Blair Borax: Harmony, Heartache, and the Soundtrack of Self-Belief
Portland’s Blair Borax talks with Indie/Alt about her upcoming album, Tender Lately, her latest single “Call Me Lazy”, and her years-long journey to finding herself in her sound and her music. Photos courtesy Blair Borax.
When I talked with Portland singer-songwriter Blair Borax in late September, she had just got back from a two week tour in Colorado.
“It feels like I’ve been on and off tour for like a whole year,” Borax said. “I mean, since I quit my teaching job last June. So a year and some change ago. And since then I’ve done a West Coast tour three times, Colorado tour twice, and a little East Coast tour as well.”
After around six tours plus many Pacific Northwest shows, having a break is just what Borax needed. Especially being, amongst the touring, she had also been recording her new album, Tender Lately.
“It’s been a very busy year,” Borax said. “We’ve been working on this for a little over a year now, just kind of fitting in session as we can. So it’s been a slow roll with it, but it’s been really fun.”
Borax’s latest single from the record, “Call Me Lazy”, which dropped on September 29, finds its origins on the road. At the beginning of this year, Borax moved into her new apartment, throwing her stuff quickly into the new space before immediately leaving for another tour—a residency at Suttle Lodge in Sisters. Staying in a little cabin on the lake, it was there that Borax found time to focus on her art, making a goal to write a song everyday.
“I was there for 13 days,” Borax said, “and I wrote a song for the first 11 days, and then on the 12th day, I practiced them all.”
On the 13th day of her residency, Borax performed all of her newly written songs for the audience at the Lodge.
“I actually had never done that before,” Borax said. “Since they were all brand new songs, I was like, maybe it would be fun to have people vote on their favorites. So I actually printed out lyric sheets for all of them, kind of had a sort of art gallery of the lyrics sheets, and then had people vote on their favorite.”
At the end of the show, “Call Me Lazy” ended up being a crowd favorite. Which is fortunate, as Borax said, it was her favorite of all of them as well.
The song itself came out of a time when Borax was feeling very jaded on dating. After not being in a relationship for a while, she started to think about finally putting herself back out there. But in the aftermath of a “wasn’t-the-best” relationship, the prospect was, understandably, daunting.
“I just don’t know if I want to try to meet people and open my heart to getting hurt again,” Borax recalled thinking. “So [the song] is kind of like a little joyful take on that feeling of… call me lazy, but there ain’t no heart on my sleeve no more.”
Backing Borax’s earnest songwriting and light vocals is a production that matches the feeling well, featuring guitar by Borax herself, drums by Micha Hummel, bass by James Villa, and the perfect trumpet melody from Jordan Vale of Mr. Vale’s Math Class.
“It’s been fun with this song and the album in general,” Borax said. “With the first album [2022’s Keep Walking], it was my first full-length record, and I hadn’t really been in the studio that much. But with this record, I feel like I’ve been learning to trust my own voice and express my own ideas in the studio.”
Whereas Borax’s debut had more pop production, Tender Lately has a more acoustic feel, one that is more reflective of Borax herself and her live sound. The earthier, more organic feel to the record also meant more opportunities for session musicians, such as Alexis Mahler on violin and cello for single “While the World Grew Wicked”.
Taking her sound in this new direction, one more true to herself, is just one of the many ways Borax has grown as an artist and individual over the past several years, since the last time we talked—before her debut album, when her 2020 single “Empty” had been released.
“At that time, I was a yoga teacher and a lot of those songs were reflective of that journey for me,” Borax said. “And now I’ve left that identity and that path behind in a lot of ways, and I’m just trying to make music that’s more relatable to the collective universal human experience.”
For Borax, quitting her teaching job was a step into believing in herself and her music, enough to know she can do it full time and put her everything into her art. It’s all evident in her new music, both recorded and live. Though as Borax said, growing her confidence is still a constant practice, where she is now and where she’s heading is more her than ever before, and the best of Borax is still to come down the road.
Tender Lately will be released in early 2024. An album release show will be planned for February. Catch Borax when she plays the Show Bar in Portland, OR with Alex Dunn on November 3. For tickets and to keep up with Borax online, visit blairborax.com, or follow her on Patreon for exclusive content at patreon.com/BlairBorax.
Bren Swogger (they/them) is the creator and editor of Indie/Alt Magazine. Bren started Indie/Alt as a music blog during their sophomore year of high school, and after a long hiatus, relaunched it as an online entertainment magazine in 2021 for their capstone project at Pacific University. After 10 years in the music journalism industry, Bren has a long-standing passion for live music, but also loves to explore their passion for other artistic outlets. You can find Bren writing voraciously, adding to their never-ending stack of TBRs, and marathoning classic horror films.