Get to know 21-year-old indie folk artist behind the enchanting new EP, Softest Destroyer.
With a sound that’s intimate and haunting all at once, 21-year-old Carolyn Flaherty, known simply as Carol, has quickly established herself as one of the most exciting new artists in the Boston music scene. In 2018, Carol made her official debut with “Lilies,” and intimate ballad wrote when she was 16 that currently has over 32,000 streams on Spotify. In March, she released her EP Softest Destroyer (produced by Ruben Radlauer), an etherial and ominous collection of songs that explores the complicated power balance within relationships, and the impact we leave on others’ lives through the smallest actions. I caught up with Carol to learn more about the EP, her creative process, and the power being vulnerable in front of others.
When did you start playing music?
I think probably when I was 12. I’ve always been writing, even I was really young; I used to write plays and stuff for my class in second grade and be like, “Let’s perform them!” I loved music ‘cause it was, for me, the most hard-hitting of any kind of arts because it’s just so primal and emotional. It’s the easiest way to get an emotion across to a widespread audience. I was thinking that and when I was younger, so I was like, “But how do I do it? Of course, I need to play guitar!” So I started playing guitar and then started writing [songs] from there.
What was your reaction to seeing your debut single “Lilies” blow up on Spotify?
It was cool! I try to stay away from looking into statistics and stuff, because it makes me feel crazy. But I really like the response we’re getting. I had a hard time like with that song for a while because I wrote it when I was so young, and I just felt like it’s really naive. Like even in the harmonies – if we’re going to talk about the music sense – and that general melody, I just feel like it’s so immature compared to things that I was then exposed to after. But the traction just shows me that people aren’t thinking that hard about it [laughs]. They want something that’s relatable or real, and I definitely felt that when I wrote it.
You’ve re-recorded “Lilies” several times since writing it five years ago. What was it like revisiting it once again while also recording much different material for the EP?
I personally think it’s really cool that I still felt a darkness even when I was younger [laughs]. I don’t think I’m very dark of a person, but I think my music’s still like that. But yeah, I think that was really interesting for me. “Lilies” is very defensive and it’s just so different than something like “Castle,” where I was really, really in love and desperate. But that’s what happens I guess when you’re growing and you get rid of those boundaries, because you have to if you want to grow.
That’s interesting you say that, because one thing that stuck out to me was that “Lilies,” like you were saying, is defensive, whereas “Castle” opens with, “Are you ready to receive my love?” The themes are similar, but the power dynamics have shifted.
Yeah, for sure. “Lilies” is about relationships, but it’s not about romantic relationships as much as Softest Destroyer very obviously is. It’s interesting how you give power to yourself, and that willingness to be in love or that willingness to create a boundary. It’s up to you, really. Of course people influence you and change your perspective and can teach you so much and change your life, but at the same time, you’re the one who makes that choice of how they’re going to affect you.
Why do you gravitate towards a darker sound in your music?
I think I’ve always thought that [sound] was powerful. In my real life, I feel like I’m very happy, so it’s interesting that my music can be very dark. But you can’t have one without the other. Maybe it’s less of an aesthetic choice and more a practical choice, but by putting that all into my music, I live a little bit lighter [laughs]. But I think mostly it’s power, if I can be honest. That dark atmosphere can be very powerful or touching to a lot of people.
How did you decide on the EP’s five tracks?
I picked them basically because they were my newest ones. I was in a band last year that I had a lot of material written for. I loved it, but then I couldn’t do that anymore because I just couldn’t really write for it at some point. I was in such an internal place, I just couldn’t even really figure out how to write with another person. It was really hard for me for some reason. I think everything that I wrote for this EP started last May I think, and then I wrote basically all summer and was, like, alone [laughs], and then I finished it in the fall. I picked those ones because vocally, they felt the most honest. I think whenever I feel like I’m really singing a song honestly, I usually gravitate towards that ’cause it’s much easier to sing.
You wrote these songs in an isolated place, but there ended up being lots of collaboration on this project. How has that experience fed back into your creative output?
It’s really changed my entire perspective. It’s opened up my trust a lot more, and I’ve been able to have more honest conversations with everybody in my life. When I am collaborating on something that I find really personal, it just opens up the discussion of vulnerability and what other people view that as, and then they put that in into their own portions of this whole “Carol” adventure. As Noname said, “The only way we’re going to heal the world is through vulnerability.”
So what’s next? Where do you see yourself going a year from now, five years, ten years – or even, like, next week?
Oh my gosh…well I always have trouble seeing into next week, so [laughs]. I definitely have a dream of some new album that is not written currently. I’m still going through that process. Like I don’t know if I could even produce something right now; I don’t know if I’ve learned enough to share. I’m definitely still writing and stuff, but I’m always challenging myself to write something more honest – challenging myself to explore something that is new.