Juana Everett: Learning to Move On by Using Pain as Creative Fuel

by | Apr 15, 2021 | Interviews and Features

Moving on is supposed to be an alleviating experience. It’s supposed to be about leaving what no longer serves us, abandoning the dark and stepping into the light, detaching from the past and embracing a brighter future.

Sounds nice, but that’s rarely what it actually feels like. Instead, moving on can sometimes be messy, lonely and terrifying. And yet: we do it anyway.

When Juana Everett transplanted to Los Angeles from Madrid back in 2016, she left her home and a familiar music scene in favor of a foreign, complex, sprawling city in a country whose intensifying divisiveness was beginning to boil over. For Everett, moving on meant plunging herself into the volatile unknown, and she took it as a challenge.

“I’ve had a lot of anxieties since I was a little kid,” she says. “My relationship with fear started at a very young age. I became very aware of the power of fear and how it can stop us from being bold and exposing ourselves. So I’ve been on a quest to fight fear from a very early age. I’m kind of turned on by it.”

In between work and study, Everett made it her mission to dive into LA’s music scene. But it wasn’t an easy task, considering how complex the layout of the city is. Its music community is pocketed away across various neighborhoods, and in a town that isn’t as walkable as Madrid, finding her bearings took some time. She found herself shuttling between Echo Park to Highland Park, Hollywood to Silver Lake, discovering what the city’s communities of musicians had to offer.

With determination, Everett’s strategy was to dive in, visit different venues and recording studios, and start conversations with complete strangers.

“It’s been a lot of grinding,” she says, “going out every night and exposing myself, being bold enough to jump in and talk to someone.”

Networking is an essential skill for any craftsperson on a career path. But as anyone who has relocated to a major city can attest to, sometimes the most crowded places can be the most isolating. There was a lot of loneliness in the beginning of the transition, Everett said, and while she was meeting a lot of people, finding friends wasn’t effortless.

As a way to cope, she turned to her guitar.

“I did write a lot,” she said. “It was a very tumultuous time, and writing was a way to survive, really. I would rely on music a lot, and I wrote songs to express all of these feelings.”

The result is the aptly-named Move On, Everett’s first full-length album released earlier this year. Within it, Everett takes the same approach to her songwriting that she has with her life: be exposing, be bold. Lyrics of drifting through a new city, leaving home, searching for stability, ditching false love and pursuing honesty are enveloped by folk rock guitar riffs, an atmospheric jam band, and alluring vocals. The record is as warm as it is raw, and practically begs to be played live.

That sound is the result of Everett’s persistence to navigate a notoriously brusque social scene. Guitarist Bart Davenport became her tether in LA as someone she had already known from back in Spain (he actually encouraged Everett to make the Los Angeles move, she says), while new friends Andres Renteria, Aaron Olson and Josh Nelson landed on drums, bass and piano, respectively. After making her way into working for Talley Sherwood’s Tritone Recording Studio in Glendale, Everett had found her tribe to create the record she came to Los Angeles to make.

“I definitely did find a family, and a group of people willing to help me make this record a reality,” she says. “I felt validated. These people are proving to myself that these songs are worth it.”

Move On feels like flipping through the pages of a personal diary filled with reminiscent poems and intimate musings. While Everett’s songwriting is front-and-center on the record, she says it was certainly a collaborative initiative to bring her demos to life. With everyone in the studio, the music came together quite organically, she says, and while she had some notes on the kind of instrumentation she wanted for a few tracks, her band took her vision and ran with it.

Ultimately, it only took a few days in Renteria’s rehearsal space to compose all nine songs on the record.

“It was an intuitive process,” says Everett. “That’s why I think the songs have worked out so well. It was all very organic and not over-thought.”

Live-tracking breathed “a special kind of life” into the album’s overall sound, she noted, and indeed, adds a texture and a vulnerability to Move On that enhances its ability to reach out and connect. You feel as though you’re in the room with Everett and her band, an experience that remains devastatingly impossible as COVID keeps venue doors locked up.

Losing the ability to perform live wasn’t the only pandemic-related challenge she faced. The record, she says, was actually supposed to have been released several months prior as she took a wait-and-see approach to how the crisis unfolded. But after recognizing that an end to the ongoing tragedy remains in the distance, she could no longer keep a possessive grip on Move On.

With the music finally out, Everett plans to continue to write and produce music as she waits for concerts to become a reality again, excited to share both acoustic renderings of tracks like “Light Up A Fire” and “Drifter Of Love” as well as full-band performances of songs like “Little Tragedies.”

Meanwhile, she’s in search of other avenues to share the record. Live streaming isn’t really her thing, she says, pointing to the risks of losing Wi-Fi and the inability for platforms like Instagram to capture the intricacies of the sound.

“I see myself not being engaged by live streams. My attention doesn’t last long, because the quality of the audio is not crazy-good,” she explains. “I’m thinking about putting out a few videos of me playing these songs acoustically. I’m trying to figure out how to help people connect with this album in different ways, besides the recorded songs themselves.”

Juana Everett may have left her past behind, but there are plenty more unknowns in her future. Fostering up the courage to keep moving on will be something we all need in the coming months. Yes, with every dark phase of life, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Finding that light isn’t guaranteed to be a painless experience, but it will be worth it.

As the world feels around in the dark for a way out of the trauma, we’ll have to gather our collective strength to face inevitable adversity, recover from loss, and press forward. It’s hard, but we do it anyway, because that’s how we make progress.

For Everett, moving on means many things. It means physically shifting locations, leaving toxic relationships and negativity, and keeping her gaze forward in pursuit of a more genuine existence. It wasn’t easy, and it also doesn’t necessarily end: the pains of progress are relentless, and new journeys will always unfold. But after initially holding on to the album, she realized there is no time like the present, and now, she’s ready for another beginning.

“I needed to put the record out. I needed to let go of it,” she says. “Now, I can move on to something new.”

Follow on Instagram @juanaforeverett

Photos by Zach Bell