FLYER Q&A: Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams talks new album, show prep and a Fayetteville ghost story

Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower (Courtesy photo)

Squirrel Flower‘s newest record “Tomorrow’s Fire” was one of my favorite records of 2023.

The song “Full Time Job” blasts off immediately, and the epic “When A Plant Is Dying” starts out feeling small until it bursts out into Neil Young territory.

“Alley Light” and “Intheskatepark” are the most anthemic Squirrel Flower songs yet, while the album closer “Finally Rain” will have you wanting to start it all over again.

Trust me – have a listen ASAP and turn it up. It also made Best Of 2023 lists from Amoeba Music, Under The Radar, Rolling Stone, Stereogum, Vogue, PASTE and more.

And luckily for us, Squirrel Flower is back in Fayetteville on Thursday, Feb. 8 at George’s Majestic Lounge with Greg Mendez. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 7 p.m.

Advanced tickets are $16 and it’s $18 the day of the show (buy tickets here). Aged 18+ will be admitted.

I talked with Ella Williams of Squirrel Flower before her winter 2024 tour:

On The Map Presents:

Who: Squirrel Flower / Greg Mendez
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8
Where: George’s Majestic Lounge
Tickets: $16-$18 at

Hi Ella. Do you make new year’s resolutions? If so, I hope yours are going better than mine.

This year I didn’t make any. I’m not sure why! Maybe I’m tired of feeling let down when I don’t follow through with them.

Your new record Tomorrow’s Fire is a lot heavier than Planet(i), did you set out to make a rock record or was that an accidental process?

The songs themselves felt like they needed it. They came out wanting to be loud. I also wanted to take louder elements of past albums (‘Planet i’ and ‘i was born swimming’ both get pretty loud at points), and push it further, have it encapsulate more of the album. Wanted to leave it all out there and go as hard as I could really!

Tomorrow’s Fire made a ton of Best Of 2023 lists (including my personal list). How does it feel to get that much praise so soon after the release?

You know, it feels amazing. First and foremost I make music for myself but it still feels amazing to see how the album connected with so many people. I saw a tweet that was like ‘I love year end list season because it reminds me that music is a competition.’ It does sort of feel that way, absurd and strange, but it also feels good to be included haha.

You’re about to leave for a month of shows – do you have any pre-tour rituals you can share? Are there any Squirrel Flower van activities you’re looking forward to? And what’s the first thing you look out for in a new town?

To be honest, I’ve gotten rid of pre-show rituals recently. I used to get really intense about it, try and get in THE ZONE, try and focus all my energy, but I found it made me tense up too much. I play a better show when I just go out there and do my thing, relaxed.

That said, I do some crazy vocal warmups. At this point my band is very familiar with them and sometimes they sing along. It’s a lot of vocal fry and a lot of yelping. I also cover myself in lavender essential oil.

The first thing I look for in a new town is usually a nice lil spot of nature, I always notice how a place smells too. If the air smells good, it’s gonna be a good night.

I’ve also been thinking about getting a math workbook for the van to pass the time.

I hear you had a ghostly encounter at Mount Sequoyah Center the last time you played Fayetteville – what happened? Is it too scary to share? Should we include that in future Haunted Tours of Fayetteville?

This is one of my favorite stories to tell. Last time we played Fayetteville, almost 2 years ago, we stayed at Mount Sequoyah. Jacob, my drummer, slept under this little blue mirror that was above the bed. At 3am on the dot, he woke up cackling. Nobody knew what was going on but I was terrified. The next morning, we all had different stories about what happened. He thought he was awake before he laughed, but Victoria my bass player said she heard him snoring. For the next week, the lights would flicker everywhere we went. We had technical issues at all the shows, one night the entire PA cut off out of nowhere. We were definitely dealing with some sort of possession. When we got to California, we stayed in a motel that had an oil painting of a cowboy on a horse. Jacob was immediately drawn to it, went up to it, was touching it, etc. After that, we had no more problems.

So we think the spirit hitched a ride via Jacob to experience the Cali lifestyle, and went from Jacob into the painting.

We love Tenci and Horsegirl. What other Chicago bands should we be listening to?

Chicago bands are the gift that keeps on giving. Too many to mention but some of my favs right now are Moontype, Kara Jackson, Interlay, Dearly Somber, Nnamdi, TV Buddha.

Greg Mendez, who also released a great record in 2023, is joining you at George’s on Feb. 8. We’ve had his song Goodbye/Trouble stuck in our heads for a while now. What’s your favorite song of his and is there a standout lyric for you?

Greg is so good! Best Behavior destroys me. ‘You got a Big New Job so now you can act like it’s all right/But it’s not/It’s never gonna be all right’

What have you been reading and watching lately? Are there any books or films you can recommend?

I recently watched Andrei Rublev, a Tarkovsky film. I’m reading a book of Leonard Cohen poetry right now. Would recommend both!

Do you have any unexpected influences as a songwriter? Or any artists you secretly love but rarely talk about?

This is a good question..I think a main unexpected influence of mine is ghosts actually.

What are your plans for 2024?

Touring and making music! I have some really exciting things happening that I can’t talk about.