Photo by Raina Virginia

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | May 6, 2021

Janelle Loes didn’t worry about the time it would take to release her sophomore effort, “Stranger.” She wanted to make sure it was perfect.

“There was no rush,” she says. “I was in college for a large part of the record. It was fun to just not have to rush. When I found out I was expecting my son, I pushed back the album release, too.”

Loes began working on “Stranger,” which hit streaming services in April, in 2014, with Andy Thompson in Minneapolis, and Sean Cooney (Blaine Long and Jim Bachmann). Thompson is best known for his work with Taylor Swift on “Red,” along with “The Hamilton Mixtape” and Jason Mraz.

Loes’ album serves as a striking follow-up to her 2011 debut album, “Here and Now,” and features an impassioned collection of songs. “Stranger” brings together elements of pop, alt-rock, folk and Americana to create a musical landscape for the listener.

With hints of cello and pedal steel, alongside bursts of electric guitars and cinematic strings, the album soars, soothes and surprises. Loes collected a talented cast of musicians for the album, including drummer Elliot Jacobson (Ingrid Michaelson, Elle King), bassist Ian Allison (Eric Hutchinson, Jeremy Messersmith), cellist Dan Lawonn (Motion City Soundtrack, Belle and Sebastian) and others.

The album also includes international collaboration with a guest vocal appearance by singer-songwriter Kevin Steinman of Norway. Steinman’s distinctive crooner-pop vocals join Loes on the playfully coy duet “The One You Call Your Love.”

On “Stranger,” Loes covers heartbreak and cathartic self-discoveries. Loes’ songwriting speaks to the listener with the earnestness of a close confidante. Loes delivers lyrics similar to Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones.

“Overwhelmingly, it’s a consoling record,” she says. “As a songwriter, I like to deconstruct hard times and try to find some sort of lesson or a light within them. I think they help uncover lessons within yourself.”

In the album’s title track, “Stranger,” Loes unpacks the mixture of emotions that surface when trust is broken. The song is a poignant exploration of the difficult balancing act of learning from the past and grieving the memory of the person you once knew. The acoustic-driven and organic-sounding “In the Meantime” brings empathy and understanding to moments of turmoil and uncertainty. “There Are Things” earned Loes a spot as a semifinalist in the Americana category of this year’s International Songwriting Competition.

Loes says she feels “Stranger” is the perfect entryway to the album.

“It’s really hard when you’ve had a really high opinion of someone to let go of that when you realize that’s not the case. I think the title ‘Stranger’ is ambiguous, but it reintroduces people to my music and songwriting.”

Janelle Loes

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 7; 8 to 11 a.m. Sunday, May 9; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 22; and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 30

Where: Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Road, Queen Creek

Cost: Free admission

Info: Visit for a complete list of shows.