Molly Healey's latest project is a study in the circle of life.
The Jefferson City native's 2017 sophomore album, "Human," takes on the most complex of subjects while telling simple stories about people over an intricate musical backdrop.
"Humans are very complex creatures, and I kind of wanted to mirror that in the instrumentation of the album," she explained.
Healey will introduce "Human" to her hometown Saturday at The Bridge.
Now based in Springfield, the singer-songwriter, violinist and cellist has toured with acts such as the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Big Smith and Cornmeal, and performed locally with The Kay Brothers. However, her unique solo sound is where she shines.
Healey's self-described signature "folk-inspired orchestral looping" style uses the familiar bluegrass feel of traditional string instruments and warm, understated vocals to build on itself into something bigger.
"It's really hard to put my music into a concise description since it's so different," she said. "There's definitely a folk-rock aspect to it, especially nowadays with the guitar being added to the mix, but it's still very centered on the cello and the violin and the double bass and the voice."
Following her quietly atmospheric 2015 debut album, "Nightbirds," Healey has built up her sound by adding guitarist Zach Harrison and drummer Danny Carroll, who joined her and bassist Kyle Day. However, the music's identity always circles back to Healey.
Her use of a looping pedal — a device that allows a musician to record a line then layer another instrument or voice on top of it — makes her a one-woman orchestra at the heart of the band.
"I can record a cello line and maybe another cello line, and then put the cello down while it's still playing, and then add the violin to it," she explained.
That's all she did on the acoustic "Nightbirds."
"The first album I kind of like to think of as an experiment in art: How much music can I make with just three instruments and my voice?" she said. "It was wonderful to watch that grow and watch these songs form in this very specific formula with these very specific instruments. But ultimately, after the first album, if I were to do another entire album like that, I feared that it would kind of start to sound the same — monotonous."
While "Human" still uses the looping structure, Harrison's electric guitar injects fresh energy, and the songs' subject matter varies enough to avoid monotony.
"I called it 'Human' because I did want to focus on very human experiences," Healey said. "I think all of the songs, whether they are anecdotal or whether they are just about feelings, really focused on stories and emotions and aspects that I feel all humans can really relate to."
"Mr. Connelly" tells the story of a former Alzheimer's-stricken neighbor of Healey's over rhythmic instrumental repetition that mirrors the calm manner in which the song's namesake introduces himself to Healey day after day.
"It is by no means meant to trivialize the disease, but my experience with him was always so pleasant," Healey said. "He just always seemed to be locked in this permanent memory of how he used to have this great life as a teacher."
Then there's "America," which explores the "really wonderful dreams and really extreme nightmares" everyday Americans — from a homecoming queen grown up to an immigrant-turned-entrepreneur — might face.
"I hope it doesn't get taken as politically charged, because it's not really meant to be. It's just about all the range of human experiences that people can have in this country," Healey said. "All of politics really exists to address all of our concerns about our experiences; that's what we're doing when we talk about politics. At least I hope that's what we're doing — we're all trying to come together for a common goal."
Healey might surprise listeners with her hypnotic take on "Black Hole Sun," a nod to Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who committed suicide last year.
"I did that arrangement right after he died. I was a huge Chris Cornell fan and a huge Soundgarden fan," Healey said.
Healey will perform the majority of "Human" with her full band at her Jefferson City album release concert, which starts at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Bridge, 619 E. Capitol Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $8, and Paper Vinyl will open the show.
And if you're still wondering why her name sounds familiar — yes, Healey is a musical name in Jefferson City.
Molly's late father, J. Patrick Healey, was a founder of the Jefferson City Cantorum, which he directed for decades. "He was by far my biggest musical influence," Molly said. Her mother, Elaine Healey, also performed with the Cantorum for years and remains a supporter of arts in the community.
Editor's Note: The debut for the album "Human" at The Bridge is at 8 p.m. Saturday, as stated above. The print version of this story on Page C-5 of Thursday's newspaper gives an incorrect day of the event.