Teem, the collaborative solo project of Nashville-based musician Tony Smith, unveiled a new track today.
“Afterglow,” the third official release from Teem, was originally penned in 2015 to a figment of Smith’s imagination.
“I guess it was more of a if I loved someone, this is what I would want to say to them,” Smith said.
Nearly two years later, the former Sleeper Agent frontman has since fallen in love and the song has evolved accordingly.
Lively electronic sounds contrast with introspective, at times heavy-hearted lyrics that depict a nuanced portrait of battling manic depression.
Smith details the vicious cycle of living with manic highs and lows, from his racing mind he can’t unwind as he endures another sleepless night to the mounting tumults that threaten to damage his closest relationship.
“As I draw the blinds you pull back the sheets / We hide behind our false sense of security,” he laments.
“Afterglow” mines mental illness for fodder, but avoids sounding like an attempt to channel a tormented Elliott Smith ballad. Instead, the song more closely mirrors the sentiments outlined in Rilo Kiley’s poetic manifesto of fending off melancholy “Better Son/Daughter,” . Smith basks in the fleeting flickers of light that offer a reprieve when day-to-day living becomes too cumbersome. The song is an anthem for the moments when doubt hovers darkly, when the wreckage of our failures threaten to drag us under. A troubled mind can’t fully erase the images burned into its memory. Prescription medicines, exercise and therapy make symptoms more manageable, but don’t offer a cure. The unspoken support of a partner, however, coupled with knowing you won’t be abandoned when your illness undoubtedly returns may be the most powerful salve of all. The rarest, too.
“I’ll go where you go, If we’re down and out / Or soaking up the afterglow,” Smith sings.
Check out an interview with Tony Smith below.
How long have you been working on “Afterglow”? I know you said a lot of musicians in Nashville collaborated with you on this song. Who all had a part in “Afterglow”?
Tony Smith: I started building the track in late October, 2016. However, the song was written in the summer of 2015 with a very short-lived project, Sweet Team, that I had started with Lee and Scott from Sleeper Agent. We played two shows and then I decided to focus on a different career path. Out of the handful of songs written, Afterglow was the one that stuck with me the most. The song is fundamentally the same. Some lyrics have changed and the hook is more fully realized. But, the structure remains relatively unchanged. The song features: Lee Williams on bass (former Sleeper Agent, Waco Bell), Brian Zaremba on guitar (Blinds, Hen), John Maccallum played the upright piano and did some programming (The Henry Millers), Sol Philcox-Littlefield on the live drums (Nashville based producer and session guitarist) and Lauren Strange on background vocals (Lauren Strange and the Pretty Killers).
A lot of musicians move to Nashville in search of success, but you experienced your fair share with Sleeper Agent prior to resettling there. Now that you’ve had time to settle in to Nashville, do you feel like it’s offered the the creative environment you were craving when you decided to move there?
TS: No. Definitely not. While I moved here to pursue professional songwriting, I’ve found that music isn’t as magical to me as it once was. The industry side of things feels too constricting and the indie/garage/punk stuff feels too exclusive. I think there’s just such an excess of it here that it’s not as special and can feel more routine. It’s a little exhausting at times. But, that’s probably more of my problem rather than Nashville’s. Gotta love those Nashville Craigslist deals on gear though.
I remember reading a post where you said “Afterglow” is a song that details love and manic-depression. Would you say this is the first song you’ve dedicated a song to focusing on detailing mental illness/depression? I feel like there are definitely songs in your catalog that also touch on it. There is a stigma with mental illness (which I definitely feel like attitudes/perspectives are shifting the more it is written/talked about) .. how difficult was it to write about? Writing a song that details personal subject matter/themes means making yourself particularly vulnerable to listeners. Was that difficult for you? When writing a song so personal do you feel like you have to completely ignore outside perception and giving headspace to what the reaction will be?
TS: It’s hard to say. A few songs on Sleeper Agent’s last album, About Last Night, dealt pretty heavily with anxiety, depression and “demons”. But, I originally wrote Afterglow as a love song to someone who didn’t yet exist. I wasn’t in love… I wasn’t even seeing someone, or considering it. I guess it was more of a “If I loved someone, this is what I would want to say to them…”. The lyrics used to be a lot kitschier and as I did fall in love again later on, I brought the song back and made it more honest and personal. I’ve never felt the stigma of talking about mental illness. I’m pretty open about my own. If you’re even vaguely a friend of mine, you probably know that I deal with GAD and panic disorder. I’ve grown up around people who struggle with far worse. For me, it makes it easier if it’s out in the open. Nobody’s immune, why pretend otherwise?