Fransancisco Detail Tragedy With Haunting New Song, “More Than You Know”

Few tragedies sting quite like losing a child. Thorald Koren faced the unimaginable, and with a strong support system, he came out the other side with a greater understanding of life. When his son Jack Mutsuro Mcrae Koren was born, the child had suffered multiple brain injuries due to lack of oxygen in the womb. The next 15 months was an arduous journey ─ one which ultimately taught Koren, his wife Ashley, and their entire family about life, love, and bonds of family.

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Thorald, who co-leads folk duo Fransancisco, alongside musician and brother Isaac, shares the haunting story through the band’s new song. “More Than You Know,” premiering today, contains a simple, searing acoustic guitar line, their voices twisting together like so much ivy. 

“Half in heaven / Here but not here / Take my life instead,” they sing. Their words are tortured but poetic. “Smash my armor / Rip my heart out / There’s demons in my head.”

As much darkness as one might anticipate given such a tragedy, it was never too overwhelming or suffocating. “Our journey over the past few months has taught us, as a family, to choose life, even in the face of death,” Thorald tells American Songwriter. “Jack’s memorial was at the end of January [this year], and we are grateful for his story to now be told.”

“As the darkness truly intensified, so did the light. We discovered a real sense that we are never alone. Not even close,” he continues. “At the bottom of the ocean, we found pearls. Jack’s love and presence was the light in the dark; ask anyone who had the pleasure of being in his space.”

“More Than You Know” ebbs and flows, seemingly a mirror image of life’s own transitory state. “You can’t see me / Only feel me / Our love is deep and bold,” the pair beg on the second verse. “Show no mercy / Crush and nail me / Teach me all you know.”

Jack left an indelible imprint on more than just their lives. In fact, the song’s first note came directly from Jack. In their new album’s early stages, a creative endeavour initiated by Rockwood Music Hall Records owner Ken Roockwood, the Koren brothers weren’t quite sure where they were headed or if they had enough songs.

Thorald and Isaac gathered together, only an acoustic guitar to accompany them, every night to tinker around and write songs. “It just so happened that Jack was needing to be suctioned every few minutes and instead of having a night nurse, we would just sing to Jack,” Isaac recalls. “We knew he loved it.”

“We quickly realized that [with] some ideas, Jack responded to more than others. One of these ideas did not have a melody,” he adds. Always ones to naturally experiment, they waited to hear Jack’s response. He uttered a “perfect ‘A’ note over the music and held the note. He kept singing that note with each breath. It was one of those moments that my brother and I were open mouthed and breathless together in the moment.”

In keeping Jack’s note as the song’s literal beginning, “More Than You Know” harbors a truly marvelous, life-confirming undercurrent. “The melody came out that night, all at once,” says Thorald. “The lyrics, difficult to imagine, pointed out the different faces of grief within our family. We decided to ask our mother to work with Jack on the lyrics, the way we did with the music.”

“Our mother would sit in bed with Jack, listening over and over to the voice note melody of us singing gibberish and put words to it,” he continues. “She said, ‘I would be reading out the lyrics to Jack, and I would immediately feel him, when the lyric was right.’”

“More Than You Know” serves as the cornerstone of the band’s new album, I Went to the Sea to Be Free, a collection Thorald says “was made with our family, our ancestors and the people who called it into being. This album is the conversation we never got to have with all of those we have lost.”

Five months later, Jack’s presence weaves into every fabric of their lives, as much as the album itself. “Jack taught us that everyone has a voice,” Thorald observes. “In Jack’s honor, we now guide and coax first time singers into the belief that everyone can sing.”

The Koren brothers have since established the forthcoming virtual event, Your Big Voice, slated for July 25. The initiative promises to be an “experience of transformation and personal power through music, expression, creativity and play.”

Listen to “More Than You Know” below.

Photo Credit: Aaron Thomas

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