Faye Webster talks college, Nashville and sound inspo ahead of Sept. 28 show at Mercy Lounge

We spoke with the Atlanta indie songwriter about her time attending Belmont University and the inspirations behind her multi-genre approach to making music. For her, life’s all about those new experiences.

Andrew Kolondra Jr., Life Editor

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Webster will perform songs from “I Know I’m Funny haha” at Mercy Lounge Sept. 28.

If you’ve listened to Faye Webster’s music, then you know how strongly she resists being confined to a single hard-edged genre. It sometimes seems music nerds pick their labels for her at random from a hat, with said genre classifications ranging from indie folk and alternative country to bedroom pop and R&B.

I like to view her latest album, “I Know I’m Funny haha,” as all of the above—and for someone like Webster, a native to the musical melting pot that is Atlanta, this is only natural. You’ll get a chance to decide for yourself when she performs in Nashville on her fall tour.

In honor of the upcoming show, Webster and I spoke about the varied inspirations behind her multi-genre musical style. Despite the beats feeling like textbook indie vibes, the first thing you notice on tracks like “Better Distractions” and “Kind Of” is the pedal steel guitar’s multiple moments in the spotlight, all of which are surprisingly fitting for songs that don’t really feel country.

“I grew up listening to Western swing music, and I feel like pedal steel was always there,” Webster said. “I was always obsessed with it. When I first started making music, when it came to forming a band, I chose it and stuck with it. It’s all I’ve ever known.”

The pedal steel guitar and other folk-inspired sounds situate Webster’s music at a unique crossroads between large, rapidly-growing southern cities like Nashville and her hometown Atlanta. While she said she used to be way more into country and folk music than she is now, she still enjoys visiting Nashville and finding up-and-coming artists in those genres.

“Nashville’s cool. There’s definitely some really great underground artists that will always be cool to me,” she said, mentioning her friend Molly Parden, who’s played in Webster’s backing bands before and has lived in Nashville for years.

But of course, overlap between folk, country and indie wasn’t nearly enough genres for Webster. “Cheers” channels some ambient rock energy in its instrumental segments—especially the last minute or so—and it’s a nice switch-up that re-energizes us as we head into the back half of the album. When it comes to instrumental sections like these, which excellently back up Webster’s achey, stirring lyrics, she said it’s all about the creativity of her team.

“I’m not going into the studio being like, ‘Okay, you play this here,’” she said. “It’s a lot of teamwork. Everybody is so completely different, but when we’re together, it’s such great chemistry.”

She also emphasized the long, long process of assembling this perfect team, but she said it couldn’t have been more worth the wait.

“I’ve spent so long forming my band,” she said. “It took years and years of trial and error, and I feel like I’ve finally found this group of people that really helps represent me and my vision so well.”

But before forming a band was even a question, Webster spent some time studying music at Vandy’s next-door neighbor—Belmont University. Though she dropped out after a year to pursue music independently, she said the experience helped her realize what she wanted out of life and led to some new wisdom about the college experience.

“During my time in college, I feel like I went out of my comfort zone and just experienced things younger me wouldn’t do,” she said. “It’s prime time to find new stuff and new interests and give everything a try, and I have a best friend to this day that I met there.”

If you’re a music student at Blair thinking of dropping out like her, however, Webster said you might try finding that balance before deciding to leave for good.

“There’s a certain amount of time that you should stick with it,” Webster said. “I didn’t go to college for only two months and then say ‘I don’t wanna be here.’ I was there for a whole year and gave it a real try, but I do believe that it’s just not for everyone. You can’t really argue with somebody who’s just miserable in school.”

For Webster, though—despite carrying her grab bag of genres with her everywhere—nothing is more powerful than her connection to her home in Atlanta.

“I’ve always been close to my family. Really strong to my roots to this day. It’s hard to rip me apart from here,” she said. “The people here are beautiful, and the whole creative scene is beautiful. It’s growing every day. I have new views on it every day that I didn’t have when I was younger.”

Those new experiences and new views? That’s what it’s all about.

Watch the music video for “I Know I’m Funny haha” on YouTube, and check out the full album on Spotify. Buy tickets to her show here. Hip hop/rap duo Danger Incorporated to open.