As the daughter of a folk and bluegrass musician, Esbie Fonte had all the artistic advantages that many young singer-songwriters yearn for, including a performing arts high school education, immersion in the deeply rooted folk music scene of San Francisco, and time spent abroad tinkering in a school music studio in England. Taking all of this experience with her, Fonte moved to Los Angeles to launch her own project, drawing inspiration from the folk greats and blues songstresses that she had always idolized. With an EP already under her belt, Fonte’s second single of 2018, entitled “Manumit,” premieres today.
“Manumit” is a desperate cry for connection, a yearning for a hand to reach down and pull one’s soul out of the blackest reaches of depression. The title is a verb meaning to set free or release, historically referring to the act of releasing slaves, and it suggests the need to be released from the grip of overwhelming emotions. Written while Fonte struggled with a bout of extreme anxiety and self doubt, the the song is dripping with melancholy, full of metaphors that illustrate the hopelessness of having hit rock bottom: “I am under / sunk in water / almost drowning now.” Matching the dismal tone of the lyrics, Fonte’s haunted vocals drive the point home, ringing out a minor key melody above staccato guitar and electronic bell tones. One can hope that the song also functions, as the title suggests, as a cathartic release of the darkness that can envelop us.