The soulful folk duo Stand and Sway began with an instant connection between its founding members, Beth Wood and Ara Lee James.
They first met several years back while performing at the same gig in Portland, and readers may remember their first song together, “Nasty Woman,” which raised money for Planned Parenthood.
“For me it was like being struck by lightning, hearing her sing,” recalls Wood.
James adds, “I was floored by everything about Beth: Her songwriting, her poise, this rare balance of grace and strength.”
The beauty of their collaboration is the foundation of mutual admiration and adoration that shines through so clearly in their friendship and feminist creative work.
Both self-proclaimed “poetry geeks,” Beth is currently an Oregon Book Award finalist for the Stafford/Hall award for poetry for her book, Ladder to the Light, and the duo’s upcoming album, Deep Blue, explores the intersection of spoken word and song by creating intricate “vocal landscapes” throughout.
Their self-titled “Stand and Sway” celebrates the quiet strength of femininity and motherhood. After writing the song, the two felt drawn to the name’s powerful connection to the female experience and decided there could be no better title for their work.
James notes, “At the core of this project is what this poem talks about: What it is to be a woman in our world, to do our work both inside and outside the lines drawn for us, to make a joyful, feminine noise [in] this culture still dominated by the male gaze.”
To bring the song to life, Wood and James sought out their dear friend and esteemed songwriter, Anna Tivel.
Wood adds that their vision for Stand and Sway into the future is to consistently collaborate with women they admire. This first song is simply the beginning.
“We always envisioned celebrating the power of women and their voices, and we often sit around and dream about amazing women we can collaborate with—like having a revolving cast of band members who join us at different times,” Wood says. “Anna Tivel is one of my favorite humans and was one of the first people we thought of. Her quiet, thoughtful spirit and tender voice are so perfect for this song.”
For James and Wood, Stand and Sway is more than a creative project. It’s a movement.
Wood goes on to say, “It feels like the work is to open hearts and minds, to celebrate collaboration and women's voices, and to pay deep attention to small things. These things all resonate with my values so much that I feel like I'm buzzing just talking about it. There's a line in one of our songs that says, 'When the world is broken, open.' I feel like that is our job right now—to stay open and keep creating and inviting others to do the same.”