The lyric, “Autumn without color, snow without footprints,” was the foundation of what might be the saddest song I’ve written, “Gravetender.” Adrienne legitimately cried a little bit while singing it – you can actually hear her 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 16 years old. I was severely, clinically 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.
The reality is that I was diagnosed with a severe depressive disorder when I was as young as 4 years old, but my 16-year-old brain was convinced that I used to be much happier and life used to be much easier.
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.
It wasn’t until almost ten years later, when Mute Prophet was fully formed and we wrote this song, that I discovered I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. We all had our own struggles with depression, and interestingly enough, we all instinctively tried to use nostalgia as a coping mechanism and ended up making the depression much worse as a result. We tried to draw from that pain. We tried to create music that would heal those wounds, and as I’ve said before, our deepest hope is that it can heal others as well.
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.
I should also mention – if you like the song – that Louisa drew a companion piece of art for it. The file is a little big to embed here, but if you want to see her visual interpretation of the lyrics, CLICK HERE to see it as a shirt design.
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!