Back in March, the ethereal independent Australian singer songwriter Erin, who was formerly known as Esmé, released her single ‘Still’ with collaborators Dave Godriguez and Ken Allars.
The production balanced Erin’s stunning soprano vocals with a gradual build of cinematic synth, a deep pulsing bass line, strings, and choppy percussive tones, which when all combined created something mesmeric, with a balance of tone which seemed to lean to the light with Erin’s voice taking the listener down a path of mysticism and spirituality.
This sensation was added to by the dreamy visual, which featured Erin dressed in stunning white against a backdrop of deep greens and healing water. Whilst the feeling was positive, the essence of the visual was like a rewind of the stillness of nature. There’s a feeling the lyrics are about trying to save a love by rewinding. This feels like a song before a split.
At the time, Erin said of the production and the sound created with Godriguez and Allars:
“I gave them a very fragile melody, with no expectation of likeness to anything else or intentional message to convey. Dave (Godriguez) and Ken (Allars) are both artists that I have a beautiful connection to musically and I simply leave the music in their hands. It’s exciting to see what comes back and rewarding to hear each time that the three of us naturally fulfil a role that the song needs”
The song for me seemed to have so much more depth than the production at the time gave it, and this is not any sort of criticism at all, simply an observation of how production can change the feel of a lyric and the sense of the voice. Erin was happy with the single, or else she wouldn’t have released it I’m sure, but obviously felt there was more to the song than just one facet.
If the original was the light, then the new release of the song offers more dark for me; and offers the perfect dreamscape alternative to the original release. There cannot be shadows without light in life and this new release perfectly addresses the dichotomy of light and dark which seemed to be bubbling under the surface of the original version. This time the song seems reflective, and has the essence of a love still burning, but there’s a feeling this is the after to the first song’s before.
This time, in the visual, the scene is set entirely differently. The song starts with the unmistakable sound of a cassette player button, which immediately offers a nostalgia to the song that the contemporary feel of the original visual didn’t have. The video is stripped back, the artist dressed completely differently. The plants are house plants, not the lush vegetation of the first release. Everything is different and yet the lyric remains the same; it’s a perfect illustration of the ambiguity of the word still. Whilst we can stand surrounded by nature and be engulfed by the stillness of what is around us, anxieties calmed by the still of the environment, we can also think of the word in the sense of something unchanging, like a love unchanged echoed by the lyric refrain “I still want you”.
The two versions of the songs are like halves of a broken heart, and there cannot be one without the other, and yet, I feel there is hope. The song could easily be happening in a sultry Paris Jazz club, the melodic guitar strains and the subtle brass, the dreamy delivery, the climax to light orchestration is full of longing and for that reason hugely moving. Every listen delivers more nuance, more emotion, more depth. I love this new version; it’s a beautiful love song.
Erin says of the song:
“I wrote ‘Still’ on the 15th October 2019, a few days after I had returned home from Vietnam. I know the date because I still have the iPhone voice memo. My guitarist played this pretty little French sounding guitar line. He was just improvising a little to himself but I immediately heard the rest of the guitar melody in my head. I sang it back to him to copy me and he put some beautiful chords to it. I sang ‘Still’ over the top, the words and the melody coming all at once and it’s the only song that’s ever written itself that way for me, so seamlessly”
It feels seamless, and the way these two songs sit together, both brilliantly produced by Ken Allars, both making me feel different things convinces me there really couldn’t be one without the other. I recommend you go listen to both versions and I promise you that the more you listen to one the more you’ll draw from the other. For me, it still amazes me the lyrics are identical in both songs and proves what an outstanding artist Erin is; to be able to draw such different emotions with the same words completely echoes the dichotomy of light and dark and promises a huge future for this singer.