Overwintered

There’s no exit till we skate.

 
Photo:  Kai Hayashi  · Graphic design:  André Casey  · Makeup design:  Dr. Lisa Buckley  · Makeup artist: Rheanna May Murray

Photo: Kai Hayashi · Graphic design: André Casey · Makeup design: Dr. Lisa Buckley · Makeup artist: Rheanna May Murray

You can now listen to "Overwintered"! It's the second single from Look at the Harlequins!, and probably my favorite song out of everything I've ever written.

Featuring...
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!)

I hope you'll listen to "Overwintered" and dance around like Merlin. I also hope you'll come to the release shows in Eugene (January 11th) and Portland (January 18th) if you can!

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note — happy 11th hatchday to my Senegal parrot, Georgie! Here’s a video of her fetching.