What becomes of a dream deferred? Fifteen years ago, singer-songwriter Juliet Lloyd seemed ready to step into the national spotlight. As the Boston Globe’s Denise Taylor noted in a 2007 profile, the recent economics grad had “racked up kudos at time-lapse speed” since deciding to skip law school and pursue music full time. Indeed, she achieved a modicum of success with her second album, Leave the Light On, thanks to song placements on several MTV and VH1 reality shows as well as radio airplay.
Song placements and radio play alone don’t pay the bills, however. By the late aughts, thanks to the decade-long deluge of illegal downloading and then the financial meltdown, the music biz was on life support with indie artists being hit the hardest. It’s all well and good to say concert tickets and merch sales should be enough, but—as Juliana Hatfield explained to me in 2012—the facts don’t support that claim for most club-level artists.
Flash forward to 2020. After a decade spent in Washington, D.C., pursuing a corporate career, with only occasional forays onto stage (and some of those coming by way of the Theatre Lab School of D.C.), the pandemic led her to re-evaluate her life choices. As she explained in the press release for her High Road EP, due out July 8th, “Coming out of the pandemic, I suddenly had this urge to write and perform a lot more. It’s like I finally had things to say again.”
High Road opens with “Starting Something,” a delicate song that declares, “I can’t unfall in love with you/so don’t be starting something/that you can’t finish.” On Facebook, she wrote that, “Normally when I write songs, I write the lyrics and melody pretty much at the same time. For this song though, I had a complete draft of the lyrics…they just came pouring out really quickly. And then it took me more than a year to figure out the right music to support them!” It’s a gorgeous tune that perfectly accents the lyrics.
The title track tackles a topic that, even before the age of Internet trolls, most adults know all too well: holding our tongues in order to avoid a pointless confrontation. The slow-burn song builds layer by layer, first with the foundation, then the first floor, and then a second story, with the tempo increasing every step along the way. It gives Lloyd’s mezzo-soprano a chance to shine—and, too, for late-entry harmony vocals and a sizzling guitar solo to add an unexpected third level to the song. “Over You,” which follows, finds Lloyd in rom-com mode; as she explained on Facebook, “It’s a total tongue-in-cheek kiss off to someone.” The smoldering “Lie With Me,” meanwhile, is a true tour de force, adding country overtones to a soulful sound. (If one didn’t know better, you’d think it was recorded in Muscle Shoals.) The album closes with the pandemic-inspired “Ghost Light.” The world shutting down left the world’s stages bare; all that was left were the lights left on to illuminate the theaters.
As a whole, these are songs from the heart. They’re a little bit country, a little bit soul, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, and even a little bit pop. High Road is a singer-songwriter EP, in other words, and a top-tier one at that.