Nothing about Adrianne Lenker is ordinary.
Her childhood sounds like something out of a novel. Lenker was born in a religious cult in Indianapolis. Her parents left the cult when she was 4, and Lenker lived in several places with varied characters throughout her youth. As a teenager, she worked on launching a pop career instead of attending traditional high school.
Even as an adult, Lenker, now 25, can’t help being extraordinary. As the frontwoman of Big Thief, her lyrics are powerful yet economical, her voice haunting and emotive.
The Brooklyn band’s upcoming album, “Capacity,” is one of the most anticipated indie-rock albums of the year. Big Thief will perform Wednesday at the Chameleon Club, two days before the album’s release.
Lenker credits her interest in music to her father.
“He’s a songwriter, and it just came out of him,so naturally and organically,” Lenker says. “Songs were his vessel through which he would process and pray. So, witnessing that, music cuts straight to the core in this way that it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can understand it.”
When she was 6, Lenker asked her dad to show her a few chords on the guitar. She practiced them and two years later had an original song to show for her work.
Lenker found playing music both cathartic and addicting.
“I loved how the sound would vibrate through my whole body,” Lenker says. “I just found it so natural to make up sounds with the guitar, with my voice. I wasn’t even thinking.”
She started working on a would-be debut album at 13. She wrote songs by herself, with her dad and collaborated with a producer and professional musicians. As the album’s completion neared, Lenker felt disconnected from the project.
“I felt like I was part of this other vision that had formed around me, and I wasn’t even able to see what my own vision was,” Lenker says. “I wanted to embark on a creative journey separate from pressure and career.”
So, she did. Lenker auditioned for the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. Her family couldn’t afford the tuition, but she was able to attend after being chosen by acclaimed musician Susan Tedeschi for a scholarship.
After college, she moved to New York where she met Buck Meek. The pair began collaborating as a duo, and then later with a full band as Big Thief.
“I think we just had a natural chemistry first as friends, and the creativity came as the overflowing of the friendship,” Lenker says.
Close listeners of “Big Thief” likely won’t be surprised to learn Lenker regularly journals. Her lyrics are poignant and poetic, but she says it’s important for her to have other outlets of writing outside the pressure of crafting a song.
In her journal, she documents her dreams, writes poems and “freewrites.”
“I think it’s nice to have a space that’s completely private where nothing is right or wrong and everything is OK and nothing is being criticized unless it’s by my own self, which I try to refrain from,” Lenker says. “It’s just nice to have a space of complete freedom.”
While Big Thief’s “Masterpiece” was recorded in only 12 days, Big Thief spent a month recording the upcoming album “Capacity.” The combination of more time and the experience from a year of touring resulted in a richer record, Lenker says.
“I just feel that maybe every album will be a deepened, wider, more expansive experience,” Lenker says. “And I think ‘Capacity’ sounds that way to me. It sounds wider and deeper and calmer in a way.”