The singer-songwriter and uke player known as Danielle Ate the Sandwich has just released The Drawing Back of Curtains, a lovely and compelling 11-song collection that serves as the soundtrack to the new documentary, Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson. Wilkinson was a talented painter who graced the Provincetown, Massachusetts, art scene in the early 20th century and created a remarkable portfolio of work. Wilkinson was committed to an asylum in 1924–thanks in large part to a corrupt family lawyer who objected to Wilkinson’s lesbian encounters–and was never heard from again. All of her artwork and other worldly possessions were shipped to relatives in West Virginia and sat in an attic for four decades. Wilkinson’s great-niece, Jane Anderson, co-wrote and appears in this film homage, which was directed by co-writer Michelle Boyaner.
As for Danielle, the soundtrack project was challenging, to say the least. “I was reluctant to jump in and agree to writing the film score because of the pressure and my inexperience,” she told me by email. “I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach writing songs for someone other than myself that would also be set to the scenes of a movie.” Danielle used a myrtle Mya-Moe baritone ukulele for much of the songwriting and recording. “I found its deeper and fuller tone helped me paint a more serious and dramatic song space. I gravitated towards some of the sadder moments of Edith Lake Wilkinson’s life: loss, frustration, injustice, and mental illness. The baritone ukulele came with me to write the full, powerful, big, and sweeping moments. As I got more acquainted with Edith’s life, I realized there were moments of color, happiness, and great passion: for her art and family, the cities she lived and studied in, and for her lovers. So for those times I used the baritone to be full and loud, laughing, and even peculiar and comedic.” For the “simple and sweet” love song “Still By Your Side,” Danielle made use of a spruce-top Mya-Moe tenor uke.
The film premiered earlier this month at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The enchanting soundtrack is a vital source of the movie’s emotional power.
“This is the first time I have been hired to write songs for a film score and for an artist’s life,” Danielle explains. “It was a great professional honor to be asked to write a film score, but also a personal honor to be able to create and do what I love, for a person who lived in a different lifetime than me, but was after a lot of the same things.”