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Annie Humphrey on aging, love, and finding strength from within

Artwork from The Light In My Bones features Annie Humphrey cast in sunlight crouched in overalls, eating wild rice with her hands.
Annie Humphrey
Album artwork from The Light In My Bones by Annie Humphrey, available now.

In her fourth hill of life, Annie Humphrey talks with KAXE about her new album, The Light In My Bones.

New Music, Tuesdays-Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Sundays at noon on KAXE. 

As Music Director at KAXE it's my job to listen to a lot of music. You'll find me in the corner, behind towers of CDs and albums, headphones on, multitasking my days away. But sometimes, I have to put everything else down and really listen.

I'm always excited when something new comes in from northern Minnesota singer/songwriter Annie Humphrey. She describes the The Light In My Bones as unexpected and rolling in like thunder.

From the first moments, I knew this needed a more intentional listen which quickly became writing in my notebook, quote after quote after quote.

Annie Humphrey has something to say.

"We are made of Earth, 

why do we think we’re so powerless 

Accepting oppression for so long 

it’s re-written all our songs 

Now we sing those lies every day

the truth seems so far away 

Truth is we are made of Earth we are power"

Lyrics from ‘We Are Power’ 

The Light In My Bones is a reflection on aging: finding perspective, knowing love, being okay with imperfections and the wisdom that comes from lived experience.

The new release was produced by Jeremy Ylvisaker, a longtime respected multi-instrumentalist from Minnesota. Annie worked with Jeremy on her album Eat What You Kill, and the level of trust and cohesiveness shows in this new collaboration.

"Light in My Bones is centered on family. Annie recently lost her dad to Alzheimer’s, and with loss, she has also found a bittersweet freedom that is reflected in her music."
Kari Hedlund about Annie Humphrey's new album

After she completed recording vocals and piano at the Hive in Eau Claire , Annie handed the project over to Jeremy to fill out instrumentally and to mix, master and complete. She only heard the completed album a few months ago.

In a recent conversation on KAXE's New Music Annie said, "I told him, I don't want to hear it until it's done to you."

In Annie's experience listening to lots of good music, lyrics can get lost. As a songwriter, she knows how time consuming and meticulous word choices are in a song.

Her only advice to Jeremy was, “Just make sure you can hear my words.”

Words and Family

Light in My Bones is centered on family. Annie recently lost her dad to Alzheimer’s, and with loss, she has also found a bittersweet freedom that is reflected in her music.

“I remember when he passed, and it was a peaceful death, but the next day I just had this feeling. I felt relief and I remember telling myself, ‘Oh my God, I got my life back.’ And then the minute I thought that I felt really guilty. Like, I shouldn't think that. But I put it in a song because I think other people must have felt that.”

Annie taps into a topic that can be hard to put into words, hard to hear and hard to digest, but also relatable.

"I still feel 19, you know?”
Annie Humphrey on aging

I was struck by how Annie explained those who are closest to us cause us the most heartache.

"We feel pain, but I wouldn't give any of it up. We feel it because we love, and it's just simple as that. And it's true for every human being."


“My birthday's coming up, and I'm turning 57. I still feel 19, you know? And I bet a lot of people listening who are young elders or elders can relate.”

Aging is a through line to the album. Being comfortable with the Fourth Hill of Life and understanding one’s role as a young elder.

“There’s no one to say

the rice is gonna be good out on Ravens Bay

And there’s no one to say

it's time to put the taps in down on Sucker Bay

So I pretend that I know what I'm doing

Because my kids are watching

And because my grandsons are watching”

Lyrics from ‘New Snow’ 

John Trudell

The late poet and activist, John Trudell, is practically a collaborator on The Light In My Bones. You can feel his presence and wisdom connected to Annie’s reality. The first words you hear on the album are from an eerily prescient speech John gave in the 1980’s.

“We cannot protect that 7th generation if we do not protect the earth.

We cannot protect ourselves if we do not protect the earth.

The earth gives us life...

The earth is power.

We’re looking to the wrong source for our power.

And the more we look to the wrong source, the more powerless we become...

We are arrogant and we are stupid and we are foolish if we believe we will destroy the world.

The earth will heal itself, the earth will purify itself of us.”

Annie noted that John Trudell's influence is steadfast.

"I have a picture of John Trudell taped to my piano, and I always feel like he is saying, ‘Just don't hold back. Say the truth. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth.’ And it is my truth. Truth is relative. So it's my truth."

Listen to the whole conversation with Annie Humphrey above.

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The music director at KAXE since 2014, Kari (pronounced Car-ee) Hedlund reviews music on the daily. She also hosts New Music every Wednesday (2 and 10 p.m.) and Sunday (noon), along with the KAXE Morning Show on Thursdays.