Eliza Gilkyson is ready to be part of the election year discussion with her charged new album, 2020, from which “Sooner Or Later,” premiering on Billboard today (Jan. 28), promises that “it’s a matter of fact/gonna rise up/gonna take all back.”
The veteran singer-songwriter views the 10-track set as an outgrowth of her last album, 2018’s spiritually-focused Secularia, which also touched on social and political issues. 2020 goes even further and into more detail, however. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate the spectrum of feelings based on the political climate today,” Gilkyson tells Billboard. “There’s an incredible wide range of emotions that so many of us are going through, from despair and grief to hopefulness to anger to solidarity to community and all points in between. You can go through all those feelings, many times a day. It’s like an emotional roller coaster ride that’s really traumatic.
“So I wanted to really address that, the political emotions of the times and the different things that I and, I think, others are feeling. And since it’s an election year, it brings a sense of urgency and a need to gather the troops.”
Gilkyson’s goal was to write unifying material for progressives and Democrats. “I don’t care about the right wing,” she acknowledges. But she is concerned about “the bad blood” and division on the blue side, which propelled the tenor of 2020’s songs. “I just wanted to promote unity, figure out what are the things we agree on,” Gilkyson explains. In that case the bluesy, biting “Sooner or Later” is intended as a rallying cry and a statement of purpose for her side of the divide.
“There’s a lot of anger in that song, and also, I think, a sense of inviting the tribe in and together,” Gilkyson says. “I’m saying, ‘This is what’s happening. This is what we’re fighting’ — not each other. ‘This is what we’re fighting for, together.'”
2020, which comes out April 10, also features covers of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” while “Beach Haven” adapts a letter Woody Guthrie wrote to landlord Fred Trump (yes, the father) protesting segregationist policies at the Beach Haven Apartments. The album was recorded in Austin and produced by Gilkyson’s son Cisco Ryder. “We really went to the mat a couple times on this one, but it’s amazing how well we work together,” Gilkyson says. “He always keeps his eye on the feel of something, and he was the one who wanted to bring a band in and cut live, which I hadn’t done in years. That was an unusual change-up for me, but it was really fun.”
Gilkyson will start touring in earnest to promote 2020 during April, and she plans to be on the road much of the year and certainly through the general election in November. “It’s a folk thing,” she explains. “I have found that my path is always about just showing up. I think my job is to really rally the troops and remind people what to focus on and appreciate that we have each other and need to support each other right now.
“I worry about us having disaster fatigue and being depressed and feeling hopeless, so I think my job is to remind people to stay sentient, stay aware and continue to gather and work through the emotions of this volatile time period and keep finding a grounded place.”
Listen to “Sooner or Later” below.