Led by Zeeland’s Jennifer and Jared Adams, the band spotlighted its deeply personal music for Local Spins on WYCE, which also featured new tracks by J.Rob, Ada LeAnn, Dynaflo, Fiona Dickinson and more.
After all of the cataclysmic events that Jennifer and Jared Adams of Annagail have endured, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown actually afforded them an ideal opportunity to hunker down and create a flood of new music.
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The Zeeland-based band released two albums in 2021, weaving its soul-baring lyrics into music that touches on blues, indie-rock, pop, gospel and jazz, and hope to release yet another recording later this year.
The intensely personal songs reflect the roller coaster of emotions and crises unleashed over the past dozen years or so: their daughter, Faith, being abducted in South Africa, Jennifer’s debilitating battle with Lyme disease, a house fire that destroyed their studio and more.
“When COVID hit, not a lot changed for us because we have been well-versed in chronic illness and safety with extra germs regarding Jennifer,” Jared noted.
“We had been playing weekend and evening shows locally up to that point, so that definitely changed. We stopped doing those for the COVID season and began writing and focusing on the new albums.”
Added Jennifer: “It was actually wonderful. We did a lot of recording in the master bedroom closet. We did a few songs in the shower (for) cool acoustics. The entire time, we got to wear our slippers and our robes. It was really fantastic. We made the most of it for sure.”
What emerged were the albums “Home” (described as the band’s “most vulnerable” release to date) and “Baby It’s You” (leaning toward blues and jazz, and tackling Jennifer’s struggle with Lyme disease), as well as a 36-minute mini-documentary chronicling Annagail’s arduous journey since moving from Nashville in 2010.
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Annagail showcased a pair of songs that portray part of that journey and their decision to move forward by accepting their circumstances – “Parade” and “Anne.” Watch the documentary here, and scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show podcast.
VIDEO: Annagail, “Holy Ghost and Whiskey”
Raised in “incredible religious homes,” Jared and Jennifer first found success with Annagail amid worship and church music for a Christian music label. But the multi-instrumentalists eventually found that “tunnel vision” approach limiting and unsatisfying.
INSPIRATION FROM MUSES: GHOSTS, LYME DISEASE, HARDSHIPS, LOVE, FAMILY
“Worship to us is the art that we put out,” Jennifer said. “We definitely lost a lot of supporters and we lost a lot of dear friends who didn’t understand the transition and the transformation that we were going through.
“Had the rug not been pulled out from underneath us, we would still be stuck in that tunnel vision. This is just giving us an opportunity to see the world on a larger scale, to love people where they’re at – not think we have to try to save them or rescue them or fix them, but just to offer them love and kindness.”
Said Jared: “Our inspiration comes from our muses: ghosts, Lyme disease, each other, people, hardships, love and family.”
Admittedly, the obstacles they’ve faced would have derailed most artists, especially Jennifer’s continuing challenges in coping with Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick a dozen years ago. The fatiguing disease has wreaked havoc on her organs and she spent years seeking the right treatment. She had to relearn how to play guitar and sing, and she walks with a cane.
“I have to say right out the gate, our chin was hanging pretty low. We really felt inverted. All our footing and balance was ripped out from underneath us,” she said. “I had to give up believing that I was going to be who I once was. It’s accepting what is.”
They’ve also had to overcome the usual band hurdles: their drummer and bassist left, leaving Annagail currently as a trio with keyboardist Justin Dreyer.
But days are brighter now: their daughter, Faith, who was abducted 11 years ago before being reunited with her family, is now 18 and doing well (their other children are Grace, 15, and Cohen, 9); Jennifer has returned to school to get a degree in creative writing and English; both Jennifer and Jared are writing memoirs they hope to publish while working on the next Annagail album.
Until the pandemic wanes, live shows may be limited due to Jennifer’s compromised immune system, although they will make an appearance at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room in March.
“The gratitude is exponential,” Jennifer said, “and the days where we can be recording and putting out new material for the world to hear is a day of massive miracles.”
To unfurl those musical miracles meant making the most of their sometimes dire situation – “processing that out loud” when it comes to lyrics.
“It’s kind of real-time lyrics in a sense that we’re writing about what we’re literally living. There isn’t a whole lot of hypothetical situations going on in these recent songs. They’ve been very cathartic,” Jared said. “It feels authentic. It feels honest.”
From deep childhood wounds to almost-insurmountable hurdles faced as adults, Annagail’s music resonates with heartache and hopefulness.
“We have bared our souls because it’s in the baring of our souls we begin to heal,” Jared added.
“We want to get up every day and to live as fully as we are able. We don’t want to cover or hide the hard stuff, but we want to say, ‘Welcome. What you have come to teach us?’ And then we want to put on our wings and fly.”
Read more about Annagail here.
In addition to spotlighting the music of Annagail, the Jan. 7 episode of Local Spins on WYCE (which focuses on local and regional music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE 88.1 FM and online at wyce.org) featured new tracks by Ada LeAnn, J.Rob, James S. Burkett, Dynaflo, Fiona Dickinson, Normal Mode, The Hacky Turtles, The Bootstrap Boys and Kanola Band, plus a classic song by New Radicals (this week’s musicians’ pick by Annagail). Listen to the full radio show below and check out previous episodes of Local Spins on WYCE.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (1/7/22)
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