Seattle-born Alison Sudol didn't start playing piano until her late teens, but her keyboard-rich pop has already earned her numerous television appearances and opening spots for the Stooges and Rufus Wainwright. Since, the 24-year-old artist has released her 2007 debut album, "One Cell in the Sea," hit No. 91 on the Billboard 200, and her second effort "Bomb in a Birdcage" will be released Sept. 8 on Virgin.
Billboard.com caught up with Sudol, better known by the nom-de-stage A Fine Frenzy, and present this exclusive stream of "Happier" from the upcoming album.
Why did you decide to take on the name A Fine Frenzy for your musical work instead of just using your own name? And where does the name come from?
The name comes from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Basically the sonnet that it's from is a description of the madness that comes on for a poet in a state of inspiration. So I don't know, it just perfectly described that otherwise indescribable feeling for me of the reason I love making music and writing. And I thought no matter how much I grew, or changed as a person musically, that that feeling would always stay the same. And for me, A Fine Frenzy is the music itself, it's not me. I never really wanted it to be my name because of that.
What inspired "Happier"? What's the story behind it?
That song was partially a situation I had gone through in my own life, but also written for a friend that was going through something similar. There's really no easy way to end something for either person I think, and when something is falling apart, there's a lot of different emotions that you go through. But the sentiment of "you'll be better off without me," even though it's meant for the benefit of the person, it's harder, and it's about dealing with that.
And how about "Bomb in a Birdcage" as a whole -- what are some of the themes or influences throughout the album? How is it different from your debut record?
I think it's a much more extreme record, there are higher highs and lower lows on it. A lot more dynamics. There's a lot more positivity on this record and lightness. It seems, especially in retrospect, to have a lot to do with the fact that I wrote pretty much all of the album during the day, with sunshine coming in through my window. As opposed to the other album which I wrote in a dark room at night by myself with no windows. So I think the album kind of reflects that.
You were an early adopter of Twitter, and now have over a million followers (@AFineFrenzy). How do you use the service, and how has it helped you as a musician?
It's crazy how much it's blown up. It's something I did originally to keep my grandmother posted on my whereabouts, she was the only one I knew who paid attention to it in the early days, when no one really knew what Twitter was. It's also just a great way of cataloging life, because as a musician on tour, you're constantly in different places, and it's easy for life to just blend in from one day to the next. So it's pretty cool--I to write about evocative moments, something that will stand out in my head, something that I can look back on. And it's also a great communication tool, people who are fans can see where we are, what's happening, where we're going. I also think it's helped people find my music, I definitely know of people who have said they've never heard my music until they found it there. And that's great--any way that people can find it, especially since there are so many bands out there, any way that you can stand out is really important.