Faye Webster is only 21 years old, but her discography is already three albums deep. Her latest, Atlanta Millionaires Club, moves her even further away from the straightforward country-folk that defined her early records; its songs cross-pollinate Laurel Canyon pop a la Fleetwood Mac with soft touches of soul and Americana balladry, centered around Webster’s quietly aching voice. While many artists struggle with finding ways to reinvent their sound, venturing off into territory for which they’re ill suited, Webster’s evolution feels completely natural.
She’s had some time to work at it. Webster started recording and releasing music when she was a teenager, and she still approaches it with the same unbridled passion she harnessed in high school, when she was performing at local singer-songwriter shows for fun. “I think music is a sacred, private escape,” she says. “[When I’m making music, that’s] the one time in my life that I can do what I want, that I can make whatever I want… I think having someone telling you what to do ruins the point of it. That’s what I love.”
That single-mindedness is one of the things that makes her evolution feel so easy—her new sounds and approaches to writing change based on what feels right to her—not some deep, industry-driven paranoia about remaining relevant. “I don’t really look at it as a change,” Webster explains. “I just see it as growing as an artist.”
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Webster is something of an autodidact; she taught herself to play guitar, and felt more comfortable as a musician after she left the structured guidance of the songwriting program she was enrolled in at Belmont University in Nashville. During her one-year stint at Belmont, Webster took a photography class, which allowed her to explore visual arts with the same focus with which she approaches music. Since then, she’s photographed Offset, Lil Yachty (a childhood friend), DRAM, and innumerable other ATLiens, including Father, who appears on Atlanta Millionaires Club track “Flowers.” Her interest in visual art is woven into every aspect of her album’s marketing: there’s the cover, which she created in collaboration with her brother Luke; the music videos for “Room Temperature” and “Flowers,” which she directed and co-directed, respectively; and the merch, which includes an iron-on patch and a bandana that she designed.
“[Working on videos and merch] is my way of making it not just an album, but a whole art piece.” Webster says. “I think the whole release, and my tour, will be a whole experience. It’s not just me making an album—I feel just as passionate about [visuals]. I call myself a musician, but I put just as much effort into a song as I would a portrait.”
Webster’s connection to Atlanta’s bustling hip-hop scene may not seem immediately obvious, given her quiet, lap-steel powered pop songs, but the two are closely linked. In 2017, Awful Records—the Atlanta-based label which Playboi Carti and Tommy Genesis have also called home—released Webster’s self-titled album. Atlanta Millionaires Club marks her departure from the label, but it hasn’t created any distance between her and the rest of Awful’s roster. “Awful is still my family. I have Father on my record, so if I want to make music with him, I still make music with him. I feel like it’s a very homey place to be,” she says. Every musician on Atlanta Millionaires Club is someone Webster met through the Atlanta and Athens, GA music scenes.
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Webster’s love of Atlanta extends far beyond her album’s title and featured guests. Her music is an amalgamation of the many sounds of the state—equally embracing instrumentation associated with country and folk as well as hip-hop. On tour, Webster usually dons a giant Atlanta Braves baseball tee. (Her love for the team recently paid off—she was asked to sing at a recent game.)
Much like her visual art, Webster’s songs have a sense of humor that makes their emotionality easier to take. She doesn’t so much write about love as the internal experience of its complexities, and the uniquely intense loneliness reserved for the newly single. On “Room Temperature,” Webster reflects on time spent alone in her bedroom, insisting that she needs to “get out more,” as a pedal steel beckons her somewhere sunnier.
Plenty of music reflects on intense moments of true love or true heartbreak, but Webster documents the moments in between, too. “I wonder if you got home / Though we just said goodbye / You looked back at me once / But I looked back two times,” she sings on “Right Side of My Neck,” dragging each syllable out as she sings, turning the words from loving to anxious and back again. With “Jonny,” Webster approaches the subject of her anxious yearning head-on, directly asking a real-life ex whether or not he ever loved her, gradually bringing horns and strings in as she gains momentum. Atlanta Millionaires Club is a comfort to anyone who’s simultaneously felt uncertainty about the way someone feels, and embarrassed by the earnestness required to address that uncertainty.
On Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster makes a concerted effort to be more honest in her songwriting, writing about her feelings the way she experiences them, rather than putting on a brave face to make listeners more comfortable. On “Hurts Me Too,” Webster sings, “And I am done changing words just so my songs sounds prettier / I just don’t care if it hurts cause it hurts me too.” Ultimately, Webster’s honesty is what makes her music so singular—she recognizes the importance of the thoughts that usually remain unspoken.