On “Promise,” the opening track from their sophomore album AH HA, Abby Huston takes on the voice of a brokenhearted tv-drama boy band character, very much in the same vein as Gilmore Girls’ Jesse. “Why don’t you love me, give me a reason why,” they sing solemnly, lamenting about unreturned love. Their tender words are surrounded by an eclectic mash of a hip-hop drumbeat, acoustic guitar strums, wandering piano bits, and jingle bells. Despite the jovial atmosphere, that touch of melodrama, which lingers in the corners of Huston’s songs, is a significant trademark for the Richmond-based musician. “If I’m writing a song, it’s gonna be a little moody,” Huston reveals, their words curling as they smile.
Huston doesn’t make pop-punk music—their music a mix of the softness found in R&B crooners and indie rock ballads— but their craft is indebted to the emo revival of the early 2000s. Their music might not recall the desperate howl of Gerard Way or the battle cry of Avril Lavigne, but Abby Huston wouldn’t be making music without their influence.
Huston grew up in Falls Church, VA where they picked up a guitar to perform My Chemical Romance’s “Summertime” for the eighth grade talent show. Progressing from covers to writing their own music around 16 years old. “I don’t know why music is the outlet. Partially because I’ve been so private about it, so embarrassed about the fact that I sing or want to sing,” they reveal. “But something in me still really wanted to sing and just working through that.”
It wasn’t until studying sculpture at VCU when Huston’s musical career started to fully form. They met their collaborator Cameron Smith, who also produces under the name Not Kevin, while working at the media lab. Smith produced Huston’s first album Rich, which was their love letter to the local music scene in Richmond. “I write music for me, but I put out music to be a part of the community that I’m in here,” they say.
Rich involved a cast of local musicians, and AH HA upholds Huston’s link with Richmond while also furthering their curiosity to work out the instincts of human nature within the constraints of a relationship—learning to place another’s needs before our own and carve out space to grow a connection. Seven of the nine tracks were written on guitar before connecting with Smith. The two that were written in the studio feature collaborators Not Kevin and Benét.
The songs first started to find their footing at the beginning of lockdown in Virginia. AH HA finds Huston teaming up with Smith again and Huston’s band composed of members Nathaniel Clark, Ryan Gary and Alec Gary, recording in their home studios which adds an intimate glow to the project. On several tracks, the natural world peers into the recordings—the radiating hum of cicadas appear in “Apartment.” “It feels very much like that time, where we were both out of work, the whole world had stopped and we’re just out in the countrystyle outskirts of Richmond, in the sun making music.”
The album’s title is a play on an old memory for Huston. Their first drumsticks were engraved with their initials. When they hit the instrument back and forth the initials not only represented their name but a saying of self-realizations they find while playing. In that regard, AH HA is a wink to their past self and recognition of how far their musical journey has come. For Huston, making music has always been: “About becoming your fullest self within who you want to be and working through all of the things that you don’t like about yourself. To do both the accepting of where you are and practicing being more at the same time is what it means to me.
SINGLES & RELEASE CALENDAR
July 13 – “Apartment” Single
August 17 – “Higher” Single + Album Announcement
Higher was such a pleasure to make with Cam and Benét. It was a kinda rainy day…Benét and I stepped out on the porch and wrote through the walls while Cam was laying the beat and we had a really beautiful conversation about how I had been feeling. Sometimes we aren’t feeling uplifted in our lives but ultimately it is only our onus to honor our worth and not internalize every little thing people could be thinking about us.
September 14 – “Promise“
It’s kinda funny, but this song came out of me in a vision where I imagined myself as a TV-drama, brokenhearted, boy band type character. At the time Cam and I were watching a lot of Gilmore Girls during studio meal breaks and watching the show as a kid, I always loved this bad boy character, Jessie, which cracks me up now. I guess I imagined myself as him a little bit because I also don’t understand why Rory left him for less of an artist. Cam stepped out for a minute to catch up with his sister and the mood and lyrics came over me. When he came back and I sang it for him and he brought in these keys that hit like the change of the seasons and the song developed from there, but this one in particular was a lot of fun to make. It’s so goofy. It reminds me of slow sunny days in our Richmond outskirts and finding things we can eat growing outside and playing pokemon emerald for the first time and tall grass and dogs and cats and our cars failing in rainstorms or sunshine.
October 12 – “Unrequited”
This song is about the end of a relationship when you’re not really sure how you feel about each other anymore. You’re trying to settle in the new territory of separation lovingly while dealing with a lot of mixed emotions. I think it was easy for me to write about accommodations through changes because I often ask for them or like for them to be asked for. A good friend emphasized the importance of understanding each other’s “wants, needs, and boundaries” so that’s something I try to remember to prioritize centering. Unrequited kinda covers the difficulties of checking in. Having Not Kevin as a feature on this song meant a lot to me because something consistent that I love about the music Cameron writes is its inspiring honesty. I don’t have much more to say about this song except that I am ISO a friend to help diagnose a BMW 325es from 1986. I have very little experience other than my middle name being Danger which I think will better suit the situation post repair.
Sept 15 – “Flowerland” Video