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Alumna Catherine Coffey released her first single.
Catherine Coffey | Courtesy

A self-described hybrid of “Nebraskan curiosity” and “Russian-New York mood­iness,” Catherine Coffey ’16 has written music since high school.

Coffey, char­ac­terized by her mes­mer­izing, acoustic singer/songwriter sound, released her first single, “friend,” on Sept. 3, via iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music.  She has co-written and sung a few songs with Q-Curius, an elec­tronic-rap duo com­posed of Joel Calvert ’17 and Forester McClatchey ’16, but ‘friend’ is her first solo release.

The song is an ode to finding the balance between love and dis­cretion in close rela­tion­ships.

“It’s grown-up in ways that my other songs aren’t. In a way, my other songs tend to lean forward,” Coffey said. “Up until ‘friend,’ a lot of my songs were almost des­perate or reaching out, whereas ‘friend’ leans back just a little bit. And it was the first time I found my music leaning back and taking a look at the person, and even taking a look at myself.”

Some theater enthu­siasts may rec­ognize the melody of Coffey’s new song: orig­i­nally a duet, it was was mod­ified from “Mother Courage,” a piece Coffey had written for a theater pro­duction (of the same name) at Hillsdale last year.

Fellow alumna Meg Prom ’16, a close friend of Coffey’s since their sophomore year, designed the cover art for “friend.” She took inspi­ration from Sir John Everett Millais’s painting of Ophelia, heroine of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

“I took his study and com­bined it with water­color illus­tration to emphasize the unfin­ished nature of the work while also con­necting Ophelia’s story to the album,” Prom said. “Even while drowning her eyes are turned upward, and in the full painting her hands are posed like a martyr or saint in tra­di­tional paintings.”

According to Coffey, the song “friend” is inspired by the idea that some of the closest people to us can be the most toxic. Expressing a balance between love for others and per­sonal dis­cernment, “friend” depicts growth through rela­tion­ships, the chorus beginning, “Tell me how to love you now.”

“After lis­tening to the song and showing her my plans we both felt that the song worked per­fectly with the nuance of Ophelia’s story and passion. ‘friend’ draws out the same melan­choly finality in Ophelia’s eyes, but also artic­u­lates the purity and faith that are present in Millais’ depiction of her,” Prom said.

Senior Danielle Adams, Coffey’s pro­ducer and pro­ducer of Vanity Plate Records, men­tioned an inter­esting moment regarding the recording process of “friend.” Adams revealed that errors had occurred while recording the guitar. Since the errors were unable to be cor­rected in the original recording and dis­tance sep­a­rated the partners, Coffey uti­lized a recording tech­nique used by bands such as Arcade Fire to resolve the dis­crep­ancies. Via app, Coffey sent Adams a file with the recording of the guitar, and Adams was able to layer the sep­arate recordings for a seamless sound­track.

Freshman Declan Williamson, who per­formed with Coffey at student music fes­tival Womb­stock earlier this month, described Coffey’s new song as “ethereal” and “sym­phonic in nature.” Her insight, he said, is “wise beyond her years.”

Coffey said she will be releasing several new singles this winter, the first by early October. She is also col­lab­o­rating with other artists on a full album, “Purple,” which she expects to come out by next winter.

“Making art is the focus,” Coffey said. “Be yourself and those who believe in it, too, will stick.”