After the “Storm”: Ann Arbor Singer-Songwriter Annie Bacon explores grief on her new folk-rock album


Annie Bacon stands in the middle of a room and wears a black dress and veil in mourning.

Annie Bacon explores grief in all its forms on Storm. Photo by Cybelle Codish.

When it comes to grief, Annie Bacon doesn’t want people to feel alone.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and guitarist views it as a shared emotion that fosters connection and growth with others.

“Something that I’ve done with my art and that I feel like is important is to take on this role and say, ‘I don’t know if anybody understands me, but I’m going to explain what I’m going through in a way that hopefully other people can feel seen and understood,’” said Bacon, who performs under the moniker Annie Bacon & Her Oshen.

“I try to find the places where my experience might be universal and create these little bridges into my experience. That’s one of my philosophical approaches to songwriting: I want to as accurately as possible describe the experience I’m going through in the hopes that it creates a witness for somebody else.”

Bacon masters that honest songwriting approach and explores grief in all its forms on her new folk-rock album, Storm. The record’s 14 poignant tracks take listeners on an emotional odyssey through death, divorce, job changes, the pandemic, and a loss of identity.

“I had grieved before, and it’s not like I hadn’t had big losses in my life, but the combination of so much at once, it broke me into pieces. The first six months after I had lost my former mother-in-law, one of my best friends, and then my dad, it was just like boom, boom, boom. My then-partner lost his job and then the pandemic happened,” she said.

“There were months where I was so selfish—that’s the only word I know how to say. It’s like what other people would have looked at and said, ‘Oh, you’re grieving this person,’ and they might not have noticed that I had lost myself. That’s a part of grief that doesn’t get talked about a lot—you don’t just lose that person; you lose the whole part of yourself that was connected to that person and what they brought into your life.”

Bacon conveys that heartbreak, acceptance, and transformation through evocative lyrics and cathartic instrumentation on Storm. Her vulnerable songs prompt listeners to reflect on their losses and find closure alongside her.

“The album is a time capsule of the many different ways that grief acts and shows up,” Bacon said. “I’m not making these songs just to be mine. I’m making them because I want them to help people feel seen in their experience.”

Bacon first connects with listeners on the revelatory opener, “Secret Broken Heart,” which examines unearthing deeply buried grief and cautions against suppressing it.

Alongside anxious electric guitar and drums, she sings, “Cause she has figured out how to hide the waves / Framed a house in the chaos this way / She’ll say that it’s a sacrifice for others that she’ll save / Even if it’s a fast-track to her own grave.”

“My orientation to it originally was that you never know what’s going on with somebody,” Bacon said. “I was driving around crying in my car and then it was trying to find the universal part of this experience. It was reorienting the pronouns and trying to see this allegorical person as opposed to me specifically.”

Next, Bacon embraces grief in the moment and searches for clarity on “Mist.” Soothing electric guitar comforts her as she sings, “They say when you’re lost you should sit down / Let the rescue come to you / Then you learn it’s the clarity of sitting still / That’s the real saving crew.”

“I got nerdy on this one in terms of some of the literary tactics I was using. You’ll notice that the opening verse and chorus and the closing chorus are speaking outward to you. I wanted to create this experience in the song of ‘I’m talking to you…’ and those middle sections come right back to me,” Bacon said.

“Over and over, the message that I got through my grief was … just be here right now, or whatever ‘right now’ is, and on the hard days, that meant that it was hard.”

That hard journey through grief continues on “California Heat,” a somber ballad that honors a late friend, Erin Barcellos McKinley, and her memorial bench during a cathartic hike in northern California.

She sings, “I’m not ready to write a song about you / So I’ll write about your bench / On Robert Dollar Hiking Trail / How I wound the roads of San Rafael / Without water and forgetting.”

“It’s saying, ‘I can’t even get to that point yet of sitting with how much I miss you, how much of a vacuum that is left in this world, and how this world is just a little bit uglier without this person. I’m just trying to survive the experience of losing you first,’” said Bacon, who previously lived in San Francisco before relocating to Ann Arbor in 2018.

“She has a memorial bench that’s at the top of this [trail]. The prompt for [my songwriting group] that month was ‘bench,’ and immediately I knew I had to write about her bench, but I wasn’t ready to write about her. I thought, ‘I’m gonna take this sensory approach to this walk,’ and then I ended up going back through and editing it to build in the five stages of grief.”

After hiking in northern California, Bacon processes grief step by step at home on “Walk a Little Farther.” Tender synth and electric guitar echo her despondency as she sings, “Feel the panic in your chest / Sink to the floor / Start to cry, lose your breath / Roll another smoke, start again.”

“One of the unique things of going through so much grief and so many different kinds of grief—death, job loss, divorce, pandemic, injury, and a childhood home got sold—it was just so many different kinds of loss,” Bacon said. “It kinda helped me see some of the places, and I feel like it comes out in this song. I thought, ‘Maybe I can walk faster than the grief.’”

While trying to outpace her grief, Bacon invites others to share theirs on “Alone With Grief.”

Surrounded by empathetic electric guitar, bass, and synth, she sings, “When every death contains a thousand more / And you’re holding onto your breath but you don’t know what for / When the minutes feel like years because a second changed your life / Just know you’re not the only one alone with grief tonight.”

“If I’m having this grief album, I want there to be one song where I say something that’s not just describing the grief, but it’s saying, ‘Let me hold you in yours.’ That song came out whole, and it was a different feel from a lot of my stuff,” said Bacon, who wrote the track about losing her father.

“It was like, ‘How do I create a song that is both very calming and soothing of the nervous system, but truly speaking to the harsh truth of [how] maybe your person died in your arms.’”

Finally, Bacon strives to reconcile her grief on the hopeful closer, “Worry,” which silences a compulsion to overthink the past, present, and future.

She sings, “Maybe if I worry every angle / I can cut the pain off at the pass / Or maybe worry is the trouble / Maybe I should worry a little less.”

“When the prompt came up and the word was ‘worry,’ I thought, ‘I should just write that song about how I’m worried about everything.’ Partway through writing it, I realized I’m worried about this and I’m worried [that],” Bacon said. “I came around to the chorus, and this is one of those art-as-therapy songs because I realized this is that compulsive looping on these worries. As I’m writing the chorus, I’m giving myself permission to think, ‘Maybe I don’t have to worry so much; maybe the worry is the issue.’”

Bacon gleaned those insights while writing most of the tracks for Storm from August 2022 to September 2023. She also co-wrote “No Clove Day” with singer-songwriter Kyle Rasche.

“I’m part of a songwriting group called Songsmiths, and there were a bunch of song prompt songs in there. I think of the song prompts as excavators; somebody gives me a word and the word starts digging around in my head … and making these strange neural connections,” said Bacon, who co-produced the album and named it Storm after capturing the sound of rainfall in some early demos.

“It was also an incredibly prolific time for me. I wrote a novel, I wrote the musical with Kyle, and I wrote somewhere between 50 and 100 songs. The original SoundCloud playlist of demos had twice as many songs that could have been on this album.”

To fulfill her vision for the album, Bacon ventured to Nashville and recorded with co-producer Paul Defiglia (bass, keys, synth, organ, drum machine) and engineers Kate Haldrup and Wil Tsyon at Daylight Studio.

They first tracked the songs to analog tape with Thomas Bryan Eaton (guitars, pedal steel, mandolin) and Anson Hohne (drums, percussion) and shifted to digital recording to add some enhancements.

“That’s a really different process because you don’t just do unlimited takes. With tape, you’re trying to capture the breadth of the song—the life force of the song,” she said.

“For me, it was this submission to the present moment as opposed to thinking, ‘Am I technically getting everything correct?’ It’s more like a performance in that aspect. … It really breathed a lot of life into the songs in a way that matches the theme of the album.”

As co-producer for Storm, Bacon played a key role in the mixing process and collaborated with Mike Clemow and Wade Strange at SeeThruSound.

“I learned a lot about how to communicate the vision I had. I want to call out Mike and Wade because they were incredibly patient because by the time the songs got to the mixing process, I knew where the songs were supposed to be,” she said. “I also honed in more on what my sound is … and I wanted it to feel heavy, I wanted it to feel muddy, and I wanted that feeling of just being in the depths of the emotion.”

Bacon also plans to recapture that emotion live for a double-album release show at The Ark on June 16. She’s celebrating the release of Storm alongside singer-songwriter Sammie Hershock, whose album Plainsong came out earlier this spring.

“She reached out because she knew I was putting out an album around the same time and said, ‘Hey, what if we do this together?’” Bacon said.

“Cross-pollinating is the best way to grow your audience as a musician, and it’s all about like, ‘Let me introduce you to this other musician who I think is amazing.’ I love Sammy’s heart, and I love her unique and quirky perspective on life.”

For her set, Bacon is performing with multi-instrumentalist Paul Defiglia, Elizabeth Greenblatt (vocals), Daine Hammerle (drums), Mark Hugger (bass), and Michael Robertson (guitar). 

In honor of the album’s overall theme of grief, she’s also asking show attendees to bring mementos of late family members and friends to the concert.

“The show is on the day before my [late] father’s birthday, and I’m going to set up two tables to have a community altar,” Bacon said. “The audience is invited to bring pictures or anything they want—they’ll take them home at the end. There will be an altar on each side of the stage … and we’ll be bringing ghosts into the room to have this way to honor them all together.”

After the show, Bacon will perform at several festivals, including Blissfest, Wheatland, and Thunder Bay, and continue working on her first novel.

“I’m working on a developmental edit of my novel, and I have another album that I’ve been working on that may or may not be ready soon,” she said.

“I’m not creating as much [now] because there’s so much with getting the album out and the book ready to go out. I’m looking forward to getting back into writing more, so hopefully, in the fall I’ll be back to my daily practice with songwriting.”

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of

Annie Bacon performs June 16 with Sammie Hershock at The Ark, 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor. For tickets, visit The Ark’s website.