Annie Gallup. Tripod and remote-control selfie by Annie Gallup, collaged with Adobe stock image.

Singer-songwriter Annie Gallup sure does have a way with words. Last year, when I wrote about her album “Bookish,” I could hardly contain myself. Little did I know I’d be doubling-down on that sentiment with the release of her 13th solo album “Oh Everything,” which came out a few weeks ago.

Right from the opening lines from the first track, “Magic Saved Me,” Gallup’s acutely descriptive writing takes center stage. “George blows smoke rings towards the ceiling/Jonathan rages again the world/Marianne can’t hide her feelings/I’m the missing girl.” Pure poetry.

Her songs are like vignettes that we get to stand in the shadows and bear witness to. And she sings them with a clear, delicate voice that enables the listener not to miss a single word. And with Gallup, every word counts.

I’ll also point to the female character in “Who Hurt You.”

“Her favorite shape is the triangle/How else to explain that smoky thing she does through lowered lashes when she’s around my lover? She doesn’t even want him/But she’s got to prove she is everybody’s lover’s secret passion.”

And here’s one more. In “A Long Way to Go,” Gallup sets a specific scene. “Late nights in someone’s smoky kitchen/I wore his black beret/Lost sleep was our drug of choice/We drank coffee and stayed up for days.”

After listening to “Oh Everything” about six times, I fired off several questions to the Rockland-based musician about her songwriting process, some specific songs and more.

Album cover of Annie Gallup’s “Oh Everything.” Design by Annie Gallup

Gallup told me that her process is mysterious, and that she’s always working on more than one idea.

“It starts with something, which can be anything, but is often a phrase with a built-in contradiction, and the process is different for every song up to a point,” she said.

Once the song has some momentum, especially a melody, Gallup is unable to focus on much else while she hears it in her head and works out changes and evolves the story. When she’s in that headspace, she can’t be interrupted for anything, including sleep.

“It can make me hard to be around. When I stop obsessing on it, I know the song is finished,” said Gallup.

I asked her about the track “Sleeplessness,” which tells a story of bittersweet regret and is my current favorite. The song mentions dancing to the music of Johnny Mercer. Mercer co-founded Capitol Records and penned classic songs including “Moon River,” “Hoorah For Hollywood” and “Days of Wine and Roses.” Gallup wrote infinite amounts of drafts and briefly toyed with using Frank Sinatra’s name but landed on her initial choice of Mercer.

“It was the song that was playing in a particular memory that is in the collage of the song, which was written almost entirely by insomnia,” she explained.

Gallup’s current favorite track is “Little Theater.”

“It bypassed my brain on its way to being about everything and surprised me,” Gallup said. The idea for the song started with the opening line: “In our Little Theater adaptation, the tragic ending was rewritten.”

“I had that line for months without getting past what to rhyme with ‘rewritten,’ ” she said. Kitten, smitten and bitten weren’t fitting the bill. Then Gallup thought of Great Britain. “The Shakespeare King Lear references opened up the story as if if had been there all along.”

Gallup decided the song “I Dreamed” would be in spoken word because she struggled to find a melody. She recorded the words spoken to a metronome and sent it to synths player Harvey Jones who wrote and recorded the music.

“When I heard the soundscape he had created, I said, ‘That’s exactly what I meant! Now people will get what I’m trying to say!'” And Gallup sure says a lot: “The first time it snowed I killed a buffalo and climbed inside while the body was still warm/I hadn’t yet discovered fire. I ate the muscle off the bones, but kept the pelt around me. It was a revelation.”

Gallup said her husband Peter Galway has known Jones for decades going back to his days in Manhattan where Jones still lives. They collaborated on a recording project a few years back, and Gallup soon came to understand what she described as Jones’ “vast palette and imagination” and that he “knows how to dignify a synthesizer.”

Jones plays synths, piano, clavinet, beat box, saw and triangle on the album. He also handles the cello arrangement on two tracks. “He’s the wittiest instrumentalist I’ve ever worked with. Undefended, a great collaborator. Resourceful. Experienced. It was a stroke of big luck that lockdown had him out of work and that he was available. He’s fearless and brilliant.”

“Oh Everything” ends with “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Punk,” which drew inspiration from Phoebe Bridgers’ “Moon Song,” though a line from it – “We hate ‘Tears in Heaven,’ but it’s sad his baby died” – made her nervous. Gallup was curious, so she Googled to see if anyone was having a similar reaction and soon discovered that Bridgers called Eric Clapton’s music “mediocre” and also called him out on Twitter for his 1976 racist rant.

“Her audacity and complexity and irreverence made my head spin, and she was totally right about the racist rant. So I bit, as in wrote ‘Portrait’ thinking about parallels between her and young Clapton as high profile artists with a platform and a gift for provocation.”

Here are a few lines from Gallup’s song: “Which is the story and which is the truth?/Where do you stop? Where does the big machine start?/Legend gives you one more year of radioactive youth/Blame the artist if you must, but trust the art, trust the art.”

“Oh Everything” will be available soon at Bull Moose locations. It’s available digitally now through Amazon and iTunes, and you’ll find it on streaming platforms. Head to anniegallup.com to see all of her releases.


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