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Love doesn’t look the way you’ve imagined it. It is about joy, but it is also about suffering and heartache. It is a choice to keep holding on to love, especially when it’s hard, especially when it hurts. This is the sentiment on which Anthony Green’s fourth solo album centers. The eleven intimate tracks on Pixie Queen, a follow-up to 2013’s Young Legs, are love songs, but they are unlike any love songs you’ve ever heard.
Anthony started writing the songs on Pixie Queen two years ago while Circa Survive was creating their 2014 album Descensus, happening on the theme almost accidentally. “I ended up with all these songs about my wife, who is the love of my life, and about how difficult it is to have a relationship and be a parent and be a touring musician and to have mental health issues and be a recovering addict,” Anthony says. “It’s really difficult to be in a relationship with someone like me. I started writing more songs about that and compiling them into a record. It’s about not being sure whether you’re holding on to a relationship or whether it’s fate. I wanted to put all those feelings into one place.”
Much of Pixie Queen was solidified in early 2016, just before Anthony headed into the studio with producer Will Yip (who the singer refers to as “his Nigel Godrich”) to lay down the tracks over two weeks in April. In the studio, Anthony enlisted the help of Good Old War’s Tim Arnold and Keith Goodwin, who played drums and keyboards on the album. The songs are primarily acoustic, with no electric guitar appearing on the album, and Anthony’s sonic goal was to create a “campfire album” where every track retains the warmth and intimacy it was written with.
“It feels like a shift away from my last solo album,” Anthony notes. “I wanted it to feel like you were listening to a real band. I wanted to keep that sense of the acoustic guitar and vocal without having it be too boring. I was nervous to put drums on it because I didn’t want to take away from that campfire feel, but everyone managed to compliment the vocals and hug the rhythm of the guitar. You can taste those elements, but they’re not overpowering.”
There is a sense of hopefulness throughout the album, despite its moments of introspective sadness. “East Coast Winters,” a soulful, stripped down number, is the last song Anthony wrote while on heroin. The musician was compelled by his tumultuous state to pen the lyrics, which deal with his wife’s steadfast support despite how badly he was going through addiction. “Will It Be,” a buoyant ballad, centers on missing his wife and three young sons while on tour. “It’s about not being sure if I’m doing the right thing by being away from them,” Anthony notes. “It is destroying our relationship or is it creating the ultimate bond?”
As the songs unfold, from chirping opener “You’ll Be Fine” to its lush self-titled closer, Pixie Queen asks questions it can’t necessarily answer. And that, to Anthony, is the point. “A lot of the record is about confusion and trying to understand whether something is worth holding on to,” he explains. “When you’re on a mechanical bull the longer you can keep holding on the easier it becomes to navigate its movements. It makes you stronger, but sometimes it’s really hard and it can be way easier to let go and get flung off. None of it comes with a clear yes or
no – it’s a choice you make. Love is the opposite of what you think it’s supposed to be. It’s about how strong you are. And when you do make it through there are moments that are undeniable and you’re so grateful.”
For Anthony, who rejoined Saosin for their latest album Along The Shadow, which came out in May, these solo albums are a place for him to delve into the most honest and most intimate aspects of himself. He isn’t interested in music as a means of showmanship or theater. Whether it’s his work with Circa Survive, who will begin work on their sixth studio album later this year, or with Saosin, Anthony wants that everything he creates comes from a place of real sincerity. That openness is especially evident on Pixie Queen, which is raw both in its lyrics and in its musical execution. “I can’t pretend about anything,” the singer notes. “The only way it feels good to write and perform music is if it feels almost embarrassing.”
In the end, Pixie Queen is a story about love in all its variations and complexities. It doesn’t sugarcoat or idealize what it means for two people to find each other in the world and hold on. It’s a reminder that we get to choose whether to stick it out through the storms – and that deciding to stay can yield the perfect moments we’ve always imagined.
“These songs aren’t just about how my wife and I love each other,” Anthony says. “They’re about how we hate each other sometimes. We don’t just help each other grow; we’ve held each other back. Love is not one thing all the time. It’s beautiful and it’s wild and it’s free and it’s hard. There’s all these peaks and valleys. It can be creative or destructive. But the only way you’ll ever feel anything remotely like the fairy tale ideas of love is by getting through the suffering.”