Mother Is Back

Ethel Cain Previews Her Next Two Projects And Shares Her Coming Out Story: “Wrong Letter”

· Updated on October 4, 2023

Daughters of Cain, rise. Ethel Cain is coming back, and soon — first with an EP and then a full-length album, both expanding the magical, macabre story of the titular character.

For those uninitiated, yes, Ethel Cain is both the stage name of singer-songwriter Hayden Silas Anhedönia and the original character at the center of her music. Her 2023 album Preacher’s Daughter took the pop world by storm, and in a new interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed the concepts behind her next two projects.

First, Anhedönia is releasing an EP later this year that will cover Ethel’s high school years — you know, before she was kidnapped, murdered, and cannibalized, as described in Preacher’s Daughter. “I feel like this is truly laying Ethel Cain to rest,” she said.

Then she’ll be gearing up for a full-length album, one darker and colder in tone, which will tell the story of Ethel’s mother. Anhedönia even teased the album after that one: it’ll focus on Ethel’s grandmother. Clearly, the women of the Cain family have a lot to say.

As far as the sound of the music, journalist Julyssa Lopez got a sneak peak at what Anhedönia’s been working on. One song “starts with a diaphanous piano melody and then dives into a crash of guitars,” Lopez writes, while another “is more than 20 minutes long.” Anhedönia’s sonic inspirations include Brian Eno, Explosions in the Sky, Grouper, and William Basinski. TLDR: Your playlists will be very happy.

Anhedönia also shared the intricacies of her coming out story. She grew up in a devoutly Baptist and insular family in the South, where anything outside of cisness and heterosexuality wasn’t even seen as a possibility. So at age 11, she attempted to ask her parents about the crushes she’d been having on both girls and boys. As she described it, all hell broke loose.

“Living in that environment, you just want to get out of it,” Anhedönia said. “I remember just kind of locking away parts of myself and thinking, ‘You’re going to wake up, you’re going to eat, you’re going to deal with whatever happens today, you’re going to go to sleep, and then you’re going to keep doing that until this is over.’”

Anhedönia moved out to become a nail technician at the earliest opportunity, and she finally had the freedom to explore her identity.

“It wasn’t until I was nearing adulthood when I discovered what being trans was, through Tumblr of all places,” she said. “I didn’t even know you could do that. I didn’t know that was a thing.” Only then did Anhedönia realize she wasn’t gay, but trans: “Wrong letter,” she said.

Though Anhedönia is proud of her trans identity, it doesn’t define her or her music.

“When you are trans, you are living a very specific experience that not many other people in the world have,” she explained. “I wanted to not be known as a trans artist, I think, not because I didn’t want people to know I was trans, or because I didn’t want to be proud of that fact, but.… It has shaped the way that I am in certain ways, but it’s not everything.”

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