Michelle and I have been friends for years, back when we ran a blog about being broke in Nashville called “Dixie Downturn,” which won a Best of Nashville award. She called me up in late 2018 to shoot promo photos for her debut as a solo artist under her own name, playing music inspired by The Replacements and Husker Du, among others.
“Narcoleptic, paranoid, and borderline hopeless”
There were two big concepts that we were trying to pull together in this shoot. The first, and most obvious, was what Michelle called “Paul Westerberg cosplay,” where we mimicked some the framing and attitude of some of Westerberg’s own promo photos. In some cases, we tried to restage the photos themselves (which were less successful).
The clothes communicated that Westerberg vibe the most—clashing plaids and stripes, a vibe of a vaguely put-together ’80s punk. All of the shots were setup at her home in East Nashville.
The other big concept that we were hinting towards (in some ways more blatantly than others), was Michelle’s medical history. Surviving cancer and the difficult, uncanny process of recovery are key to the songs on her record. This shoot was in preparation for dropping a cover of “Psychopharmacology,” a song about prescription drugs by Paul Westerberg.
In the photo at the top, we spread around a bunch of Good & Plenty candies (which looked close enough to the actual cocktail of pills she took during recovery) and used the oxygen tubes that she had used. It’s obvious, sure, but that’s what we were going for.