Some might say that the best trips taken are the ones where the journey is as fondly memorable as the destination. In the case of the new single from Lauren Crosby, this travel-oriented sentiment could apply to not just the song itself but the real life series of events that led to its creation in the first place.
Premiering today on American Songwriter, “Biloxi” is the latest offering from Maine musician, Lauren Crosby and her feature guest vocalist, Griffin Sherry (of the band The Ghost Of Paul Revere).
Those not familiar with the northern most east coast state – which is full of long winding roads; caution signs for moose; and at times, sprawling miles of nothing but green trees, mountain tops and rivers – might imagine Crosby’s home stomping ground on an island within the state, as a place of similarly natural vastness, the kind that inspires a breath-taking sense of remoteness. Whether or not Crosby actually sees it that way, her new song “Biloxi” seems to indicate that singer-songwriter very much has her mind and heart set on anywhere else but her island home.
A single with a spirited but not overly frenetic tempo, feature vocalist Griffin starts the music (after a curious, scene-setting introduction over roughly the first half minute) with the track’s inquiry-driven chorus.
How many lips you gotta kiss
to figure out which ones you miss?
How many times you been to Biloxi?
How many lovers will you know
just to see how far you’ll go?
Tell me, how many times you been to Biloxi?
The fact that the song came about while Crosby was literally on the I90 highway in Mississippi, in the midst of a self-propelled tour, gives a real-world idea where the song’s opening premise of clear wanderlust comes into play. The added element of the protagonist’s indecision when it comes to relationships and lovers rings a bit more socially familiar but as Crosby explains, the specific kind of travel-related inner turmoil described in “Biloxi” isn’t something that everyone will recognize and that is part of the reason she felt compelled to write it.
“’Biloxi’ is a bullish folk-rock number that intertwines the complicated story of two lovers: one who was born to stay, one who was born to leave,” Crosby says.
She continues, “Living life with a traveling spirit gets tricky because if you’re not with someone who understands it, oftentimes issues arise. Biloxi could be anywhere – the grocery store, a vacation, a different school: somewhere you know you need to go to alone for a while to get your mind clear. You tell someone you love them, and then you leave. Tale as old as time.”
Musically, “Biloxi” is as intriguing and appealing as its implied conceptual impulse. While the song beings with a touch of edginess thanks to Griffin’s mildly ragged vocals and full dynamic push that includes drums, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, organ and even the occasional tonal punctuation of toy bells, over time, Crosby’s gentler, rounded, slightly twangy vocal tone balances out Griffin. (Think slightly more vocally assertive and defined First Aid Kit).
“Searching for a male vocal that could pull off the feelings behind the lyrics, I knew it had to be a voice with grit and power. I instantly thought of Griffin but it took me four months to work up the courage to ask him to sing on it,” Crosby says.
“I spent my adolescent and college years watching his band, Ghost of Paul Revere, grow into a holler-folk powerhouse,” she continues. “When I was a teenager, I would often sneak into the Dogfish during their weekday night residency to watch the Ghost perform, and for me, Griffin’s voice still holds the same spark and authority that it did nearly 10 years ago. That drive, that passion is exactly what the story of “Biloxi” needed. Griffin’s musicianship embodies our home state of Maine as a whole: it’s real, it’s raw, it’s authentic, and you best be ready because when it hits you, it’s jaw-droppingly-gorgeous.”
The song slides between emotional moods and the chords that change between Griffin’s parts and Crosby’s parallel that too, as during the latter, the chord changes shift the tone of the instrumental backing just enough to lean it in a distinctly brighter, major key direction, while Griffin’s refrains revert to a bolder series of minor chords that fit with the uncertainty of his lyrical questioning. Together, the pair’s dramatic stylistic contrast, as well as their unified harmonies show just how much of an aptitude Crosby has for writing along the lines between friendly organic folk and more tone, rhythm, and-or tempo intense classic and western-style rock. Furthermore, just like the imaginatively interesting place that is “Biloxi,” Crosby’s choice in collaborating with Griffin shows just how vividly she envisions the stories of her songs and how much thought she feels needs to go into finding the right person to evoke every aspect of her ideas.