Hayden Silas Anhedönia, known as her alter ego Ethel Cain, is creating some of today’s most impactful and riveting music. She initially made waves with her breakout hit “Crush,” which served as a small introduction to the world of Cain’s Inbred EP. Releasing her debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, earlier this year, Anhedönia is still at the beginning stages of what’s to come for her career.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist community in Florida before accepting her identity as a transgender woman, the 24-year-old’s relationship with religion is a large yet complicated part of her life. This part of Anhedönia’s life reflects heavily on the story of Ethel Cain, a woman who sings about the abuse, violence, and intergenerational trauma that ultimately led to her death. Cain’s complex feelings about her Christian upbringing, shining bright in one of her most popular lyrics, “God loves you, but not enough to save you,” have connected with many and added an even more indulgent layer to her Southern Gothic Americana sound.
Although the character of Ethel Cain has been killed and cannibalized by her former lover Isaiah, there are many ways in which Anhedönia still plans on continuing the haunting story of Cain. For starters, she is currently preparing for The Freezer Bride Tour which has dates all across North America.
Pop Crave chatted with Anhedönia to learn more about her spooky alter ego, debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, upcoming tour, and what fans of Ethel Cain can expect to see from her in the future.
Congratulations on all of your recent success with Preacher’s Daughter! As an introduction, how would you describe the character of Ethel Cain in five words?
Crazy emo girl road trip.
I’ve seen a lot of your YouTube comments on videos of people reacting to your work. How does it feel to watch strangers’ live reactions to your projects?
It’s so weird. I’m so addicted to reading all the comments and reviews, even the mean ones. It’s like some masochistic shit. But most people have been very nice and positive about the record, so that makes me feel good.
Preacher’s Daughter was initially a grand idea you had for a feature film, and this album ended up being that film’s soundtrack. What are some of your favorite films that inspired you during the writing process?
Thelma & Louise, Plain Dirty, The Beguiled, American Honey, Gummo, When Black Birds Fly, and Mandy to name a few!
“Sun Bleached Flies” is one of the only songs in history that has ever made me burst into tears on a first listen. How did the song title and overall songwriting process of the track come about?
It was the first week of quarantine and I was visiting my family one last time before we all locked ourselves inside for however long we had to, and I remember thinking, “Wow, the world is ending. We’re all gonna die.” I just sat down and started thinking of everyone in my hometown and how all they ever talked about was when they’d get out and make it in life, and how badly I wanted to get out growing up. It was a weird little trip down memory lane, just sitting at the piano I grew up learning how to play on.
Who are some music artists currently inspiring you, and is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
I love Bedlocked, Midwife, Duster, Grouper, Com Truise, Lorn, Weyes Blood. I’ve been listening to them a lot lately. I’d love to collab with all of them someday.
The Freezer Bride Tour is about to kick off, with several dates already being completely sold out! What has been your favorite part about planning the tour so far?
I’ve really been enjoying designing all the merch!! I can’t wait for everyone to see it on the road.
I can’t imagine what’s going to come over me when hearing “Ptolemaea” performed live. For you, is there a certain song you’re the most excited to play live?
I’m honestly most excited for “A House in Nebraska.” It’s the oldest song on the record, and it will always be my favorite. It’s such a moment for me when I get to sing it live. It’s so personal.
Fans love how long your songs tend to be. For Preacher’s Daughter, did you start writing with the intent of lengthier songs, or does a track’s length just happen naturally for you?
I honestly don’t even realize how long the songs are until late into the writing process. I just write until I run out of things to say, and then I check and the song is like 10 minutes long. I love it though. I know it’s not for everyone, but I just adore music that’s super repetitive and drags on forever. When I find a melody I think is beautiful, I just want to live inside it as long as possible. I never want it to end.
On an Instagram Live, you once told fans that your favorite philosopher is Trisha Paytas. We’d love to know what your favorite Trisha Paytas moment and/or meme is.
I literally walk around my house singing, “Do dogs have brains? Dogs are freaky-freaky-freaky,” all the time. It’s so funny. She is an enigma.
“Gibson Girl,” “Strangers,” and “American Teenager” were such amazing singles for Preacher’s Daughter. What are some factors you consider when deciding what songs to make singles?
“Gibson Girl” and “American Teenager” were the most “accessible” I guess, so I just decided to make them the focal point. “Strangers” is one of my personal favorites and one I’ve decided was going to be a single like three years ago, so it’s just always been chosen to be a single. I knew I had to put it out ASAP.
You recently tweeted that an “American Teenager” music video is coming soon! What are some things fans can expect from the visuals?
Very similar to “God’s Country”! We shot it on the same camera. It’s just me running around my hometown, doing the shit I usually do when I visit home. My good friend Silken Weinberg flew and stayed the weekend, and we just walked/drove around in the heat and captured footage and got major sunburns. It was amazing.
Now that your alter ego, Ethel, has been eaten and sent to the afterlife, where can fans expect her story to continue?
It’s going backward! We’re climbing up the family tree now. I have a lot of unraveling to do for the story, and I’m very excited about it.
Ethel Cain’s debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, is out now.