The last thing Mandy Groves remembers before the crash was leaving the studio after a long recording session.
The Denver pop singer had been through a lot in the days leading up to that October night last year. Less than a week before, she’d been fired from the Wash Park Band, a cover group she'd fronted for four years. And she had been working nonstop on her solo recordings and shooting music videos. She was tired to the bone.
“I was dealing with a lot at the time,” says Groves. “We were in the studio all the time, late. I think it was a lot of emotional and physical exhaustion.”
When Groves awoke, she was in the hospital, an IV pumping a cocktail of pain medicine into her battered body, and it was barely managing to make a dent in her pain. Her memory of the accident is hazy.
“I don't remember anything,” she says. “It's a very weird thing to explain. I somehow knew what had happened.”
As best Groves can tell, her car crashed into the guardrail just past the exit she should have taken to her home in Brighton. Police later told her she was found outside the car, the seat belt fastened without her in it and the door closed. Groves had whiplash, a concussion, two broken ribs, a fractured hand and a laceration on her liver.
Three months later, she still can’t lift more than ten pounds, but she knows she’s lucky to be alive.
“You never think you're going to fall asleep,” says Groves. “When I was in the band, I would drive so late at night, coming from [shows in] the mountains driving at two in the morning. I was never really afraid of it.”
The accident left Groves scarred, to be sure, but she says it also served as a demarcation point in her music career.
“It made me switch gears creatively,” says Groves, who had been working as a solo artist on the side for years, content to continue the electronica-rich sound she’d fallen into while still with the Wash Park Band. “My plan was to just go on with this house-music thing.
Groves’s single, “Blow,” released in August 2019, had done well, she said, and the then-unreleased single, “I Want U,” followed the same musical path.
“Then the accident just kind of made me switch gears,” she recalls.
The long recovery from the wreck was hard, but Groves says it gave her an opportunity to re-evaluate the direction of her music and give her voice — which had suffered from playing for years in smoky rooms with bad sound — a much-needed break. She took a full month off from everything, and has only recently returned to her pre-accident form.
“I was recovering for all that time and not able to make anything, and feeling like I was missing out on a lot,” she says. “At the same time, I was able to heal my voice a little bit. I got to a point where I was more clear-headed, and I [wanted to] get back in there. But I [felt] more emotional."
She had a lot to think about, not the least of which was losing her place in the band she’d once loved.
“I was mourning and grieving the loss of something I devoted my life to for four years, and I'd also gotten into a terrible car wreck, and I didn't know if I was going to be the same,” says Groves. “I was worried about memory loss. So I was like, 'I want to make something sad, I want to get this out, and I can sing now, so I want to show what I can sing.’”
At that point, she says, she began conceiving the idea for her new EP, working with local producer Shinu.
“We had 'I Want U' — we just hadn't released it yet, because it just didn't feel right,” says Groves. “It didn't feel like a whole thought.”
The minute she got back to work, all that changed.
“The first day in the studio, we wrote 'Done With Me' and recorded it and finished it that night,” she recalls.
With that, the EP — titled simply Three because it’s three songs, each with a three-word title — was under way. Groves says she was initially self-conscious about how short the record is. But she crammed a lot into such a succinct package.
“I always try to do an arc and a story in my projects,” she says. “With Three, it's 'We're done and I can't pretend like I don't love you still, and I can't pretend to be friends,' and then it's 'I Want U.' It's that tug of 'I know you want me, too, but we don't want to do this. I know you said it's over, but I know you still want to,' or 'We've never crossed this line before.' And then with 'Done With Me' — it's that aftermath of somebody that can't let go of you.”
The sultry tunes have a seemingly familiar theme of love, but there’s more to Groves’s songs than well-worn tropes of desire and loss.
“All of my songs are love songs,” says Groves, “so I frame everything in that box. But a lot of times I'm talking about something that's not romantic at all. My last EP — a lot of that was about personal relationships with friends, but it was all formed in this frame of a love song.
“It's kind of something that you don't even know you're doing,” she adds. “Like 'Done With Me' — that's not happening to me right now. I've experienced a situation close to that, but it's not close to me right now. But then the lyrics 'I thought you were done with me, you said you were done with me, now you're making love to me' — that's kind of the back-and-forth exchange that we deal with with a lot of users, a lot of people that want you around for their own personal gain.”
Those relatable topics, she says, are perhaps the biggest draw of her music.
“My whole thing about making music is something that you can drive in the car to at two in the morning, which is ironic,” says Groves with a little laugh. “But I also want to make something that people relate to and see themselves in and help them speak to what's going on with them when they can't.”
Listen to Mandy Groves and more favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.