Reflecting on the sheer amount of changes the world has had to not only face but swiftly adapt to over the last several months, can feel downright overwhelming. Nothing could be more prominent in the barrage of societal shifts, than prolonged physical separation. It’s during these times of mental and emotional distress that having something to help reset the moment, and be a reminder of inherent goodness, can make a meaningful difference in our minds and hearts.
Today, the newest piece of uplifting creativity to arise in support of a world still struggling with this reality, comes through the collaborative artistry of Jonas Myrin (MY-rin) and Natasha Bedingfield. The two Grammy-winning singer-songwriters and longtime close friends, worked with each other, as well with the extremely dedicated and efficient support of co-producer Michael Fatkin and mix engineer Josh Gudwin, to make “Together in This.” An upbeat, melody-centric song about solidarity through friendship and love, as well as emotional connection despite physical distance, the song is the official end title track for the animated children’s film, Jungle Beat: The Movie. The single is out today and the film is officially available for streaming worldwide via Google Play, AppleTV and Amazon Video.
Glancing at the main elements of this project from a distance – one song, an animated children’s film based on a series of the same name, and the understanding that the music embraces a theme of togetherness – it’s easy to jump to conclusions and perhaps believe there isn’t a tremendous amount of depth to be explored. While all the components come from a place of positivity, music meant to bolster a story written for children as young as three to four, might seem easy to presume as showcasing little in the way of surprises or sophistication.
Yet, it only takes the briefest of moments speaking with Bedingfield and Myrin together on a joint call, to realize that neither of these seasoned musicians took a single aspect of this project for granted. Simply hearing how emotively and articulately each describes not only how they became involved with the film but their respective relationships with the art of music as a whole, reveals things are not necessarily as elementary as they seem on the surface.
“I think for me, music has always been something that has been coming out of the overflow of my life,” says Myrin. “Like I didn’t think too much about genres growing up. I was a missionary’s kid. I grew up in Sweden, Africa, Russia so, music for me was language that connected people. How you can use music to inspire has always been with my music tastes. [That] it would help people and it would touch the lives of others,” he says.
Meanwhile, as Myrin works his way towards explaining how he and Bedingfield ended up collaborating on the song together, the English singer’s own perspective about the presence of music and her perceived role as an artist, really highlight how well the pair’s personal philosophies blend.
“A lot of songwriters believe, and I do too, that [a] song is in the air already and that as a songwriter, you just put your antennae up and your receive it and it just flows through you. So as a songwriter you’re actually a container of an idea that flows through you. And your job – my job as a songwriter – is not to have too much of my own ego. And sometimes you end up just being really, really, in the right place and the right time. The funny thing is that a lot of songwriters have ideas and if you don’t write it, someone else will,” says Bedingfield.
“A lot of my songs that have been successful have been very positive,” she continues. “But [“Together in This”] just felt really beautiful – like a friend reminding me who I am through a song. [Ultimately,] I always try to make songs that are saying something, that are leading me or leading the listener somewhere and making us look up – helping us to look beyond the hardships. For me, music has been that. Music has been this amazing place [and an] amazing vehicle for me to look past difficult circumstances,” Bedingfield says.
Though Bedingfield was brought onto the project after Myrin, and after he had already composed the foundation of “Together in This,” it’s not hard to see just how closely these two not only know each other as people but also how deeply they understand each other’s artistic motivations and styles.
“I’ve always written my own songs so it’s very rare that I’ll sing a song that someone else has written because I love songwriting. But I think truly because Jonas knows, has known me since we were 17, I think he really did write this song with my voice in mind. I could really feel that when I heard the song,” Bedingfield says.
It would make plenty of sense for Bedingfield and Myrin to find some level of connection with the film as they both did with the featured single. However, each also saw the lighter premise of the movie within the larger context of present struggles across the world. Their collective revelations seem to bring the whole project to an even greater height of significance and emotional potential than perhaps was initially imagined.
“[Jungle Beat: The Movie] is a family movie; it’s time where people are with their families a lot,” says Bedingfield. “They’re pulling their hair out trying to figure out ways to entertain their children, stuck with the ones they love. Or, they’re alone, trying to keep [their] mental health [in good condition]. And I think that there’s so many serious, important conversations going on. But having fun and spending time together, that’s so important right now – that’s just as important,” she says.
“When I first heard about [Jungle Beat: The Movie], I actually saw it a year and a half ago in storyboard form,” Myrin recalls.
“I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the message of this film is so beautiful.’ It’s just a beautiful message of unity and friendship,” he continues. “And little did I know that, in the middle of this pandemic, that [“Together in This”] would drop down and come together in this film and it ended up being that the timing was just unbelievable.”
Though a lot of free-flowing, easy going reflection came about going into making the single, both Myrin’s individual composition process and the integration of Bedingfield’s vocals to create the full piece, involved some rather meticulous writing and hectic execution respectively. If the former sounds mildly unexpected given the age of the audience the music is for, that’s understandable. “Together in This” does follow some conventional expectations when it comes to tonality and song form. A short motif at the beginning establishes the melodic theme; the song follows a familiar verse, pre-chorus, chorus, format; and the music generally turns to major chords and cadences as a way to emphasize feelings of happiness.
Nevertheless, despite how easily one can fall into signing along with the song’s empowering refrain (We are together, together in this, / Together we’re strong, never alone), a closer listen reveals just how clever Myrin is at being able to project an easily graspable sonic aesthetic while achieving that overall quality with subtly more intricate writing that strengthened to song’s mood without adding a distracting level of complexity.
“[The song’s tonality and style of flow] was definitely a very intentional choice. I did something really brave – which, this is one of the first song’s where I figured it out – I actually modulate three steps up into the chorus to really bring in sunshine. And the last note from the verse actually is the first note of the chorus in the new key so, one of the modulations is really tricky to do and really requires a singer to be able to sing up three steps in the chorus. And I’m [thinking] ‘Not many people can do that [but] Natasha can. She is the one to do it’,” he says.
“But that’s what it feels like when the chorus comes in,” he continues. “It’s like sunshine comes in. And that’s what you want: this moment where not just the lyrics, but also the music, is telling a story of hope.”
Hope being the unyielding sentiment of persevering optimism that it is, hearing such emotional strength from Myrin becomes all the more admirable and beautiful, knowing that just a week or so before beginning work on “Together in This” with Bedingfield, Myrin’s father passed away as a result of COVID-19. Nonetheless, in spite of that indescribably profound loss and impossible ask in light of such isolated grief, knowing what kind of music he was making and with whom he was doing it, only inspired Myrin and actually brought a small respite of comfort to remember his father by.
“Actually, Natasha was my dad’s favorite singer in the world,” Myrin explains. “And [Natasha] asked me, ‘Are you going to be okay? Are you going to be able to do this, during this week, with everything going on?’ And I said, ‘You know what? This would be the most beautiful gift I could give my dad at this time because he just loved when we sang together and worked together,” he says.
An individual focused on positive spirits, Myrin proceeds to reflect further on other reasons why working on “Together in This” brought him joy. He explains that he not only knows who his audience is but that he respects them as observers of meaningful art and engaging stories.
“[I wanted to write something] where kids would like it,” he says.
“You know like, you can’t fool a kid. Like, a kid just knows if [music] is bad or good. So I really tried to keep the purity and tried not to be too overly clever and not get too striving in the melody. I wanted it to feel like something that would just flow be like a comforting lullaby, like something you would sing to your child,” says Myrin.
As fate would have it, that last particular intent from Myrin only serves to show how well Bedingfield was indeed the ideal fit to sing “Together in This.” Not only is Bedingfield a believer in the idea that “real positive songs come from hardship and hard places because you need to be lifted up,” but in addition to being emotionally present to Myrin after the death of his father, around the same time, Bedingfield had to contend with the emotions that came with having her young son temporarily hospitalized for a brain abscess. In the face of these sobering events and even just the state of the world in general, it’s wholly unsurprising to find out that Bedingfield feels her priorities with music have undeniably changed. Having [made music] for so long. [When Jonas and I first met], we would meet and read Songwriting for Dummies and we taught ourselves how to write songs. We didn’t go to college to write songs and we realized you have to write a lot of bad songs to get to the good ones. Like you actually just have to force yourself to write everyday,” she explains.
There’s definitely been some songs where you’re trying to guess what people will like or, if it’s a job [related piece of music.] As I have honed my craft and as [Jonas] has, we’ve become wordsmiths. We’ve become able to use our words really well and are able to say things that we really care about,” says Bedingfield, before summarizing her thought with a concise but valuable piece of insight.
“And that’s the secret actually, to something being a success: when it really resonates and it really has truth in it, then it goes beyond yourself. There’s no limit to where the song will go.”
From there, Myrin seems to jump up with a complementary thought of his own, almost appearing to be on the same wavelength as Bedingfield about the pricelessness of this musical opportunity they shared.
“I heard someone say once, ‘A song can travel into the depths of a person’s heart but also to the ends of the world,’ Myrin says. “Like Natasha said, we just love writing. And with [“Together in This,”] that’s part of what’s so special about this song. It’s such an authentic story to who we [both] are. That’s something we’ve been so protective about actually, is in not ever wanting to make [our life experiences] into a commercial thing because [they’re] so precious. But now the timing is right. We want to give something to the world and we want to use our gifts. We want to use our lyrics and melodies to bring people together.”