At only 23 years old, Atlanta singer-songwriter Faye Webster certainly has plenty of room to grow. She’s been focusing on that idea a lot in the last year, honing what she calls a “growth mindset” while she recorded her fourth album, I Know I’m Funny Haha. Since the self-release of her first record Run And Tell nearly eight years ago, she’s carved out a body of work that tells the story of a young, emerging artist who’s steadily progressed throughout the years, and is now ready to put out her most honest music yet. So when The A.V. Club recently sat down with Webster to walk through each of her previous albums leading up to I Know I’m Funny Haha, the musician had plenty of insights about how they’ve all led to where she is now.
Webster began writing at 16, inspired by her older brother and other musicians who surrounded her as an early teen. “I feel like I was just always surrounded by music,” Webster says. “When I was old enough to realize people make music and not just listen to it, I was like, ‘I feel like it’s probably something I would want to do.’” That’s when she began to write 2013’s Run And Tell, a straightforward country and folk album that now seems like an odd start in light of her more recent offerings: She sang earnestly about first love, running away to Texas, and many other things Webster no longer really remembers. She’s open about how little she recalls about the writing process, and how rarely she was writing from a place of genuine inspiration, as opposed to her work now.
“There was nothing for me to write about,” Webster admits. “I don’t really know what I was doing. I don’t know what I was writing about, what I wanted, or who I wanted to be.”
It’s a fair admission, as many of us feel disconnected from who we were at 16—unable to tap into exactly what we were thinking at that age, but nonetheless admiring our youthful ability to push toward goals with reckless abandon. Webster says she now packs Run And Tell away on a shelf in her mind, thinking of it as more of a souvenir from her youth than a serious part of her repertoire.
The kind of musician Webster would become begins to take form in her second, self-titled album, released four years later. Songs like “She Won’t Go Away” continue to stay with Webster, and signify a crucial moment in her songwriting: when she first held her now-tried-and-true guitar.
“With that record, that’s when I got my guitar, that I still play to this day,” Webster says. “I feel like the main thing for me was having this thing that I really fit with. It was really important to the songwriting, which is weird to say, but I was definitely writing songs that I liked more once I got that guitar.”
For Faye Webster, she recorded vocals and instrumentals in tucked-away closets and bathrooms (a DIY process Webster has continued for I Know I’m Funny Haha), recording her voice on Garageband and later mixing it in with the studio band performances. With that album, Webster discovered her vocal style, stepping away from the forced country tone, but holding onto her natural twang. It’s one of the most distinctive things about Webster’s voice, helping inform the tender swells and swoops of her melodic lines, all drenched in vulnerability.
Webster released that sophomore album through Awful Records, a hip-hop label in Atlanta. At the time, she’d just spent a year at Belmont University in Nashville, where she studied songwriting before moving on to graphic design and photography. Looking at Awful’s roster, you’d wonder how a folk singer like Webster ending up working alongside ATL rappers. It started with her supporting Awful on social media—reaching out to lend the company her photography skills—and eventually getting signed by the label. She befriended local artists like Ethereal and Father, who not only supported her, but inspired her.
“I never felt like an outlier. I think at the end of the day, maybe [the label] didn’t know what to do with my music,” Webster says. “But in the sense of learning how to collab, and watching other people write music in front of us, [it] was really eye opening.” She recently pressed her self-titled record into vinyl for the first time, sharing images on Instagram of her holding the record, where she wrote that she was “smiling, laughing, crying at a younger version of myself who had so much room for growth as an artist and human being, but proud of her and this piece that got me here today.” There it is again, that word: growth.
Over the next two years, Webster continued to grow as a person and artist, signing onto Secretly Canadian and recording her breakthrough third album Atlanta Millionaires Club, which catapulted songs like “Kingston” onto a host of Spotify and others’ “indie” playlists, connecting more listeners to the musician than ever before. Webster found her stride as an artist, blending the influences she found in the hip-hop community of Atlanta and her homegrown folk roots. “I found who I like working with and what process works for me. I was realizing what kind of songwriter I wanted to be, and to be more honest,” Webster says about the development of AMC. “I was figuring out what I liked from other people and then realizing that I wasn’t doing that.”
Thematically, loneliness drives the album, through a series of tender vignettes that capture the yearning of early adulthood. In “Room Temperature,” Webster sings about crying in clothes worn for days, telling herself she just needs to get out of the house more, but lacking any sense of reason to do so. She puts her emotions at the forefront, sharing with listeners who she was at 21: a young woman, sitting alone as heartache and solitude wash over her, blanketing the room like heat on a Southern summer day.
Listeners began to connect with Webster’s music in a new, emotionally driven way, springing from her openness and natural way of presenting her feelings. “[Atlanta Millionaires Club] represents me really well as a human being and as an artist. There’s not really a song on it that I hate, which is nice,” Webster says. “When I think of myself as an artist, I will just always think of that [album] first, no matter what I make from now on.”
After years of trying to maneuver through life on her own, her subsequent experience falling in love notably changed Webster’s relationship with loneliness, pushing growth in new areas. In the ensuing year after AMC’s release, she started dating fellow Awful Records signee Boothlord, and the two now live together in Atlanta. As a result, the music that poured out of her is different: Sonically, Webster doesn’t step too far away from her blend of tender folk and R&B found on AMC, but lyrically, there’s something new—optimism. I Know I’m Funny Haha presents a newfound hope, and instead of yearning, it dives into how partnership transforms people in unexpected ways.
“I didn’t know that I was capable of being happy right now,” Webster sings in the first single, a groovy ballad titled “In A Good Way.” This new outlook on love and life set the mood for the album: Not everything is hunky dory for the singer, with plenty of somber songs present on I Know I’m Funny Haha, but it’s a balancing act—between life’s perfect moments and the feelings that float up in times of solitude. Webster channels a different kind of loneliness than what’s shared in AMC, a less all-consuming mindset. “Now, this is how I feel when I’m not with this person,” Webster reflects. “And it’s not how I feel all the time.”
Nestled between tracks about love and loneliness comes one of the most distinctive songs Webster’s penned, about her teenage crush on Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. Fittingly titled “A Dream With A Baseball Player,” it stems from her lifelong love of her hometown team. “I definitely went through a phase in late 2018, early 2019 where I wasn’t really touring. I was moving out of [my childhood] home, alone,” Webster says. “I resorted to the Braves as my emotional support, [and] it kind of consumed my whole life.”
“A Dream With A Baseball Player” is the the oldest track on the record, first written years ago. Webster’s been saving the song, waiting for the right moment. This lack of urgency, and a newly developed sense of pacing and arrangement as a songwriter, has paid off big-time on I Know I’m Funny Haha.
With its fully formed conception of self, I Know I’m Funny Haha is Webster’s most confident and emotionally effective work yet. She’s learned to harness her influences and create work that’s informed by broader influences, without compromising her natural tendency to write from the heart. She’s no longer the 16-year-old writing about experiences she’s never had, but a wiser and more mature artist offering up the truest parts of herself, to captivating results. Fans who first got to know her on AMC can expect to see more sides to the musician on I Know I’m Funny Haha. “I feel like you know me better than you could listening to any other record,” Webster says. “With fresh ears as a new listener, this is how you get the most information out of me—and who I am.”