within its detailed, contemplative songwriting and its ethereal, classically rooted sonic approach, this highly philosophical EP contains resonant messages. While every listener might find different takeaways in the same lyrics and production, End Of The Line tackles a multitude of universal themes. To name a few, Elaine sings of love, relationships, longing, and disappointment. One concept tying the project together includes the idea of continuing on a journey - and in that light, Playlists & Polaroids recently had the privilege of chatting with Elaine about her own!
Image credit: Elaine Eagle, graphic created by Karly Ramnani
YOU'LL LOVE ELAINE EAGLE IF YOU LISTEN TO: Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, The National, Lucy Dacus, The Lumineers, Noah Kahan
What inspired you to get into music, and how did you realize that was what you wanted to do?
I started playing piano at ten, which is fifteen years ago now, and singing in little local bands and stuff. I come from a pretty musical family; my dad is also a musician. As I was reaching the end of high school, when you have to think about what to do next, nothing else just made sense. It was like, "What do I want to do that's going to make me happy, and that I think I could be good at?" And music was always kind of there. I really love writing - I have little stories and stuff from when I was three. When I was about 15, I started writing songs, and combining the music and the words together. And that kind of clicked for me, that I'm bringing together two loves of my life - words and music.
How do you feel as though your sound has evolved over the years, from when you first started writing songs to End Of The Line?
I think you have to write a lot of crappy songs in order to get some good ones. I did an online program through the Berklee College of Music, so I have my bachelor's in songwriting. And through getting my degree, I wrote a lot of songs I don't like anymore. It's like, you have to get them out of your system. I think something that works really well for me is story writing songs. I am huge into fantasy and mythology, all of these great stories. And drawing from those is a really great way to find inspiration for me. Because I could, and I do, write about my own life. But I think that even when I'm writing the story songs, which is what this new EP, End of the Line, is - even in those, I think as a writer and as an artist, you put yourself into it anyway. You know, there's still, there's still like pieces of you.
Like it's a story, but at the end of the day, you are the narrator of it.
I was going to say, End of the Line reminded me of folklore or evermore by Taylor Swift, and that was also her approach, to tell fictional stories and create characters. Were these albums part of your inspiration as well?
You've kind of hit a little light bulb for me. I wouldn't say that I thought about that as I was doing it. I also co-wrote these songs with my longtime music partner. I pretty much write all the lyrics, and he brings in chord structures or melodic ideas. It's really interesting that you say that, because evermore is my favorite album. I definitely thought about those albums, like folklore, evermore, and other artists that I'm inspired by in terms of the music itself. As in like, this is the sound or the instrumentation that I want. But yeah, that's a really cool point that you bring up about those albums being story led, and this EP is also very story led.
What draws you to evermore specifically?
I love the softer instrumentation on her. I love that it's a little bit more robust than Folklore. Folklore is also amazing, obviously, but I like that she gets back to a little bit of her country sound and roots, with her new style as well. It's just a great mix, Each track is so distinctive and has its own palette of colors and sounds. I really don't like to listen to just one or two songs on that album. Even though it's not just one story, for some reason, it still is very cohesive to me, and there's no skips. I just love to let it play and soak it in. It feels like a hug to me. I love that album.
How did you come up with the title End of the Line, and how do you feel it summarizes what the project is about?
My music partner and I, Ramiro [Espinosa, main guitarist], who's on the cover there, him and I have played music together for about seven years as a duo. We travel around our state and perform, and our name that we go under is End of the Line. He's actually moving this summer, so we just had our last performance together last weekend. [It was] super emotional. I cried the whole time. But we wanted to record the music that we had written together before he left. The title End of the Line just felt so fitting for where we are in our journey, that it is the end of the line for us playing together for the time being. That's what I wanted to portray on the cover as well, that we're each facing these different directions. That's one aspect, that it was our duo name for a long time, and kind of the end of our time together.
But also in the story that we are pulling from, which is The Odyssey in Greek mythology, the whole point and foundation of that story is coming home. And I think the phrase End of the Line, to me, that means home. You've reached the end of the line, you've reached the pinnacle of your journey. So I think it has a bit of a double meaning there as well, that the album is about a journey. It's about an adventure, really. Hopefully, that title of End of the Line is a nice little bow wrapping up the whole story.
I love your incorporation of Greek mythology! In general, do you have a favorite story or deity?
Obviously, I'm partial to The Odyssey. I've always loved it. I read it in high school, and have reread it, and listened to it on audiobook. I love that kind of nautical story, so that's a big one. As for a deity - she doesn't get a lot of time in the myths, but I really love the goddess Demeter. I think she's really cool. I love the goddesses, I think they're just amazing. I like her and her daughter Persephone, because they're more soft. They're not these big raging goddesses, but they're still really powerful. And I love that she's the goddess of the harvest and the land, almost like a Mother Nature kind of figure in Greek mythology. So I think she'd probably be my favorite Greek deity.
Ancient Greek painting of Demeter and Persephone
How do you personally connect with the concept of harvest and everything Demeter stands for? Do you feel as though your music brings this out too?
I definitely connect with the harvest element with her, because where I live is an agricultural society. It's lots of orchard and produce. I've worked in the orchards before, and I love the connection with the land that she brings. I don't know that she really comes out in this music as much as maybe future projects (wink wink, more on that later). This album is a lot about the water, and being around the water in this time of creativity has been really helpful for me. I live on a river, so I would take my friends and go down. We'd sit by the water, and put our feet in the water. And that was really helpful to kind of get in that mindset. Just feeling the wind and being on the water was very inspiring and kind of brought forth that creativity.
Do you have a favorite track on End of the Line?
I think one that I'm really partial to is the fourth track, called "Olive Branches." It's a funny story, actually, because I had different lyrics for that song for a long time. It's probably four years old, but I was never really happy with the lyrics. I was always like, "These could be better. I could do this better. I don't really like them." I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the lyrics in my head, but hadn't done it yet. So [Ramiro and I] were in Seattle in April, when we recorded this, and it was the night before we were going into the studio. I busted out the [rewritten] lyrics in about 45 minutes, and it turns out that these are my favorite lyrics on the album. I really love the story in the lyrics, and Ramiro's guitar on that track is just so beautiful. And we got to add these strings into it. I think it's really one of the only love songs that we have and that I have released up to this point. It's very sweet and tender and special. And yeah, I'm a sucker for the romantic song.
Is there a particular reason for the order of the tracklist, like a start to finish story?
I think there's a few reasons for the order of songs - they're not quite in chronological order of the story. If they were to be, the last track, "Your Fool" would be number three. So it would be "Victory," "Journey Home," "Your Fool," "Lotus," and "Olive Branches." But from a sonic perspective, we wanted to break up which songs are in major keys and minor keys, and which songs are a little faster or a little slower. So we wanted to position them in a way that when you're listening through from top to bottom, it's hopefully interesting to listen to, and you're not having two slow piano songs back to back, or that kind of thing. Because I wanted to keep the attention, keep the energy up through that.
I always like to say that my favorite albums are the ones that you have to listen to from top to bottom, and it'll either sound bad or make no sense if you hit the shuffle button. I definitely felt that way about End of the Line.
We live in a "singles" culture, for lack of a better word, and a lot of people like to listen to just like one or two tracks - so I really appreciate that!
Exactly! Sometimes it's not even singles, but fifteen second clips from TikTok. I love how there are people like you bringing back the album format, and creative potential and flow of it all.
Yeah, that's awesome!
How did you and Ramiro meet, and start making music together?
There's a little town twenty miles outside of where I live, and it's a big tourist area, so they have a lot of resorts, restaurants, wineries, and bars. When I was just starting to get into playing gigs and performing out in the community, I would play up there a lot. I still do play there, but one thing that I did, which was my first gig by myself, was I would go up and play piano. I would play classical piano in the evenings, in the lobby of this hotel, for tips. At that time, Ramiro was the night manager at the hotel. I played this song that was kind of this moody little piano piece. Afterwards, he came up to me and he was like, "Hey, that's a really cool song. Can you send me sheet music or tell me where you get the sheet music?" And yeah, so it just kind of blossomed from there. We started talking, and he is a fantastic guitar player. His playing is very Flamenco-inspired, Spanish guitar. That's what he learned on. I just loved his style. He's very easy to talk to. I mean, he's like a big brother that I always wanted and never had because I'm an only child. So that's how we met, and we've been really close friends. He was at my wedding. He helped me move into our first house. I was at his wedding. A lot of really special moments.
Elaine Eagle & Ramiro Espinosa; Image credit: Steve Sandman
Where are you guys from, and where is this hotel?
The hotel is called the Enzian, and it's in a little tiny town called Leavenworth, Washington, which is like this German/Bavarian themed tourist town. I live, and he lives for now, in a town called Wenatchee, which is in the middle of the state.
How do you feel as though your environment, Washington and otherwise, has shaped your sound?
I'm definitely inspired by the live music that we have around here. A lot of people hear Washington state, and when they think of music, their mind goes to Seattle grunge, or Nirvana - which I love, but that's not my sound. We have a lot more acoustic folk musicians in this area.
I think really, my sound has evolved and been inspired by, to be honest, what I can play. I play the piano. I write to piano. My partner Ramiro plays the guitar. I think I'm inspired by what I have at the moment, and what I have access to. I have a lot of acoustic instruments. I've taught myself a lot of stringed instruments. I can play the mandolin and the violin, and stuff like that. I haven't had to play the guitar in, like, seven years, but I recently got mine restrung, so I can begin teaching myself again. Because I do love the sound of the guitar. So I think it'll be interesting seeing what the next project that I come out with will be, because I think my environment that I'm surrounding myself in musically is pretty different. I'm in a band right now that is a rock band. It's really fun and I love it, but it's a very different sound environment.
Elaine Eagle's instrument wall; Zoom screenshot taken by Karly Ramnani
In this interview, you've been hinting a lot at what's next! As of right now, what can you tell us about the follow-up to End Of The Line?
I have a few ideas. I will say that one of my great musical loves is bluegrass-inspired music. Not country, but a bit more earthy, with fiddles and stand up bass. I think it's so cool. But the problem that I'm facing right now is that I don't play any of those instruments, really. I know enough about a bass and a mandolin and a violin that I can pick out notes. But I'm not a virtuoso player. That's something that I'd love to get into - finding some musicians to collaborate with to bring that sound. Because I definitely have been experimenting with writing songs in that genre.
This is what I would like to do for my next big project - I have a journal that belonged to my great great grandmother when she was in high school, and she wrote a lot of little poems and musings in there. And I think that'd be really fun to turn into like a bluegrass, folksy album. So that's definitely my next big goal. I'd love to have enough material that's cohesive by the end of this year to go back into the studio.
I absolutely love that concept, and I'm looking forward to hearing it! Now to wrap things up with the P&P classic: what's your favorite lyric from a song off of End Of The Line? What were you thinking of when you wrote it, and how do you personally connect to it?
It's in the song "Olive Branches," which I mentioned was probably my favorite lyrically. I really love the chorus. The song is about being loyal and waiting for this person, no matter how long it takes. I know it's really simple, but the line at the end of the chorus - "I will wait for you." It kind of punches a bit. And it's funny, because I'm going through some things in my personal life that really relate to that lyric. I played these songs for my best friend, and when we got to this song, she started crying. I was like, "Whoa, what's making you cry?" And she was like, "Did you write this autobiographically?" And I was like, "No, this is from the story." She was like, "Elaine, this is kind of your life right now." She had to point that out to me, and so it was really interesting to see that reflected back on myself.
The highly philosophical End Of The Line proves a common saying true: life imitates art. Elaine Eagle has a knack for creating music that connects to everyday occurrences, whether directly or indirectly. Since she approaches storytelling in a loaded yet accessible manner, her discography is bound to speak to everyone in some way or the other. Hopefully, we've inspired you to dive deeper into her well-crafted world - here's a playlist we've curated for you to get started!