The lyric, “Autumn without color, snow without footprints,” was the foundation of what might be the saddest song I’ve written, “Gravetender.” I legitimately cried a little bit while recording it – you can actually hear my voice break a little on the chorus line “longing to dream, there at least I have remembrance” – and I certainly had more than a few tears in my eyes when I wrote it. I drew from a feeling that I’ve struggled with for a long time, and channeling it into this song was intense beyond words.
Namely, this feeling is the contrast of sadness and nostalgia. I first noticed this when I was around 14 years old. I was pretty depressed, and my admittedly unhealthy coping mechanism was to idealize my childhood, longing for a time that never existed, when I was supposedly free of that depression.
It’s easy, isn’t it, to think about how life used to be better? Simpler? When the present holds no safe haven, the past can be a welcome refuge.
But with each passing day, that past seemed to slip further and further away. Places I used to love were being torn down, the few friends I had were all moving away, and, as silly as it is, TV shows that had been with me for years were ending (TV shows mean a LOT to a kid with no social life), and it felt like the world itself was intentionally moving on from the memories I longed to preserve. “Fading from view, mirrored eyes, eclipsed by distance.”
As I wrote in the lyrics, it felt like looking at a gray landscape of overturned headstones, overgrown weeds, untended graves. Autumn without color, snow without footprints. It felt like all I could do was hold on as tightly as I could, stay in this desolate place and do what I could to “tend the graves of my fulfillment.” They might be dead to time, but I would keep them alive in memory for as long as my mind would let me.
With its dissonant melodies, and a rhythm reminiscent of a funeral march, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised most people tend to tell us they think it’s our saddest song. I think because I used this song to catharsize and heal from some long-standing pains myself, I see it as being more hopeful than sad, but I totally understand why others would have that impression.
Thanks so much for reading! Please, as always, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of this post – and I’m especially eager to hear your thoughts about the song!