The title of Mae Powell’s debut album, Both Ways Brighter, came to her during a conversation with her friend about the days getting longer as they inched toward spring. They were trying to figure out if the sun both rose earlier and set later, if the daylight lengthened in both directions. The phrase stuck with Powell, who meditated on it for a week as it began to take on broader significance — about the unknowability of life and learning how to trust in the way forward, the idea that whatever path you take, you’re going where you’re supposed to be going. The Bay Area singer/songwriter fills her music with that loving optimism about the way the world guides its denizens. Raised in San Diego, Powell got the chance as a kid to watch folk musicians record tracks in an ad-hoc studio her mother and sister had set up in their garage. That early exposure to the labor and magic of music-making would ultimately shape her own path. Powell moved to San Francisco in 2014 to study broadcasting and audio production at San Francisco State University, where she began meeting and collaborating with other musicians who first drew her out of her shell. Inspired by the easygoing reflectiveness of the New York songwriter Frankie Cosmos, Powell began penning her own observations of the world around her and the people who filled it: the warm connections she’d been forging, and the anxiety that sometimes precluded them.