Preacher's Daughter walks a precarious line between infatuation and fear, capturing the complicated life of Ethel Cain as she traverses the country with her unnamed partner. To aid in her sonic efforts, Cain collaborated on Preacher’s Daughter with a number of talented multi-instrumentalists including Matt Tomasi and Colyer, with Ethel serving as producer and writer across every facet of the creation process for each record.
Providing her best vocals yet and an outstanding ability for lyricism, this record is a testament of the new narratives America needs to expand and diversify its pop culture.“Music will always be the closest I ever get to religion” Ethel Cain confides in the following interview. Finally, the day has come, and her long-awaited debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, is out now under her own label, Daughters of Cain.

Last year she released Inbred, an EP that anticipated what was in store for us and that united the critics with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Early 2022 she presented Gibson Girl, the first single off the album, a languid yet seductive single which begins to bite at the question: what happened to Ethel Cain?

Raised a backwoods churchgoer in the deep south, Ethel Cain combines elements of rock, country, and cinematic nostalgia with ethereal vocals and raw lyrics to create her unique sound. Serving as writer and producer, Cain is also the architect behind the gritty, haunting visual content that has amassed her loyal, growing following of fans, the Daughters of Cain.
Ethel faces the dichotomy between who she strives to be, and what she will ultimately become. Her lulling vocals beguile that which desires to consume her, desperate cooing entangles within a vicious and unflinching guitar that burns like red velvet. White Silas was the first musical project of Hayden Anhedönia, who seems to have dug deep in her history to articulate Ethel Cain’s work. This album is a bittersweet story, singles Strangers and American Teenager gave us a taste of what’s to find inside this Preacher’s Daugther. This is an album, but it’s also a movie, and it’s also literature.

Her relationship and experiences with romance, upbringing, religion, loss, and resilience are the main themes of this masterpiece with heartfelt moments in songs like Family Tree “These crosses all over my body remind me of who I used to be, let Christ forgive these sins I'm hiding and the bones I'm about to leave” or Sun Bleached Flies “What I wouldn’t give to be in church this Sunday listening to the choir so heartfelt all singing god loves you, but not enough to save you so baby girl, good luck taking care of yourself”.

Hayden describes Ethel Cain as “an amalgam” of her greatest wishes and her greatest fears. There’s room for what’s yet to come, but part of her identity is also what’s been lost along the way. It’s been a journey where she has developed a unique sound style lead by drums and rhythm beats, intertwined with the force of guitars and her voice. The album is atmospheric in its darkest places, virtuosic in its grand episodes some of them instrumentals (that piano on Televangelism, and that she-really-did-that tune called Ptolemanea.

Even if she doesn’t seem to think so, Ethel is a brilliant vocalist who displays all her singing skills, especially when they’re pushed through the story she tells; her own. Her husky and deep voice kicks in for the most decadent part of this record, yet an unexpected light vibrato comes in proving there’s hope and will to resist. When listening to Preacher’s Daughter you will feel like you’re travelling through Florida State Route 66 in the company of strong feelings on a very sunny day, which means dry weather but plenty of light on the horizon. From stunning riffs to bedroom pop to country to pure hardcore metal moments, we are in the presence of music that is unique. Through instinctual emotive songs and from the perspective of a working-class girl we receive a rare narration we hardly see amongst all the glitter and the bling in current pop culture.

We learn about her journey as a singer-producer, what influenced her debut album and her previous work, her favourite movie, her Britney cover, and why she is, also, a true artist; you can tell her most vulnerable work is her best. This is, definitely, her year.
Hi Ethel/Hayden! I’m so happy to have the chance to speak to you. How are you?
I’m wonderful! I can’t complain about anything, to tell the truth.
Your debut album Preacher’s Daughter is finally out after a lot of anticipation. It’s been four years in the making, and the result is absolutely brilliant. On top of that, the previous EPs and singles you’ve released the past few years have been exquisite. What is the feeling of finally putting the album out in the world like?
It's a huge relief! For a while, I was starting to wonder if I would ever finish it. It’s also kind of surreal, I almost feel like it isn’t actually happening. It’ll probably be a while before the reality of it all sets in (laughs).
The campaign for the album started with the disappearance of Ethel Cain. Do you think you’ve found yourself/herself in this record? Does it feel more like your/her own identity?
It’s definitely a little of both. I think of her life and story as parallel to my own. Different times, slightly different places, but we’re very intertwined. I’ve definitely learnt a lot about myself through the creation and development of this story. A lot of things I felt lost on have been revealed over the course of these past 4 years.
I feel this record is a little bit more luminous than your work before, there seems to be a higher pitch and range on your voice on it. Was that something intentional? In some points you provide with the strongest vocals of your whole career, and I wonder if you took this step for this album to showcase your abilities as a singer or was it something that came within natural progress creating the album? Have you already thought about what the tour is going to look like?
It was honestly just a subconscious result of the emotional nature of the album. I’m not a powerful vocalist by any means but the story is so full of anger and angst and fear that it just felt correct to have the songs reflect that. Lots of frustration coming out across the tracklist. I’m a little nervous to tour just because I’ll definitely have to push myself on what I’m capable of, both vocally and physically overall, but I think it’ll be a rewarding experience, nonetheless.
American Teenager is probably the best song of the year, it sounds big, your voice somehow sounds a bit more vulnerable than other times, and then there’s this line: “Jesus, if you're listening, let me handle my liquor. And Jesus, if you're there, why do I feel alone in this room with you. And I feel it there in the middle of the night, when the lights go out but I'm still standing here”. The song gets bigger as the impressive drums keep coming and the chorus just makes you want to be in a stadium watching you perform live as your whole fanbase raise their fist in front of the rockstar that you are. But this verse is so powerful yet so emotional. I think so many people could relate to it, not only because of the different reasons we might feel alone during our teenage years, but also as it deals with the figure of Jesus, that at some point has had a role in many kids’ lives, especially those who didn’t feel accepted. Can you tell us about how you came up with this song?
This was one of the last songs I wrote for the record. I knew it was going to be track 2, right there at the beginning, and I was looking at the rest of the record and all the events yet to come in the story, and I was just like wow. This is a nightmare. All these issues she’s going to have to confront that are, at the beginning of the story, still buried deep inside her. She’s angry, and frustrated, and drunk, and desperately trying to keep up. But she’s young and still full of that fire that tells her to keep fighting and convinces her that it’s all just a big game that she might as well try and win. So she’s grappling with all these fears but trying to make the absolute best of it that she can.
There’s romance in songs like A House in Nebraska “I still call home that house in Nebraska where we found each other on a dirty mattress on the second floor” and Western Night “you know I’ll still be right behind you riding through all these western nights”, the lyrics are so poetic. These verses sound cinematic, they take us a to the pain of ending relationships, and they have this road trip-esque vibe. Where do you normally find inspiration when it comes to love songs?
I have this bad habit of always focusing on the end of things right when they start. I get super anxious and can’t enjoy anything, no matter how short or long it may be, because all I can think about is how it will certainly end someday, one way or another. It was the downfall of every single romantic endeavour I had while writing this record, and I found myself living inside of that crumbling moment at the end that I knew was sure to come. It’s such a bittersweet feeling, the end of love. You just sit there, alone, with a million good memories that will only grow further away. That’s what I wanted these songs to sound like.
Family Tree is an incredible song, a journey on its own. It feels like a short story within the whole chapter that is the album, and inevitably it makes us wonder about your childhood. Hard times seems to be a song about the relationship of a girl to his father. How people from your upbringing have reacted to your music and your work?
I don’t really share my music with the people from my past. They may go listen to it on their own accord but we don’t really talk about it. They know I use music to cope with things from the past but we all choose to look forward to better days.
There’s so much vulnerability in your songs yet the images of Ethel Cain are not perceived as that all. I think you can find this dichotomy in both the first two singles Gibson Girl and Strangers. Where does Ethel start and where does Hayden Anhedönia end?
I honestly don’t think there is any hard line I could point out. She’s very much an amalgam of my greatest wishes and my greatest fears. She’s a shadow, a straw man, and a scapegoat. She’s everything I ever wanted to be and everything I couldn’t afford to become.
Your upbringing was very religious and there’s a lot of reference both in your music and your imaginary as an artist to religion and church. What is your relationship to religion now, and how do you think it affects your views, and your work? How did being in choir as a kid affect how you think about singing?
I don’t have much of a relationship to religion outside of my art these days. I’m just not entirely interested in it - besides creatively. I’d consider myself spiritual in a way that is very personal to me, but not religious. However, the music will always take me back to that incredibly emotional and devoted place that I found it. Music will always be the closest I ever get to religion.
You’ve mentioned in the past the importance that GarageBand had to you as a useful tool that help you shape yourself as a producer. What is, in general terms, your music process like when it comes to production baring this in mind? And why do you think women in music have to keep stating they produce their own stuff when they do, as men’s input are normally assumed?
GarageBand was very helpful for me when I was starting out. It made the transition to Logic much smoother, which in turn made the transition to Ableton much smoother. It’s definitely been a challenge learning how to produce with no outside guidance, but I think it’s led me into a lot of unique stylistic choices that have helped me to cement my own little unique sound. It’s easier to break the rules when you don’t know them! Also, I think that’s just a tale as old as time across the board with men (laughs). Women will always have to work twice as hard to get half the credit.
In some other interviews you commented on this record as it being a movie script. Imaginary and visuals are a strong part of your identity as an artist, but I wonder what your influences are when it comes to films and film directors.
I love Ridley Scott, Andrea Arnold, Harmony Korine, and quite a few others. I love really visceral, blunt storytelling. Thelma & Louise was a huge inspiration to me as I wrote this record. It will always be my favourite film of all time.
You were recently chosen as Spotify EQUAL ambassador for International Women’s day becoming the first transgender woman to do this. Given the rise in hate and attacks towards the LGTBQ community that we’re facing all over the world lately, was it important for you to be included for this cause?
I did appreciate the highlight very much. I love to see trans artists popping up as their unique selves across all industries and crafts, and I love when they get their time in the sun. Representation absolutely matters.
You released your cover of Britney’s Everytime for this day, which is just dreamy and gorgeous, so beautiful, congratulations! Britney Spears has gone through so much controversy during the years, and at some point, because of the relationship to religion for herself and her music. Somehow, she was marketed at the beginning of her career as a “Christian girl”, and then took a lot of hate from Christians once she started to appear sexier and more empowered through her songs and videos. Why did you choose to cover this song, and how was the process of recording it?
It’s such a beautiful ballad that you can tell Britney wrote straight from the heart. I’m a huge fan of very vulnerable works because I feel like it’s more indicative of who an artist truly is more than any of their other works. It was an easy choice, and bringing it to life with all the guitars and little synths was very fun to put together.
How important is Crush to you, the song from your EP Inbred? It was one of your most praised songs from music critics last year ahead of your new album. Did it feel like the song that would make you when you released it, or was it chance that it became a stand out single?
I figured it would probably be the standout track from the EP just because of the nature of the song, and I was very ok with that (laughs). I made it short and fun on purpose because I feel like that’s a sound I never really let myself do, so it was fun to play around with it for once.
The themes on your songs are far distant from the glamour, expensive cars and rich hotels that a lot of the current singers talk about. You seem to have a realist perception of what the world is like for the working class, and a great example for that is your song God’s Country. Is it important for you to portray this side of America through your work?
It is! My entire family is full of blue-collar workers and I’ve never really been one for luxury and whatnot. It’s not really all that appealing to me. I feel like the stories and the experiences of America’s lower class are painfully missing from the spotlight, and I think that’s a shame.
Ethel, thank you so so much for this. Best of luck with the album, we can’t wait to see you live performing it. Have a great day!
Thanks so much for having me!
Preachers’ Daughter is out now. Listen to it on Spotify. More about Ethel Cain on her website and Instagram page.
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