When most people think of an unusually long song, they usually think of something that is around ten minutes, tops. How about one that’s 24 minutes? Minneapolis-based artist Corey Palmer has created just that with his newest release “Heartache.”
“Heartache” is described by Palmer, on his Bandcamp page, as “…a 24 minute single about being sad and getting better.” The song is a result of Palmer writing about his experiences battling depression. As it drifts in and out of both upbeat and slower tempos, the listener gets a sense of what Palmer went through.
Palmer is heavily steeped in Minnesota music. Previously, he was in the bands These Modern Socks and Daykit. He took a break from the music industry to start a family, but was drawn back in 2014 after a near fatal car accident. This re-entrance led to his first solo EP Love Trade, followed by the 2016 album This Could Be About Anyone.
Via phone before this past weekend’s release show, Palmer told me about his new music and what it’s meant to him.
Tell me about the making of “Heartache.” Why did you choose to format it the way you did, in the 24-minute span of time?
I don’t think I really chose to. I just sat down one night and started writing and writing and it all kept coming out. I think I had the first 17 or 18 minutes in one night. It definitely wasn’t a conscious “I really want to make a long song.” I remember waking up the next day and wondering if any of it was any good. Then I played back the demos of it and thought, “Oh wow, this is working pretty well.” At that point I did make the decision because I didn’t want to break it up into tracks or any segues. I rolled with it after that.
Do you think that music could potentially help change the conversation about mental illness? Was that your intention with this song?
It wasn’t initially. As I was recording and putting the touches on it I thought that it was really naked. The lyrics are very sincere. It does feel like if you openly talk about that then it gets thrown into a category of “poor me” type stuff. There’s a lot of people that go through this stuff that would probably prefer to have somebody be this direct about it and open about it. Once I made that decision it was like I’m not going to change these lyrics. I am going to keep them pretty bare and hopefully feel good about it. So far, the response has been great. People have contacted me directly and said “Wow, I’ve been going through the same thing for years and you’re giving it a voice now.” That wasn’t really the goal, but it’s been an unexpected bonus.
At the time I was writing it, my grandma had just passed away and I was in the seasonal affective disorder time of year anyways. And then Prince died right around then, and it was a really awful few weeks that set it off. I couldn’t shake it. It was just months and months where it was awful. I hadn’t had a bout that long in many years. It was pretty rough but I came through. It literally began to wrap up around the same time as recording did. It was an awesome coincidence.
Aside from the length, what sets “Heartache” apart from other music you have released?
I wasn’t trying to be clever with production or style. I tried to make, just out of survival, something that I was going to enjoy. To be honest, my approach wasn’t all that different from previous things I’ve done on my own. I still played all the instruments and mixed it. I think the biggest difference is how quickly it all came out and fit together. Normally, I’ll work on six or seven songs for a couple of years. But this was just a marathon that poured out over just a couple days.
Do you have a favorite part or line of the song?
At some point or another, all of the parts were a favorite part. There is a section in the middle at the 11 or 12 minute mark that slows down and it’s got more of a dubbed feeling to it. It’s the “I Can’t Wait” section. It still really hits home for me. I remember when I was writing that, that first night even. When I got to that point, something about it was making my hair stand up a little bit, and it still gives me chills to listen to it. Sometimes when you’re writing, a melody comes out of somewhere and you think “Whoa. I just did that, and it’s doing something to me.” It’s pretty cool.
What was the process like for writing this song? How did you go about it, and did you face any huge difficulties or have any breakthrough moments when you were working on it?
Not really. It just kept pouring out. I worked on it way too much. My wife will totally agree with that. It was a nightly thing where I was tweaking it and working on this move or that move and mixing. It got out of hand, I guess, after a while. But I tried not to over think it. I wasn’t trying to worry if it was catchy or if it was cool enough. I tried to go with my gut, because that’s all I had at that point last year when this was all going on. I thought, “I’m just going to do this so I can hopefully feel better at the end.” Ultimately, I did.
There were some conscious moves where I was trying to convey the anxiousness. The first section is a little more jittery and fast and just that whole, “Am I okay? Are you okay?” Then definitely coming to terms with it about halfway through the song and then trying to figure out if you’re going to think further or figure out a way out of it. When I got to the end of the process I would look back and go, “Oh, okay. There’s a journey going on here.” It was unintentional but intentional.
Hanna Bubser is a student at Hamline University.