Daily Discovery: Grimson Plumbs the Depths of “Good Dreams”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

A bout of sleepless nights mixed with disturbingly lucid dreams played back in Aiden Berglund’s head again as he wrote “Good Dreams.” A partially facetious look at the horrifying dreams—from the death of his father to being surrounded by a swarm of wasps—that made the New York-born singer, songwriter, and animator, who goes by Grimson, sleep on the wrong side of the bed too many nights is somehow romanticized and rectified in the pensive “Good Dreams.”

I want some good dreams (good dreams) / So I can sleep through the night… And I believe I’ll be alright sings Berglund on the more tranquil “Good Dreams,” a follow up to the more uptempo, Beatles beats of “Household.”

“Good Dreams” is a psychedelic pop nursery rhyme begging for the simple comforts of rest, while shifting around the somnambulistic, nightmarish states from shadows cast on the basement wall, picture frames that won’t stay straight, and tiny sounds the spirits make through more anxiety-ridden waking thoughts—So where does it end? / I knowingly pretend / The thoughts when I’m awake are not / The thoughts my soul intends.

Now based in Berlin, where he relocated during the pandemic and started creating the multi-media project around Grimson, Berglund chatted with American Songwriter about the power of dreams, how animation plays into his art, being wired for songwriting, and why writing something “cheesy” can be liberating. 

“Good Dreams” Cover Art (Image: Grimson)

American Songwriter: How did “Good Dreams” come together?

Grimson: This song came out of a quite serious bout of insomnia that I suffered while in high school. On occasion, when I was able to fall asleep, I would have the worst dreams of my life. I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, which isn’t particularly nice when the scenes that appeared were of my dad – dead in a bathtub, or a recurring nightmare of being stung by swarms of wasps. The good news is that I was listening to a lot of Jobim and Getz at the time along with ’60s psychedelia like The Zombies, which inspired me to be a bit more playful and melodic when committing to this song. It ended up being a bit of a lullaby mantra for myself in the genuine hope of sleeping better. 

AS: Well, sleep is definitely important. Do you hope “Good Dreams” helps listeners drift off, not necessarily to sleep but from those more waking thoughts and worries? 

G: Clearly, I was dealing with undiagnosed anxiety and depression, and it’s funny to think now how innocent my plea for comfort was. I think the song’s real value comes from how unapologetically melodic it is, which was a bit of a step outside of my comfort zone when I grew up listening to bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. If anything, I want to let other songwriters know that writing something “cheesy” can be pretty liberating and that it’s good to not take yourself too seriously. 

AS: Songwriting is a double-edged sword. It’s magical one minute and gut-wrenching the next, or just completely barren. What are the elements of songwriting that you enjoy most?

G: I thought it was just one big process that either ends at some point or doesn’t. The whole experience is just incredibly rewarding if you allow it to be. There are so few times in life when you can make decisions and execute them immediately, where you can exercise total control and draw upon anything and everything you’ve ever liked or disliked without anybody interfering. I think anybody that writes songs knows what a rush it is when the pieces start to fall into place when you’re so motivated that even reaching for a recorder is a nuisance. Lyrics are a different matter. 

AS: If you were to share one piece of advice to other songwriters now, what would it be?

G: That’s a really hard question because not only is songwriting so complex and personal, but I also don’t feel like I’m qualified to give musical advice… yet. If I was hard-pressed to give a straight answer, I would have to say surround yourself with other good songwriters. It’s easier said than done, I know. The next best thing is probably learning how to play songs that inspire you. And ones you hate too, for that matter. It’s easier to find your voice when you know what to avoid. Beyond that, there’s a world of detail that you can access for free when you start learning other people’s tunes.

AS: Describe the music and art of Grimson.

G: No matter what artist or genre I happen to be influenced by at a given time, I’d like to think that my music is always quite mischievous and full of surprises. At times I’m very sincere and like to comfort myself and whoever listens to the songs, and other times I like to challenge, wield power, and get lost in the noise. There’s always a certain element of nostalgia and tenderness in my songs, but I would be lying if I said that reflects the entirety of my personality. The truth is much more aligned with my horoscope sign: Gemini. I guess I’m describing me and not the music, but that’s within bounds—right ref? 

AS: What is on the horizon, musically and visually, for Grimson?

G: Now that I’ve got some momentum with my music and animations, I hope to tour with the live band that I’ve put together in Berlin. They’re really amazing guys, and I love playing and traveling with them. I’ve got about three records worth of songs that I’m eager to record and put out, because I think, as most songwriters know, it’s always a race to get ahead of your old material – to be producing music for the current moment. The final single from this batch of recordings is coming out this month, along with a music video I’m animating with a college friend, and fantastic artist, T Marsh. From there I guess the idea is to get signed and have the time to work on music and films full time. Since Grimson is a music and animation art project, I think it’s going to be a fulfilling task to expand this animated universe. And I’m looking forward to showing people how my songwriting and production have evolved over the past few years. 

Photo: Courtesy Stephanie Weiss PR

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