CAMDEN — Singer Alice Limoges, a Rockport native and Camden resident, released her newest album this month exploring the depths of her struggles with mental illness.
She, in a news release, heralded the project as a “fearless navigation through the bewilderment and search for meaning” and her most ambitious project to date.
“It Stole Myself From Me” is a work of eight songs that carries listeners through her journey from Maine to New York and back. The project showcases, at the outset, the feelings of darkness and isolation she endured during battles with bipolar disorder and losing her ability to play music due to a hand injury. By album’s end, however, listeners are brought on Limoges’ journey of rediscovering herself in the midst of a global pandemic and back in her hometown.
Despite the opportunities and experiences New York City presented over the years for Limoges, she longed to shift to a more peaceful life surrounded by nature, much like is found in the Midcoast.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March, Limoges was asked by her mother to return home to Rockport for a few weeks to wait the initial days of the pandemic out.
“As soon as I arrived, the feeling settled over me that this move might be a little more long term,” she recalled.
The album has been a work in progress for six years, though the original plan for the songs was not to be compiled into an album. In fact, most of the songs have been released over the years as singles.
She worked with a production professor, Jon Jetter, from her college on producing a few songs.
“We thought the best way to break through would be to release many singles over time rather than an album before I had a large following,” she said. “We worked in his beautiful Queens studio with his business partner Rob Cleaveland and produced the song ‘Past Life’ first. It was an incredible experience to work with them and I learned so much. We recorded and released most of the songs on the album over the course of several years.”
One of the songs she revisited amid the album creation process was “Red Cigar” which was originally penned in 2015 for her previous album “The Space Between.”
“I wrote this song about the systemic nature of white supremacy and police brutality in America” she said. “I was very disturbed by the police killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, to name a few, and felt compelled to write about it. I feel like it's so important for white artists to amplify Black voices and spread the word about their oppression to hopefully change the public's mind and make lasting change. So that felt important to include.”
The creation of the album was not without problems as the COVID-19 pandemic threw a Limoges and her team a curveball.
The production process for “Daydreams,” one of the key songs on the album, found itself impacted by coronavirus-related shutdowns.
The strings for the song were recorded by Limoges, a feat she had never done before, a week before she left for Maine in March 2020. Additional drums, mixing, and mastering were completed remotely.
“It was definitely a little bit of a frustrating project,” confessed Limoges, who noted studio time had been scheduled for March 15 or 16 that ultimately was canceled because of COVID. “The project had been held up again and again and it felt impossible to finish, but ‘Daydreams’ was so special to me that I had to find a way.”
The song was written to reflect Limoges’ experiences with bipolar disorder, and how there were times Limoges noted she felt she’d lost herself and would bring others down, too, if she were to share herself with others.
“It was triggering to record the lead vocals over and over and have to confront this darkness inside of me over and over in turn, but it feels so good to have it out,” Limoges commented. “I love the music video we made too. It feels very vulnerable. We shot it in my own home in New York. It features a brilliant dancer named Fumi Huong who sort of embodies my bipolar.”
Determined to make the best of the situation, she posted in a Facebook group for New York City musicians she was looking for a drummer and found Elena Bonamo, who has drumming experience on Broadway.
“Her partner is a sound engineer and they have a home studio, so they were able to crank out a demo and then record final drums soon thereafter,” said Limoges.
After running into some communication problems with the producer she had commissioned for the song, she brought classmate Laura Derover in to mix the song off a recommendation from one of her former professors. Phil Moffa, recommended to Limoges by another former professor, mastered the song.
Though the remote process was a challenge for Limoges, she discovered there, indeed, is an upside to working remotely.
“It's a little less fluid producing an album remotely, but I'm so happy that we were able to finish it remotely,” said Limoges. “It gives me faith that I can keep producing music from my home in Maine without having to go to a big studio like I used to. I also have my collaborators lined up and know our work flow, so although this album was clunky, I think we'll be able to get the next one out a lot faster.”
While, naturally, Limoges is passionate about each of the eight songs on the album, “Daydreams” means the most to her.
Her relocation to Maine has allowed her to transition to a new chapter of her songwriting career while still, in many ways, acknowledging her past.
“It felt like a new era, but my songs I'd recorded with Jon felt like an era that needed to be commemorated too,” she said. “I felt like they stood stronger together and I always enjoy listening to an album more than a constellation of singles. I thought it would be a good way to launch my career as a Maine based artist to release this album in its entirety.”
Opportunities have been presented to her in the Midcoast such as a biweekly gig at Mé Lon Togo in Camden, owned by music professor and chef Jordan Bennisan, and the opportunity to perform at Unity’s Common Ground Country Fair in September.
Professional opportunities aside, the move back to the Pine Tree State has greatly improved her mental well-being.
“Being home has allowed for a shift in my songwriting away from the dissonance of living in a place where I didn't feel happy to songs about feeling free,” she said. “My bipolar is very well managed now and it leaves space to write about love and the land.”
Nowadays, if she isn’t working on her forthcoming EP, “Lost Love Songs,” she can be found on solo hikes atop Bald Mountain or Beech Hill searching for the inspiration behind her next songs.