Musician Larkin Grimm's life has been a personal journey with experiences that has…
- Posted on Feb 1st 2012 4:00PM by Robert Ham
"That was unusual," Grimm says later, sitting backstage. "By this time of the night, he's usually asleep."
The challenges of touring with an infant are lessened thanks to Grimm's mother joining them on the road. But, impressively, Grimm seems to have adapted quickly to caring for a child and her still-young musical career at the same time.
It helps that, over the last few years, Grimm has settled down considerably. For much of her life, she has bounced around the world, from the mountains of Georgia, where she spent much of her childhood, to briefly attending Yale, to towns both big and small where, according to a long statement written for the release of her new self-released album 'Soul Retrieval,' she "shook off my anger, embraced adventure, and picked up pieces of music from everywhere."
These days, the 29-year-old singer-songwriter has a fixed address in Manhattan and works a day job with her husband, teaching storytelling techniques to corporate salespeople. And now, she finds herself, as she puts it, "recommitting to the world" through the birth of her first child.
"I was searching for meaning in my life before I had a baby," she says. "Suddenly my job is just to show this baby how magical the world is. I totally knew how magical the world is. I've experienced it on my own. But sometimes you forget. Children remind you."
The sound of Grimm's music proves that she is unusually suited for the job. A sense of wonder and playfulness informs much of 'Soul Retrieval.' Recorded with legendary musician and producer Tony Visconti (best known for his work with David Bowie and T. Rex), the album is a varied affair, ably sidling between warped folk-pop to vintage-sounding R&B without flinching. And much of the album is threaded with a starry-eyed view of the world, with Grimm imploring herself and her listeners, "Everything's fine/don't go out of your mind."
But, like much of Grimm's work over the years, there is a dark side that lies within these new songs. Even the jauntiest tunes are laced with imagery that seems to come from the world of her namesake's fairy tales.
She only lets the album get enveloped by that blackness once on 'Soul Retrieval,' but that single song, 'Lying in a Pool of Milk,' carries a great deal of psychic weight for the songwriter. Amid a chilling arrangement of stumbling percussion and Hitchcockian strings, Grimm relays a pointed and terrifying tale that returns often to the phrase "f--- that child."
When asked about the song, Grimm admits to its darkness, then takes a long pause before being able to explain its source material.
Until she was 6, she and her parents lived in a religious commune based outside of Memphis, Tenn. Before they left the fold, she says, men claiming to be Russian Orthodox priests arrived to warn the community that it was under investigation by the government.
"They said we would be labeled as a cult and ostracized for the rest of our lives if we didn't join a larger religious order," Grimm remembers. "They said, 'We indoctrinate you into the Russian Orthodox Church and you will be left alone.'"
The commune, still on edge from the fall out of the 1978 mass suicides at Jonestown, quickly accepted the monks' offer.
But, Grimm continues, "what the leaders of this commune didn't know was that these priests had been defrocked because they were molesting children in Alaska. Luckily, we left really soon after that, but a lot of the kids that I knew got molested. It totally destroyed that commune. It was this place where our parents believed that we were totally pure and that we could be spiritual leaders. The kids were super sensitive and super open and to bring abuse into that situation is the most terrible thing ever."
She learned of the abuse as she was writing the song and found the news was inspiring the devastating lyrics. Grimm struggled, though, with the decision to put it on the album.
"It's so weird, because the rest of the album is so beautiful and so accessible," she says. "I wondered, 'Is this going to screw up my whole chance of this album being my breakthrough album?' But eventually, I decided, my job is not to just make pretty things. I have to honor the muse."