Allegra Krieger Pulls Precious Things From the Ashes

Photo by Dallas Starky

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Allegra Krieger looks past the sheen we’re told to wear and ignores the paper covering every last crack. On her new album, the beguiling Precious Things, the veil is gone, probably burned for a sliver of warmth, and the crumbling world is staring back in all its intrepid glory. Krieger writes about the detritus and the ways we carry it with us; the way it props us up when the darkness creeps in. She distills small moments into elegant memories and sends them out into the ether with her distinct, opulent voice. The world isn’t waiting for any of us but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop to breathe in the truth of it all, and Krieger is happy to remind us if we forget.

Precious Things is out now on Northern Spy. Listen and buy it HERE.

First things first, how have you been holding up the last couple of years? 

Relatively well, all things considered. I have definitely struggled with some personal matters over the last couple of years, but feel as though I’m on the other side of all that now. Looking for lightness, keeping a routine, those kinds of things. 

So what are some of your first memories of hearing a song that stuck with you or that has always stood out in some way over the years?

The first time I heard Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” was pretty impactful. I indirectly discovered Jeff’s music via the Shrek soundtrack- which was played very often in my house for some reason. I grew up with a lot of Christian & pop/country music, so this sorta opened up a new world of sound for me. 

How did you first become interested in playing music and writing your own songs?

I played classical piano for most of my young life and always felt an inclination towards writing and composing little melodies. I liked how, compared to classical music, there were no rules or structures I had to adhere to. I still remember the first song I wrote, probably in the third grade or so, entitled ” The Shadows of my life”. It was super dramatic. My mom is a beautiful singer and taught a children’s choir at the church near our house, so I have been around music from a young age. 

Alright so jumping way ahead you’ve got you new album out now, Precious Things. I love the title, and it feels especially poignant after the last two years, but I’m curious what are the things most precious to you?

I think anything can be precious; a cup of coffee, street sounds, an embrace from a friend or family member or lover. Music is precious, light is precious..absence is precious too. I feel like anything that touches your heart, that is of value to your spirit, even if it’s only for a brief moment, can carry profound importance.

Something that really grabbed me when I first heard Precious Thing is this feeling of being utterly worn down and bowled over by the world, but also this determination to do something so that it doesn’t swallow you up. What pushes you and inspires you to keep going?

I think keeping a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world and the people in the world and the fish and the animals and the water and how it’s all moving forward together… Maybe towards an end and maybe towards the beginning?

There’s a lot of talk in the album description about, basically, finding something in the motions and actions we go through every day to – I don’t know if relish is the right word, appreciate maybe? But that feeling really permeates the album and while it’s made me think about a lot of different things, the main question I keep coming back to – can that be enough to survive on?

That’s a good question. I think living day to day, appreciating the small moments can be a very fruitful and grounded existence. However, the human spirit craves meaning and profundity- and that’s why we have religions and art and philosophy and science… I think balance is important. The days are long and you have to fill them with something..everyone has to wash the dishes.. after you do that you can go to church or play your instrument or enter whatever space gives you that deeper sense of fulfillment. If you can find that in the mundane or every day, then I think that’s really beautiful. 

I find myself spacing out a lot when I listen to Precious Things, kind of getting lost in your lyrics and the cadence of the arrangements. I think “No Machine” is a perfect example of this – that lilting piano melody, the phrasing, and the way the lyrics and the feeling of the actual music are so intertwined perfectly, I wonder what your process is like – when you’re writing songs, are you writing the music first or starting with an idea or theme to explore? I’d just love to know how it all comes together…

It’s different every time. For “No Machine” I wrote the melody first and then put some lyrics to that and went from there. Sometimes it comes at once, or not at all. I don’t really have a method or set practice in that way.

Lyrically, there are some common themes, I think, but I’m especially drawn to this sort of physical aspect of your writing. In that I mean that there are several lines about the ways our physical bodies feel and react and the ways we exist in this world – not just emotionally, but the physical toll the world and all these experiences take on our actual bodies. And in the album description, there’s this great line: “This is an album about looking, and Krieger fills up each lonely space she enters with her gaze,” but I also wonder about how we actually fill up these spaces. How do you think about the way you exist in space concerning your music?

As I get older, my relationship with my own corporeal self changes, and I feel like that comes through in my music and writing. I think a lot about filling time, looking back at time, letting go of time and writing a song is a way to do all of those things, in a sort of condensed way. Time, to me, is a physical space that imbues an emotional/spiritual weight.. and the remnants of these moments & the weight they carry, make up your life. I think a lot of art & music is made in an effort to bring you back to a certain space, or identify the magic of a certain space, or maybe to proclaim that the magic of a certain space can’t be identified or held or named at all. 

Also, I just read something in a Clarice Lispector short story called Fever Dreams that feels relevant and I want to share because it was funny and sad… The character in the fever dream asks some sort of spectral being “Is this a moment?” and the being responds, “No, not anymore” and then it talks about how every moment dies as a child, sinless- and then the person says, “I want adult moments!” and I think that’s a great way to describe the loneliness and dissatisfaction of never really being able to fully hold onto something. 

Okay, enough about my feelings about the album – got a little long-winded there, sorry – ha! But can you tell me about the actual recording of the album? You went out to California to record specifically with Luke Temple. What made you want to work with him and make the record out there?

I have been listening to Luke’s music for a long time, and have been really inspired by his expansive musical output- so I just sorta emailed Luke out of the blue with some iPhone recordings, and was happy & surprised that he got back! Working with him only heightened that feeling of inspiration, as his process is so creative and exciting. It felt very playful & effortless. We decided to record in CA, as I had intentions of getting out of the city for a while, and that is where Luke & Jeremy (who engineered & mixed the session and also provided a lot of creative input) lived. 

Let’s maybe end this on a positive note – what are you most hopeful for this year?

Peace on this very delicate earth, more musical experiences & shows, love, and sunshine…

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