Before I bring an artist to the Tiny Desk, I try to see them perform live. It helps me get a handle on what they'll be capable of doing at my desk, minus all the artful tinkering of a studio.

But I never saw Tomberlin before she came to my desk. My desire to see Mitski and Overcoats when Tomberlin was last in town had me at another venue and another opportunity failed to happen. But I was simply in love with Tomberlin's ethereal debut album At Weddings and took a chance.

I didn't know how her fragile songs would translate; all I knew was that Tomberlin was coming to the Tiny Desk to play acoustic guitar and sing, along with her musical partner Andrew Boylan. The eerie production that felt like the backbone to the fragile songs on At Weddings would be gone.

But when Tomberlin began to sing at her Tiny Desk Concert, wearing a bit of Tiny Desk nervousness on her sleeve while singing "I know I'm not eternal, I'm just a young girl," these songs questioning her religious beliefs, felt deep and personal.

Tomberlin is the daughter of a Baptist pastor, grew up singing in the church and, since her teens, has questioned her own beliefs in God and faith. And as you listen to her sing these delicate, vulnerable songs, you may find your way to a new songwriter, capable of distilling doubt and isolation while forming a community around her music and expressing assurance.

SET LIST

  • "Any Other Way"
  • "Self-Help"
  • "Untitled 1"

MUSICIANS

Sarah Beth Tomberlin: vocals, guitar; Andrew Boylan: vocals, guitar

CREDITS

Producers: Bob Boilen, CJ Riculan; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: CJ Riculan, Niki Walker; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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