A.W. Was Right All Along

The singer-songwriter reflects on the soulful album that launched their career—and what they have learned in the ten years since its release. 

November marks the ten-year anniversary of John-Allison “A.W.” Weiss’ 2009 …Was Right All Along, an emotional pop-folk masterpiece that sees the Georgia native reckoning with love, identity, youth, pain, and independence. To celebrate, the DIY singer-songwriter has re-issued an anniversary edition and embarked on a U.S. tour. 

From spilling wine on their shoes on “You + Me + Alcohol” to dejectedly circling campus in their pajamas on “July 25, 2007,” the record is full of vivid vignettes about Weiss’ adolescence. Simple, twinkly ballads like “I Was an Island” exemplify Weiss’ knack for crafting a disarming turn of phrase: “Baby, come back / You know I don’t want to be free.” 

The musician came out as non-binary in 2017 and transitioned in the public eye. Since then, they’ve toured nonstop, even alongside Lou Reed, and released the singles “Different Now” and “Runaway,” along with an EP of remixes. Now, they’ve been reminiscing through posting on Instagram to honor each song off of …Was Right All Along. Via email, AdHoc spoke to Weiss about the album’s personal significance and what they have learned about themself—as a human and as an artist—in the ten years since its release. 

Be sure to catch A.W. at Alphaville on October 10 with Hit Like A Girl and Maia Macdonald

AdHoc: It’s the ten year anniversary of …Was Right All Along. What does the album mean to you personally?

It’s been really eye-opening to relearn these songs and get back into that headspace. I’ve held it in my mind as just a bunch of breakup songs, but listening back, I hear myself expressing so much fear and anxiety that I now realize was related to my queerness. It reminds me of a particularly trying time a couple years ago when I was again writing about things I wasn’t ready to say aloud yet. So I took a marker and pulled a Pete Seeger and wrote a message on my guitar: This machine knows the truth. It’s very emo. I’m very emo.

What are some things you’ve learned about yourself and your music in the past ten years?

Well, I learned that I’m non-binary. I don’t feel like I fit into any gender boxes. I’ve also tried he/him pronouns, but they don’t feel right. This frustrates me because it’s exhausting to be pulled in so many directions, but the flipside is that there are no rules anymore — so that’s cool. Interestingly, I feel like my path in music is similar. I can never decide if I want to make pop music or country music, fast indie-rock bangers or soft folky shit. I’ve spent the past few years so stressed out about who I am and who I want to be, and now I’m actively trying to embrace all of it. So I’ve got music out under a bunch of different names right now, and I’m tired of caring whether or not that makes me marketable anymore. I just want to write songs.

You mentioned on Facebook that the song “I Was an Island” has been played at weddings. Did you ever expect that?

Oh, god, not at all! [“I Was an Island”] sounds like a love song, I guess, but I hear it as a song about desperate longing. So maybe it makes sense. It’s powerful to desperately long for someone who desperately longs for you in return.

You’ve been updating your social media with lyrics from the album and explaining the backstory behind the words. What inspired this?

I wanted to really celebrate the record with a track-by-track, and I wanted to be able to share the real emo shit behind the songs. I tell stories about them on stage, but I prefer to joke around and keep things light when I’m performing. My songs are intense, and I prefer to hide behind jokes! So with the posts on the gram, I wanted to actually embrace that intensity for once. It’s been really nice. I feel very vulnerable, but I think it’s good for me right now.

Your tour started September 24th. How have the shows been, both for the fans and for you?

I have a small but mighty fanbase! Everyone has been singing along, and it makes me feel pretty fuckin’ cool. Also, it’s helping me get over my new voice anxiety. It’s easier to let go and just have fun when I have a bunch of folks backing me up.

If you could go back to 2009 and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?

Go to therapy, duuude. It’s not scary. There’s nothing wrong with you. Everything is going to be okay. Get into therapy and start your real life sooner. 🖤 P.S. You look good in your boyfriend’s clothes, so definitely keep doing that.