There’s no exit till we skate.
Stephan Nance - vocals, piano
Simeon Brown - violin
Lizzy Donovan - cello
Milo Fultz - upright bass
Hannah Murawsky - bassoon
Hannah Pell - oboe
Merlin Showalter - drums, percussion
Arrangement - Stephan Nance & Merlin Showalter
Piano was recorded at Eugene Piano Academy (where I'll be playing a release show on Friday 01/11!); vocals, violin, cello, bassoon, and oboe were recorded at Sprout City Studios, all with Kash Mowatt engineering.
Upright bass, drums, and percussion were recorded at The Rye Room, with Matt Greco as engineer. I highly recommend you watch this video of Merlin dancing around to the percussion and bass tracks.
I’m going to talk a little about the circumstances under which I started writing this song, and even though I’m not going deep and dark I should probably say:
CW: trauma, suicidal ideation
I started writing this song at the end of 2012. I had gone to Klamath Falls in southeastern Oregon to perform on the local LGBT organization’s float in the town’s winter parade.
I was 25 and struggling with some serious mental health issues, aggravated by a series of traumatic experiences throughout the previous year or two. On top of it all, in my home life someone very close to me began expressing a lot of distressing things to me, including their desire to die.
So, naturally, when I met a teenager who was struggling in Klamath Falls, I leapt at the opportunity to ignore my own problems and dedicate myself to fixing theirs.
It felt so comforting to spend time in a totally unfamiliar place, free from the shadows of past experiences that haunted me in Eugene. And for a person from the rarely-snowy floor of the Willamette Valley, Klamath Falls was a winter wonderland. After such a turbulent couple of years, and in the midst of such dark times at home, having snowball fights and going ice skating with a person I didn’t feel threatened by — it was an irresistible change of pace.
My intentions were innocent — the innocence of it all was what I found so enticing. I felt safe. I wanted this teen to feel safe, and I didn’t feel like their guardians were doing enough to make them feel safe and cared for. I was frustrated by their guardians’ refusal to even try understanding what this teen was going through as a young queer person in rural Oregon. Looking back, it’s easy to see that I got too invested and too involved. To make a long story short, it ended badly, with unjust accusations and scary threats against me.
For a few weeks, I didn’t talk to anyone or see anyone. I was dangerously depressed. I want to say it’s a miracle I’m still alive, but it isn’t really a miracle — it’s because in what could have been the final hours, I found a shred of strength somewhere inside me, reached out, and got help. I’m so glad I did, because there were a lot of great things ahead of me.
That teenager left home a few months after all this happened. They joined Job Corps and eventually got their GED.
I struggled with creative block for the next few years. It wasn’t that I had nothing to say — I just couldn’t stop stopping myself from saying it. It took years of weekly therapy and a ton of work on my own to finally write songs again.
In 2016, I came back to what I’d written of “Overwintered”. I gave myself two weeks to delve deep into that time in my life in order to finish the song. Part of my process is to compile a sort of corpus of vocabulary that the song will need, and I already had most of that in my notes. So it was mostly a matter of sifting through it all and staying afloat while I bundled the whole experience into a manageable package.
And now it’s recorded and ready to be heard and interpreted however you wish. As with many experiences in my life, I wouldn’t want to repeat it, but I’m glad I got a song out of it!
(Incidentally, the other single from Look at the Harlequins! — “Pompeii” — is also about my impulse to help people get out of their crummy situations. As is the track “Hope or Float”. I’m noticing a pattern!)
Oh, and on a completely unrelated note — happy 11th hatchday to my Senegal parrot, Georgie! Here’s a video of her fetching.