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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Few artists can write songs that seem to tenderly make up the entire cornerstone of the human experience. Fewer artists can deliver those songs in a way that’s equally as moving, but for Anna Tivel, the feat seems to come as naturally as breathing. 

Tivel is a folk singer-songwriter from La Conner, Washington, and has released six albums over the past 10 years, her most recent being “Outsiders” (2022). I first saw Tivel perform last spring and thought of her immediately as a poet who just happened to play guitar and sing. She opened for Christian Lee Hutson and Fenne Lily at Bluebird Theater, and closed her set with “American Novella,” a heart wrenching song about vast beaches, metal rolling beds, unspoken words and white hair. I was frantically wiping away tears by the end. I thought about that song the rest of the night and listened to her music all summer. 

A month ago, when I saw that she was coming to Boulder to do a joint performance with Mick Flannery, I bought a ticket right away. The concert was at eTown Hall, which, embarrassingly, I’d never heard of, despite having lived in Boulder the past two-and-a-half years. eTown is a former church transformed into a world-class live music venue, full service recording studio and community center. Expectedly, the atmosphere was as sweet as Tivel’s performance. The hall was up the stairs from the lobby, sitting above a small basement with a bar and a few tables. I ventured down there first, happy to see a long table displaying merchandise for Flannery and Tivel. I asked the vendor for the white “Outsiders” tee shirt in a small and he rummaged behind the counter for a second before starting toward the back. 

“Let me grab Anna and see if she has any more.”

Tivel came out with my shirt, her long hair in waves like she’d just taken out a braid. 

“Hi!” she exclaimed warmly, like she knew me. I was starstruck despite her humility. I think all I ended up saying was, “I saw you last spring in Denver!” and she recalled, “Oh, yes, that was such a fun show,” like we’d interacted then, too. Her demeanor was as lovely and serene as her music. 

Tivel began her set by sharing that she’d learned something interesting that morning about spiderwebs: that they are, apparently, an accurate sample of all living things in an area.

“So maybe soon a spider will spin a web in here and we’ll all be preserved,” she speculated. I thought that was a weirdly comforting sentiment. 

Many of Tivel’s songs are image-centric and weave complete stories into clear, gentle vocals that swell and stretch with the evanescence of her worlds and the aches of her characters. At eTown, she told of a wrongful conviction in a lonely Bible Belt town (“Black Umbrella”), a theater custodian singing to a phantom audience (“Velvet Curtain”) and a long-awaited wedding day (“Lillian & Martha”). Many of these chronicles left listeners suspended in a moment of introspective silence before the next began. 

But her earnest show didn’t go without a little humor. She said her mother had made a pass about her daughter’s lack of upbeat songs, so Tivel joked, “Here’s a song you can twerk to” as she strummed the opening chords to “Worthless.” And then: “I won’t look.” The song was hardly buoyant; it features jazzy percussion, sure, but the lyrics describe, in Anna-Tivel-fashion, cracked dead earth, a fuse box and clouds of smoke.  

Before she played her final song — a new one about the heaviness of being human and the vitality of self-efficacy — she introduced it as an homage to how miraculous it is that “any of us even got born.” I left feeling like my life had acquired some sort of newfound fragility, or maybe gravity. I was enchanted by the sympathetic eye Tivel famously casts toward losers, lovers, dreamers and heroes through her music, and I’m sure each of those things will someday be fossilized in the venue’s collective spiderweb. 

Sydney is a contributing writer and Editor in Chief for Her Campus (CU Boulder). She joined Her Campus during her first semester of freshman year, and her favorite things to write are concert/album reviews, reflective essays and pieces about local events or organizations. She loves getting to empower women to explore their voices and contribute their insights. When she's not writing or studying, you can find her taking photos, hiking or trying her hand at barre chords on guitar. Sydney is currently a junior majoring in strategic communication and pursuing minors in journalism and creative writing. She is a Norlin Scholar, an active member of PRSSA and interned with Renewable Energy Systems' marketing department over the summer. Following undergrad, she hopes to combine her passions for creative writing, public relations strategy and clean energy to ensure a brighter future for upcoming generations. While she's not writing or studying, you can find her playing music, attending concerts around Denver, shooting senior portraits, hiking at Chautauqua or spending time with her family. She hopes to publish a novel someday.