She knows she’s funny, haha: An interview with Faye Webster

Illustration of singer-songwriter Faye Webster in the style & posing of her 'I Know I'm Funny Haha' album cover.
Cynthia Shi/Staff

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“Like, what the f— does that mean?” Faye Webster laughed in her interview with The Daily Californian. She’s referring to the term “singer-songwriter,” which she says doesn’t resonate with her personally. “Every musician is a singer-songwriter. I don’t know. I just say, ‘I play guitar and sing.’ ”

She gave a short laugh, the unabashed sort that accompanies a one-shouldered shrug — it’s the same wonderfully dry “haha” that crowns her latest album I Know I’m Funny haha. As her composure unravels into warm lucidity, the record certifies Webster as a master of simplicity.

It’s unquestionable that Haha is her most honest work yet, and even Webster herself has noticed her growth as an artist. A few years ago when her 2017 self-titled album was re-pressed to vinyl, she listened to it for the first time in a long while.

“I was like, ‘I literally don’t know what I’m talking about,’ ” Webster said. “Just because it’s so vague. (With) AMC, I started to get a hang of it and really found that I really just liked being more upfront.”

AMC, or her third studio record Atlanta Millionaires Club, marked what Webster considers the beginning of her more deeply personal songwriting. Initially, it was difficult for her to openly share such personal experiences — so much so that she used to cringe when playing her music for family.

“I would text my brothers and be like, ‘Do you think this person would, like, be offended if I said this about them?’ ” Webster added. “But now it’s like, it just feels better that way.”

Beyond finding solace in vulnerability, Webster also finds comfort in her home. It’s where she prefers to write and record; in fact, after booking a studio during the pandemic to work on Haha, she ended up returning home and recording vocals on GarageBand.

“There’s no one else that knows me as well as I do,” Webster said with a matter-of-factness somehow both wry and modest. “I have to be in my house to really perform and sing the way that I think will best represent me.”

In one of the first songs Webster wrote for Haha, she sings “I don’t get the point of leaving my house/ ’Cause I always come back.” The circular scene depicts her loyalty to the familiar, a fidelity heightened by the pandemic. During quarantine, Webster passed time playing chess, perfecting her latest yo-yo trick or gaming.

“I do spend literally most hours of my day playing video games on tour or off tour. But I’ve been doing more trading card stuff for Pokémon, and trying to not spend so much time on the video games,” Webster said, quickly adding, “but I still do.”

The admission was leisurely and off-the-cuff, much like Webster’s songwriting style — frank, earnest and strikingly savvy in quiet moments of normalcy, just enough to fracture regularity. Though it’s easy to get lost amid the disarray of the everyday, Webster gently tweezes creative threads from her sentience. She often writes immediately as inspiration strikes, and sometimes a simple observation is all it takes to prompt creativity.

“I was, like, truly bothered by the way that my neck smelled,” Webster laughed, remembering how a lover’s lingering scent prompted her to write AMC track “Right Side Of My Neck.” “Yeah, I definitely wrote that whole song in like 15 minutes, just one sitting. Like immediately.”

Webster attributes her confidence to the hospitality of her hometown’s creative scene. She formerly worked as a photographer in Atlanta, snapshotting artists from Lil Yachty to EarthGang. Though she began with relatively little experience, artists welcomed her — occasionally to a surprising extent, as a simple direct message led to her sifting through Offset’s closet for a photoshoot.

In particular, she remembered Killer Mike’s openness in helping build not only her portfolio, but also her confidence.

“He’s like, ‘Yes, I believe in you. And I believe in the creatives in the city.’ … It was just really inspiring,” Webster said. “Because all these people have done that for me, I feel like that’s kind of what I’ve been hoping to do for other people.”

Webster, an ambivert, holds a determined affinity for reciprocity, which is perhaps why custom fan gifts — a Haha yo-yo, birthday cupcakes — feel extra sweet. Just as her discography glides from country-soul to folksy R&B, Webster herself freewheels with a blithe versatility, one that immediately puts the people closest to her at ease.

“The only thing that doesn’t make me insane is being around friends and family. But I’m also, like, ‘Yeah, if I don’t know you, I don’t,’ ” Webster said. “I’m not going out and meeting new people … I don’t go out, really. Unless it’s just, like, to eat.”

Or unless it’s to tour. Travel offers an appreciated shift in routine, though old habits die hard; marvelously, Webster’s most recent tour updates were announced via nothing other than PictoChat on Nintendo DS — an apt metaphor for leveling up. Webster’s spring tour kicked off last week in opposition to her homebody propensities, and in May, she’ll open for pop rock band HAIM.

“Every time I tour, I just feel, like, a bit of purpose,” Webster said. “It’s nice to kind of feel that again.”

Webster will tour at The New Parish Feb. 11.

Taila Lee is a deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @tailalee.