For over a decade, Naomi Wachira has spoken to matters of the heart with an expressive voice and self-penned songs that radiate a warmth that’s almost tactile. Those elements make anything she touches something truly special, so Artist Home is delighted to be premiering Sometimes, I Worry, Wachira’s new EP.
The last ten-plus years have seen the Kenya-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter become a proud parent, and play and record around the world. The journey of parenthood, in particular, vividly informs Sometimes, I Worry, a five-song cycle dedicated to her daughter. Even in a career characterized by emotional directness, her latest almost disarms with its openness and vulnerability. It’s also an abidingly beautiful piece of work.
Part of what makes this quintet of tracks so affecting is its elegant simplicity: It’s literally just Wachira on acoustic guitar, with her indelible voice at front and center. That spareness only accentuates how perfectly her songwriting has evolved as a framework to showcase her magical singing.
Wachira’s been very up-front about how impactful parenthood’s been on this collection of songs, but her gifts as a songwriter mine a true sense of universality throughout. Unconditional, pure love stands at the center of each tune, and her lyrics are thoughtful and often open-ended enough to ensure that the object of that love will be different to everyone who listens.
The lilting “Something New” lays bare love’s knack for knocking down emotional walls (“You’ve chipped away all my defenses and fears/and life has become something new”). And Wachira’s lyrical acknowledgment of her missteps as a parent on “There is No One I Love More” would read just as eloquently whether directed at a child or a romantic partner (“…Every word that leaves my mouth/watch it change the shape of your smile”).
“Sometimes, I Worry,” the title track and first single, serves as the centerpiece of the EP and represents Wachira’s most unambiguous articulation of parenthood’s stresses and doubts: “Have I given you what you need/for the journey that lies ahead of you/have I done enough?” She punctuates those sentiments with some truly gorgeous self-harmonizing.
The EP finishes out with acoustic versions of two of Wachira’s best songs, and as great as both of the originals are, the songs sound positively luminous when presented in such starkness here. “Sacred Love,” originally cut in 2014, gets slowed and stripped down but loses none of its soulful, gospel-informed tinge. And the ethereal “Guiding Light” shimmers with a low-key enchantment that flourishes in the bare-bones approach.
In addition to being a showcase for her songwriting and her singular voice, Sometimes, I Worry also serves as a perfect representation of where Naomi Wachira shines brightest—as a live performer. Tonight, she’ll be sharing a stacked bill with anthemic Seattle indie-rock veterans Ivan & Alyosha and soul-pop singer/songwriter Alec Shaw at Emerald City Trapeze Arts. And if you think (rightly) that Sometimes, I Worry is something special, just wait til you see this woman perform in person.