Songwriter Archer Frodyma ’22 conceived of the idea for her debut album’s title track when, rummaging through a closet, she discovered a box of old letters belonging to her mother.
As Frodyma poured over the correspondence, she reflected on the changing nature of romantic communication in the internet age. Other songs on the album “Send My Love Away” — released on Spotify on Dec. 31 — draw inspiration from seemingly disparate places, like a tragic novel about a lonely Italian hotelier, or what she felt upon leaving Chicago.
Frodyma wrote her first song in the fourth grade, soon after learning to play the guitar. The song, called “Back and Forth,” was about her friends slowly growing apart.
Before her mother would allow Frodyma to learn guitar — now her principal instrument — her mom told her she must first become proficient in upright bass. Though Frodyma hated the bass as a child, Taylor Swift and her own desire to write songs inspired her to continue playing. The bass became an important part of her life, exposing her to classical music and connecting her to her musical contemporaries in her hometown in Cleveland.
Frodyma first attempted to record and compile her songs in the seventh grade after receiving funding from her middle school. Her high school’s thriving performing arts program and recording studio supported her similarly as she created “Send My Love Away.” Many of the voice and guitar parts were recorded at Yale, and later paired with the instrumental tracks recorded back in Cleveland. During her first year and a half of college, she was able to assemble these remote pieces into her vision for her album.
Frodyma finished “Send My Love Away” only a month ago, but described it as a “time capsule of all the music [she] was making in high school.” Though she is very proud of the album, she said its songs are very different from the ones she writes today.
The album’s acoustic-based songs are most often composed of the acoustic and electric guitars, the drums, the upright bass, the cello and her voice. They ring nostalgic, angry, passionate, romantic and sad. However, underlying every song about heartbreak and loss is the sense that Frodyma has a profound understanding of her own self-worth. For example, in “All the Best” she only bemoans the loss of a lover for a short time before rallying again: “You don’t deserve someone as amazing as me/ I know my worth/ And let me just say it, I’m out of your league.”
This tension of wanting love and male attention, while also rejecting its control is present throughout her songs. In “A Woman Now,” she asks a friend critical questions about their relationship with a man. “Does his love give you a reason to be proud?” she asks. “Do you feel like you’re a real woman now?”
Frodyma’s songs often oscillate between pared down instrumentation that leaves her voice exposed and heavily layered backup instrumentation that weave together buzzing guitar static and multiple vocal tracks. Yet even when these elements of her songs are compiled, her voice is the prioritized instrument.
Frodyma is a tenor in Doox of Yale and plays the string bass in the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
“She’s a fantastic performer — she’s a very experienced singer, so when she performs she’s very charismatic,” Doox musical director PJ Frantz ’22 said. “She’s very relatable, but really draws people’s attention in a certain way.”
Frantz added that Frodyma draws from an impressive array of sources. President of the YSO Epongue Ekille ’21 concurred, saying that although the overarching genre of the album is pop, its rock, jazz and classical influences are palpable.
Ekille said that Frodyma’s non-pop influences are particularly apparent in the instrumentation of the song “Sunday Afternoon.”
The song uses a Rhodes piano, which Ekille said is “usually used in churches, especially black churches, so it brought to the song a very soulful feeling.” She added that it positions the listener “outside of the words, outside of the tempo.”
Frodyma cites her classical education as having shaped her musical style, along with artists Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Lianne La Havas.
When Frodyma plays live, she uses only her voice and her guitar. In 2019, she performed gigs both at Yale and in the greater New Haven area. This year, she said that she hopes to perform more gigs and to collaborate with other musicians at Yale, something she has not done much of in the past. This is in part because she often feels uncomfortable asking friends for help performing.
“I even feel a little strange asking my musician friends to play my own songs, though I’m sure they would be willing to,” she said. She added that she feels similarly about introducing her work out to the world.
“I think, especially as a woman, it can be hard to be totally confident about it and just shamelessly plug your work,” Frodyma said. “It’s something that I’m working on.”
Frodyma said her vision for her next album is coalescing. She has already roused her listening base with live performances of her new song, titled “September,” which will be officially released this spring.