Squirrel Flower
I Was Born Swimming
Jan 31, 2020

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    Clear Teal w/ White Smoke
    • Limited to 300.
    • First Pressing.
    • Polyvinyl Exclusive.
    • Includes Bonus 7" Flexi with “Tougher Than the Rest,” a Bruce Springsteen cover.
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    Rust & Blue
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All formats include instant download of "Red Shoulder."

Full album download (MP3 and WAV) available 1/31/20.

Pre-orders will ship on 01/22/2020

Ella O’Connor Williams, also known as Squirrel Flower, was born on August 11th 1996, the hottest day of the year, still inside of a translucent caul sac membrane, surrounded by amniotic fluid. Born with a membrane between her and the rest of the world, yet still very much connected to and dependent on a larger life force. It’s this origin story that inspired the name of Squirrel Flower’s new album I Was Born Swimming.

Williams comes from a deep-rooted musical family tree. Her grandparents were classical musicians who lived in the Gate Hill Co-op, an artistic cooperative from upstate New York that grew out of Black Mountain College. Ella’s father, Jesse Williams, spent most of his life as a touring jazz and blues performer and educator, and lends his bass playing to the album (listen for his smooth solo on “Headlights”). Growing up in a family of hard working musicians fostered a love of music and started Williams down her own musical path. As a child, Williams adopted the alter ego of Squirrel Flower. A couple years later, she began singing with the Boston Children’s Chorus while studying music theory and teaching herself to play the guitar. As a teen, she discovered the Boston DIY and folk music scenes and began writing, recording, and performing her own songs, now returning to the name Squirrel Flower as her chosen moniker. By the time Williams had begun performing live, recording and touring she was already well on her way to the signature artful songcraft heard on the album.

Squirrel Flower’s music is ethereal and warm, gushing with emotional depth that the listener can step into like a warm bath. The band on I Was Born Swimming plays with delicate intention, keeping the arrangements natural and light. The album was tracked live, with few overdubs, at The Rare Book Room Studio in New York City with producer Gabe Wax (Adrienne Lenker, Palehound, Cass McCombs). The musicians were selected by Wax and folded themselves into the songs effortlessly. At the heart of the album lives Williams’ massive, haunted vibrating voice and melancholic, soulful guitar playing. The sounds expand and contract over diverse moods, cutting loose on the heavier riffs of “Red Shoulder” or “Streetlight Blues,” both recorded in her hometown of Boston, and holding back with atmospheric restraint on “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or “Belly Of The City”.

I Was Born Swimming begins with an Iowa drive down I-80 and continues to travel, poetically, between her college town of Grinnell Iowa, Boston, MA and New York City where the album was recorded. Throughout the 12 songs, landscapes change and relationships shift, “There’s so much in the record about movement and stagnation. Feeling stuck, needing to move, needing to stay still, swimming, falling, running, growing, etc etc.” said Williams. The album’s lyrics feel like effortless expressions of exactly the way it feels to change — abstract, sad and hopeful.

Williams eventually returns to the image of her in the sac; born swimming, knowing how to exist, love herself, and not needing anyone else to do it for her.

Born swimming in blue water

Didn’t ever need another

Now I live underwater.

Heat’s rising

Can you see it shimmer?

I’m spinning

Can you see me shimmer?

I’m moving faster than it

Can you see me shimmer?

So dip me in the water.


  • 1
    I-80 (2:40)
  • 2
    Red Shoulder (3:14)
  • 3
    Slapback (2:45)
  • 4
    Eight Hours (2:29)
  • 5
    Headlights (2:34)
  • 6
    Honey, Oh Honey! (1:13)
  • 7
    Seasonal Affective Disorder (3:39)
  • 8
    Home (3:24)
  • 9
    Streetlight Blues (3:35)
  • 10
    Rush (3:05)
  • 11
    Belly of the City (4:46)
  • 12
    I Was Born Swimming (1:35)


"a new artist to love"


"Glorious... vulnerable, relatable, and hauntingly visceral indie rock that is alternately soaring and devastating."

Gorilla vs. Bear

"[Squirrel Flower] made a splash with lead single “Red Shoulder,” a wrenching rock tune that pairs her poised vocals with scorching guitars, sounding astoundingly alive. “Headlights,” Williams’ new track, is practically its opposite—a soft, shimmering track that proves she’s just as excellent in the realm of tender introspection."


"Boston-based singer-songwriter Ella O'Connor Williams’s songs extrapolate big feeling from small beginnings. “Red Shoulder” is no different, delivering a gut-punch ending to an all-too-familiar tale of lost love."


"a lyricist who searches for emotional truths"


"“Headlights” is a sparse, meditative track, primarily driven by Williams’ vocals and flickering guitar notes. It’s a misty composition that sounds like the kind of headspace you enter while in transit, on a journey between things that might be meaningless or might turn out to be momentous."


"“Headlights” is a sparse, meditative track, primarily driven by Williams’ vocals and flickering guitar notes. It’s a misty composition that sounds like the kind of headspace you enter while in transit, on a journey between things that might be meaningless or might turn out to be momentous."


"“Red Shoulder” opens with a muddy guitar riff that recedes under Williams’ impassioned voice. “I reach back and fall down,” she sings before the track explodes into a huge, fuzzed-out riff."


"Williams allows the song to rise and fall with the push and pull of her pain, delivering vulnerable moments of honesty and then brushing them aside with strident and empowering rock bluster."

The 405 on "Red Shoulder"

"This cohesive playing comes from Williams’ decision to record these songs live, with few overdubbed elements. The result is a raw sound that avoids the sterility of excessive production techniques.”


"Sounds a bit like if Mitski or Lucy Dacus was backed by a band comprised of disciples of midwestern emo, which is to say that it sounds excellent."

UPROXX on "Red Shoulder"
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  • Red Shoulder (3:18)
  • Headlights (3:49)
    Bao Ngo