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Call Me Spinster's new song addresses how marriage and children shape identity


Some of life's big changes, even if they're good, can leave you feeling more than just a little bit overwhelmed. Like, what did I get myself into?


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) I saw you bathing by the pool. The house behind you was on fire.

RASCOE: Getting married, having children, and what that does to your identity - the three women in the band Call Me Spinster are not afraid to go there. Their lives have already had some twists.

ROSIE GRABER: I definitely did not think that I would be in a band with my sisters. My name is Rosie Graber.

RACHEL GRABER FORTIN: Rachel Graber Fortin.

AMELIA GRABER JACOBS: Amelia Graber Jacobs.

RASCOE: And as little sister Rosie just said, making music together didn't start out as a family goal. All three were teachers on their own paths, living in different places when the oldest, Amelia, settled down in Chattanooga. Rosie and Rachel soon followed her there.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) Every tired story is the same.

RASCOE: It's been a mix of motherhood and music for each of them ever since. Four children now with another on the way just as Call Me Spinster has their first full-length album - it's called "Potholes." We asked the sisters to tell us the story behind one of their songs, Feet Are Dirty.

GRABER JACOBS: This is Amelia. And I was the new mom. I was literally getting into my newly clean sheets, which felt like a miracle in and of itself.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) Our feet are dirty, and the sheets are clean.

GRABER JACOBS: I think I did truly have dirty feet or dirtier than I would have liked. It's definitely one of my things. My husband has perpetually dirty feet. And I think it was partially just laughing at myself that I was the culprit and was probably too tired to get out of bed and take a bath. But I was just, I think, narrating.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) Air is heavy, and your teeth are clean.

GRABER JACOBS: And I just kept following it.


CALL ME SPINSTER: Where have you been, boy? Darling, where have you been? (Vocalizing).

GRABER JACOBS: The little (vocalizing) part started to follow.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Vocalizing).

GRABER FORTIN: This is Rachel, and this was in our early songwriting, where our technique that was working for all of us in our own ways was finding a quiet space and making whale noises. The bathtub was a usual place. We would start out by just kind of going (vocalizing) and then kind of narrating what we were thinking.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) I want to be free. (Vocalizing).

GRABER: This is Rosie jumping in. This song has become pretty electronified (ph), and one of the acoustic things that stayed in is Rachel's voice going (vocalizing).


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) Cutting you clean, boy. Yeah, I'm cutting you clean. Yeah, cutting You clean.

GRABER JACOBS: From the get-go, I had this sort of (vocalizing) synth-y (ph) bassline in my head. We were listening to a lot of Robyn.

GRABER FORTIN: A timeless synth pop legend - so we had this ritual of dance church. Whenever we were feeling particularly stuck, we would give ourselves maybe two songs, three songs, to just dance it out. Sometimes we'd have the baby around. Sometimes we'd have the dog around, I think kind of tossing the dog and the baby back and forth.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) It's time we burned the olive tree. It's time we burned it.

GRABER JACOBS: I remember very distinctly sitting on our porch and looking at this really brittle, brown Christmas tree that had been just sitting there, as many things had in my yard. I mean, it just was sort of - represented this domestic chaos. So it started out as it's time to burn the Christmas tree.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) It's time we burned it. Again is in the air today, I think we've turned it. I want to be free.

GRABER FORTIN: All three of us, I think, have had the breakup that takes a lot of breakups. This idea of many olive branches extended - I think that stands out to me as sort of the final straw of saying, no more. No more take threes, take fours. This is it. I'm not even going to allow the olive branch to be available. This is over. That smell of - it's burned. It's done. And we're ready to move on, and it can be a celebration for everybody.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Vocalizing).

GRABER: In any situation where you're in love, I think, with your child or your partner, and you are giving a lot, then there's always a moment where you stop remembering to make yourself feel good. I think this is a moment where we're saying, nope, it's time for me to feel joy and good, and I need to think about me for a minute. You feel like you're burning everything down around you for that sometimes. And even though that's often not the case at all, it usually helps everything else (laughter).

GRABER JACOBS: So much of songwriting does feel so subconscious. From the outside, it's this sort of thinly veiled exploration of very real emotions, oftentimes dark ones. And I think I was exploring this feeling of release and can I quit motherhood? Is this a thing that I could do? Which, of course, I don't actually want to do, but it's like - playing with those emotions that, you know, pop up once in a while, coming sort of to the edge of the cliff and looking down and then scaling it back. And I think this song was maybe a safe way for me to play with that.


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Singing) Ashes in the air today. I think we've earned it.

RASCOE: That was Amelia Graber Jacobs, Rachel Graber Fortin, and Rosie Graber of the Chattanooga-based band Call Me Spinster talking about "Feet Are Dirty," one of the songs on their new album "Potholes."


CALL ME SPINSTER: (Vocalizing). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.