The “Big Nothing” from Skribe says a big something about mental illness
Annapolis, MD garage folk singer-songwriter, Skribe, might not be on some folks’ music listening radars. Heck, the man who built his signature sound around an instrument called the canjo (an eight string guitar constructed from an oil can), might not be familiar to many folks. Nevertheless, he who otherwise goes off-stage by Aaron Yealdhall, has been steadily writing songs and releasing music of memorable sound and applaudable quality for several years, with a gradually but continually growing, and dedicated following to show for it.
First and foremost, this contrasting juxtaposition – relative anonymity amid the wider national and international crowd, on top of a clearly noticeable and easy to grab onto sound and timbre – is a reminder of the abundance of deeply inspired musicians and artists who exist but aren’t always seen. In addition to that however, Skribe’s very dualistic position as a musician with an easily noticed style and a quietly existing presence, manages by its very nature, to be the perfect messenger for the important takeaways in new single, “The Big Nothing.”
Released just yesterday, “Big Nothing” doesn’t actually feature Skribe’s trusty canjo. Neither does the song unfurl with an uptempo sense of momentum or jagged and gritty style of tonality. In this way, at face value, “The Big Nothing” might seem like the least effective track to serve as a singular introduction to Skribe or take on the weight of embodying an important message. Yet because of the place from where the song was conceived – intimate coping in the wake familial loss amid witnessing a struggle with mental illness – a more dynamically reserved and sonically approachable quality for the song’s central hook and band foundation suits the emotional occasion without watering down the topical importance.
Partnered with a backing sonic structure that lands squarely within the bounds of easy-going folk rock (the intermittent garnish-like splash of tambourine, the clean finger style melody of a Nashville-tuned guitar, and the gentle wave of a slide guitar’s warble), Skribe’s vocals – with their well-supported tone and the tiniest bit of natural waver familiar to fans of Chris Stapleton – bring the minimal amount of garage edge heard more often in his other repertoire. Past that though, “Big Nothing” allows Skribe’s lyricism to do most of the heavy creative lifting, which, far from being a detriment to the song, is a shining feature of clear but clever writing. It begins in a way that appears almost letter-like in its opening, with Skribe seemingly opening up to his late brother, Kevin Yealdhall, to whom the song is dedicated.
I’ve been trying to crack it like a case
what you tried to say that night
but all that we could do was vigil on
that disconnected line
– Lyrics from “The Big Nothing”
While “The Big Nothing” doesn’t overtly mention the heart of the loss, Skribe’s lyrical restraint actually creates a more vivid listening experience because the focus is put more on the rapidly shifting moods one is bound to feel as an indirect watcher of another’s struggles. The direct descriptions and metaphors in the verses are conceptually uncomplicated but bold in their imagery, making it easy to know how drastic of a point Skribe is trying to make on behalf of another person. Musically, the melody flows along effortlessly, providing a subtle indirect contrast to the implied trying internal mental challenges outlined in the lyrics. And perhaps most subtle but clever of all, with the song’s repeated refrain (the balancing, it never ends / I found a light in the big nothing), has the final word, “nothing” landing on a note and chord of sonically unresolved quality, which can allude to many ideas of the unknown after death, the unresolved nature of sudden loss, and perhaps more positively, the idea of open potential for anyone out there struggling and still alive, who still have the open ended opportunity to connect with the support they need to turn a personal corner and avoid the more devastating and unchangeable loss of suicide.
It’s a strong display of Skribe’s artistry as a songwriter to be able to fold in creative nuance while keeping the whole of “Big Nothing” largely within a musically friendly and relaxed frame – meant as a work of comfort and social outreach over individual praise.
As per Skribe’s official Bandcamp page for “Big Nothing”:
Aaron’s sister, Lauren Yealdhall is passionate about crushing the stigma that surrounds the mental health conversation and she is making some moves in the state of Maryland. Her efforts are starting to gain some momentum but she could use more voices. Please email email@example.com with the subject CRUSH THE STIGMA and [Aaron] will put you in touch.
“Big Nothing” is available now.
Find it on Bandcamp and coming soon to Spotify.
Keep up with Skribe through his official website and these social media outlets:
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