Esmé Patterson On Her New Album, Art, And The Stanford Rape Case: BUST Interview

by Katherine Barner

Esmé Patterson is the true definition of an artist. If you can define an artist, of course. This may be an oxymoron, but give a listen to her newest album, We Were Wild, and you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Patterson’s third solo album is her most thoughtful yet. This is understandable given the massive amount of change she was going through during the time she was writing. A Colorado native, Patterson recently made the move to Portland, Oregon. She has been a professional musician for a decade, but only recently has she not been a main member of the band Paper Bird: she left the band a year and a half ago, and the transition from leaving the band was not easy.

Bands tend to develop a close kinship and often compare their relationship with fellow band members as family. In Patterson’s case, this was true both figuratively and literally: her sister Genevieve was and still is in the band. The constants in Patterson’s life were evolving, and We Were Wild was the product of this evolution.

She did not let this change bring her down, however. Patterson saw this moment in her life as opportunity. “This period of time was a huge period of transformation for me, “ said Patterson. “It was a very humbling year. I had to start over on a lot of ways. I was being a relentless optimist. I’m always trying to find the lesson in things and the opportunity to it.”

Patterson does not let the difficult change in her life bring her down, just like she does not let pushback towards her art send her to a negative place. The album cover for We Were Wild features Patterson with a collar with an “Esmé” tag, attached to a chain leash and being pulled. On the back of the album, you can see her pulling the chain with her own hand. “There were a lot of people, they thought the image was violent or disrespectful to women,” said Patterson. “I put myself in that situation and that’s the whole fucking point. I am choosing to show the struggle that is in my own heart. The back is my hand showing the chain.  We’re in a point of time in our culture where people expect to have the answers for them and they don’t want to think. They want to react immediately, they don’t want to sit with it and think about it. It’s all about feelings and empowerment.” 

Esme Patterson General 2 Daniel Topete HIGH RES

Patterson identifies as a feminist. The album cover is a symbol of self-empowerment, a quality that she finds important in her art and in feminism. In response to The Stanford Rape Case, Patterson penned an open letter for The Talkhouse with her poetically beautiful and introspective reaction. “I’ve done a lot of personal processing,” said Patterson. “How could you not be infuriated? How could you not be sick? We need to come together and educate people because I have to feel in my heart, I have to believe in the goodness of people. I feel that as a public figure and artist I have the responsibility to use my voice. If I were to keep silent I’d be betraying my own heart.”

Patterson’s reaction to this case includes but also goes beyond the desire for those convicted of sexual assault to be punished appropriately: she wants to celebrate the “brave, kind, and thoughtful” in those situations. In cases like this, it is optimistic people like her that provide the hope that is necessary to heal and take effective measures.

In addition to Patterson’s heartfelt letter, Patterson will be carrying a symbol with her on her upcoming tour: She will be wearing the emblem of two bicycles at all of her shows, representing the two Swedish bicyclists who witnessed the rape, tackled the rapist, and called the police.

Patterson just hit the road for her summer tour, and she is excited. “(Performing is) like a drug almost,” said Patterson. “I’m trying to create a world of being together. I try to give what to room needs, whether it’s cry together or move or go crazy.” She is ready to tour, ready to keep creating art, and ready to learn. If you know what’s good for you, you will listen to We Were Wild and see her perform at a city near you. It will be an enchanting experience you won’t forget.

Tour Dates

Jun 22 The Rebel Lounge, Phoenix, AZ      

Jun 23 Resident, Los Angeles, CA    

Jun 27 Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA   

Jun 29 Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR   

Jun 30 Barboza, Seattle, WA

Jul 13 Three Links, Dallas, TX         

Jul 14 Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield, ME        

Jul 15 Boarding House Park, Lowell, MA   

Jul 16 Gasa Gasa, New Orleans, LA 

Jul 18 The High Watt, Nashville, TN           

Jul 19 Eddie’s Attic, Decatur, GA     

Jul 20 The Pinhook, Durham, NC   

Jul 21 9:30 Club, Washington, DC  

Jul 26 Great Scott, Allston, MA        

Jul 27 Louisville Waterfront, Louisville, KY           

Jul 28 Club Café, Pittsburgh, PA     

Jul 29 Bells Beer Garden, Kalamazoo, MI  

Jul 30 The Kent Stage, Kent, OH    

Aug 01            7th St Entry, Minneapolis, MN       

Aug 02            The Frequency, Madison, WI         

Aug 03            Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL    

Aug 05            Reverb Lounge, Omaha, NE

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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