Molly Burch: Daydreamer and the ‘impossible’ nature of the music business

On September 29, Molly Burch releases her fourth album Daydreamer, a rich and vibrant collection that juggles gleaming pop melodies and production with some of the most personal lyrics she has penned to date. Headliner joins her to find about how she had to rediscover her love of music making and navigating life as a musician an in increasingly demanding industry…

It's early AM in LA and Molly Burch is smiling and sipping on a cup of coffee when she appears on our screen via Zoom. It’s a couple of weeks before the release of her new album Daydreamer and she has only just moved back to her hometown after spending the best part of a decade living in Austin, Texas. Despite the early hour, a typically hectic pre-release schedule and, of course, a major relocation, she’s in good spirits and generous with her time, happy to speak at length about the most personal aspects of her towering new record and her love hate relationship with the music industry.

“I’m from LA originally but I haven’t been back since I graduated high school,” she says, explaining her decision to return home. “I spent my adult years in smaller cities and I was in Nashville for a while and Austin for the past eight years, so it’s been a transition but it’s so nice being back near my family and a lot of my friends... 2023 has been a roller-coaster! 

"I’ve always felt drawn to smaller cities and cosy, slow-paced life, so I didn’t really feel the need to come back to LA, but once the pandemic happened I was touring less and I was in Austin full time and my boyfriend and I, who is also in my band, felt we needed to try something new. We just needed a change and it’s been great.”

Released on September 29, Daydreamer is a glorious slice of melancholy pop; a confection of thickly layered synths, brass, and swooning strings shot through with some of the most intimate, introspective lyrics Burch has committed to record so far. At time, it feels like a diary set to music, with explorations of childhood, romance, the trappings of the music business, and the loss of a high school friend who took their own life. It’s a career-defining statement of a record and one that reveals new depths with each listen.

Arriving two years after her third album Romantic Images, Burch says the making of Daydreamer was very different to its predecessor, emanating from a period of post-pandemic darkness.

I did a deep dive into why I make music and tried to find that joy again. Molly Burch

“Albums number three and four were such different processes,” she begins. “We recorded the last album pretty early on in the pandemic and my brain has changed so much since 2020. And my relationship to music and being an artist has shifted. Everything has changed. I usually don’t write during album rollouts, but I started writing Daydreamer when my last album was coming out as we weren’t able to tour yet. I was just at home and feeling so depressed. I’m most unwell when putting out an album, that’s my least favourite part of being a musician, so I just wrote about that and did a little bit of a deep dive into why I make music and tried to find that joy again, because I was losing the plot of why I was doing it. That’s how Daydreamer started. I started writing it in 2021 and we didn’t begin recording until last Fall. It’s the longest I’ve worked on a record before.”

Thankfully, those early writing sessions did reignite that spark. They also inspired her to keep exploring those formative years that drew her towards songwriting in the first place.

“It really did reignite my love of making music,” she says, “and I love writing and recording. There are so many aspects of this life that I do love, but putting it out… I don’t know why, but since the pandemic, that bit has just become extra hard. I tried to look back at my younger self a lot and the love of singing and tapping into that person. I have to shift my perspective a lot with this life I’ve chosen because it changes so much. But it did spark some joy and I loved writing the record,” she beams, “and I’m excited about putting it out.”

The subject of the ever-changing nature of the music business is one that Burch tackles on recent single Unconditional. Dressed up as a love song of sorts, it illustrates the myriad trials and tribulations of navigating the industry.

“Before the pandemic I still felt kind of new,” she says thoughtfully. “I was on my second record and then everything has just changed so fast since 2020. With Unconditional I was dealing with that a lot, with putting out a record during the pandemic and feeling a lot of pressure. The business is changing but you’re still expected to meet all these markers of success. And it feels like the world is so different, but we are expected to function the same way as before, and that is so confusing as an artist. I’m extremely sensitive and have struggled my whole life to focus on what matters - the work, writing, and not just external praise or rejection. And that is so hard, especially now. With Unconditional I wanted to express the feeling of the unconditional ways of the business but through a song that everyone can relate to, which is more about a romantic experience. It’s such a roller-coaster and that’s something that’s really hard to get used to.

“It feels quite impossible,” she adds after a pause. “It’s a lot of work to not be obsessed with that side because it’s so in your face, especially at the time of putting out an album. It’s crazy.”

The music industry today feels quite impossible. Molly Burch

The tumultuous relationship Burch continues to navigate with music is something that can be traced back to her childhood and adolescence. While her passion for music has been ever present, the confidence to create and share her work with the world has not.

“I grew up with two creative parents who were both in the movie industry, as is my sister, so it was totally normal and encouraged to pursue a career in the music,” she recalls. “And when I was really little, I was very extraverted. I loved to sing and once I hit puberty, I completely became insecure, shy, a totally different personality, but I still had these dreams and desires to pursue music. I was way too shy. But I found it in my own way, and I didn’t start writing until my first record, which was in my 20s. So, I took it slow, but it was always intertwined in my life. Even at my shyest, most insecure, I still dabbled in it in school. My friends knew I liked it, I just didn’t believe in myself at all.

“I think in senior year of high school I started to get a little bit more confident, and then I went to college, and I attribute it a lot to that,” she continues. “They didn’t have majors, so there wasn’t this pressure to decide what you are going to do. And hearing my friend at the time say he was going to focus on music made me think I would focus on music too. It just felt less scary, less of a commitment. I always had confidence in my singing voice, but I never had confidence in writing or felt capable of doing that. So, I was more willing to record covers because I was comfortable with my voice. I only started writing when I moved to Austin. I was 24 and was like, I need to start figuring this out. It’s been a slow journey, but I’ve got to a very different place to where I started.”

While Burch’s journey towards songwriting may have been slow, the one she has been on since has been anything but. Over the course of five albums in six years – including a 2022 Christmas album – she has evolved her sound in ways that some can only dream of. Where next, who knows? But if Daydreamer is anything to go by, there will no doubt be more coming along for the ride.