The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Squirrel Flower signs with Polyvinyl

Ella Williams ’18, who performs as Squirrel Flower, recently signed with Polyvinyl Records and announced her debut album I Was Born Swimming. Photo contributed by Polyvinyl Records.


Ella Williams ’18, who performs as Squirrel Flower, recently signed with Polyvinyl Records and announced her debut album I Was Born Swimming. Photo contributed by Polyvinyl Records.

With her debut full-length album I Was Born Swimming coming out on Jan. 31 and an upcoming headlining tour across North America, 2020 is shaping up to be a banner year for recent grad Ella Williams ’18. Performing under the moniker of Squirrel Flower, Williams has found both inspiration and opportunity from her time at Grinnell.

After experiencing a rough transition to college, Williams took a semester off to process her emotions and write her first EP, Early Winter Songs from Middle America. While she initially struggled with the move, she explained that once she immersed herself in the community of the College and the town around it, she realized just how rich the culture was. 

“I think going to Grinnell was a blessing to me and my music,” says Williams. 

Grinnell Concerts gave Squirrel Flower a jumping-off point. After opening for indie act Big Thief, Williams met and was given the opportunity to tour across Europe with band member Adrienne Lenker.

During her time in college, Williams opened for numerous acts such as Jay Som, Julien Baker and Moses Sumney. But opportunities also began to emerge outside of Grinnell. Williams used her time in Iowa to sample the various art and DIY music scenes across the state.

“I encourage students and especially first-years not to feel confined to the college,” she said. It was through tapping into this community around her that Williams found her greatest inspiration.

Over fall break of her senior year, Williams had the opportunity to record a batch of songs in New York City that would become her debut full-length I Was Born Swimming. Despite the distance, the college was never far from her mind. The first track on the album is titled “I-80” after the highway that runs through Iowa and right past Grinnell.

In addition to her well-received lead single “Red Shoulder,” Squirrel Flower has released a cinematic video for the track. Williams described the process as different than recording her other music videos. Rather than working with friends as she did in college, Williams hired director Laura-Lynn Petrick to take on the project.

“We filmed the whole thing in a weekend. It felt like a film that she was making to go alongside my song. I hadn’t really experienced that before. It was a cool new way to look at what a music video could be.” said Williams. The video features kaleidoscopic images of Williams as she wanders around the city of Boston, Massachussets.

A major part of Williams’ recent success has been her partnership with Polyvinyl Records. The Champaign, Illinois-based label represents several notable independent bands: of Montreal, Alvvays and American Football.

The partnership started when marketing manager Natalie Dávila came across one of Squirrel Flower’s songs online.

“Over a year ago I came across Ella’s music and her last EP, Contact Sports … I ended up posting it on my Instagram and tagging her, then she and I started talking … She was familiar with Polyvinyl and a few of our artists … She eventually shared one of the first songs on the [new] album with me, and then from there we started discussing everything,” said Dávila.

Since then, Polyvinyl has helped managed everything from distribution and production to publicity and merchandise. They’ve talked to promoters about potential venues for Squirrel Flower’s upcoming Spring tour and found a U.K.-based distributor for I Was Born Swimming.

“We’re really excited about what’s to come. The first single [Red Shoulder] was very well received,” said Dávila.

Squirrel Flower’s debut album I Was Born Swimming will be released through Polyvinyl on Jan. 31.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *