Photo: Amy Martell

With “Standing Still”, Rebekah Rolland Showcases Meditative Americana (premiere)

Tucsonan singer-songwriter Rebekah Rolland's delicately crafted music video for "Standing Still" evokes the nostalgic beauty of its prairie setting.

Ambition bursts forth from Rebekah Rolland’s passion project, Seed & Silo, as clearly as the sun’s rays beam down upon us every morning. The Tucson-based singer-songwriter has been touring the U.S. with bluegrass band Run Boy Run for just around a decade, and in many ways, her solo work feels like the natural extension of her years as a writer and performer. Although, the conscious heart of her forthcoming solo album beats to its own step, with a pristine focus on what has made Rolland as an individual in and outside of her musical world. It also offers us a reflective notion on our planet at large, and what we should be observing from our past to go about learning to preserve it today.

Seed & Silo is set to be released via Sky Island on 20 July. Currently, it is available for pre-order via PledgeMusic alongside a slew of other perks. “Standing Still” is its first single. Built around a light-footed melody and wispy instrumentation, Rolland’s subtle folk number effortlessly evokes nostalgic images of our landscapes’ natural beauty. It’s a song reliant on building up call-backs towards both memories held presently and those that we may have to reach a bit further back for to grasp, intent on eloquently weaving the tale of just how these people, places, and things all come together to influence our lives.

Co-directed by Dallas Campbell, Seth Scott, and Rolland herself, the music video for “Standing Still” hits all of the right marks to bring this story to life on a visual plane. To further discuss “Standing Still”, the production of its music video, and Seed & Silo at large, Rolland engaged in a Q&A with PopMatters.

Tell us a bit about the process behind developing the music video for “Standing Still”?

I wanted it to have that old 19th century aesthetic, so I definitely put a lot of thought into the settings and costumes. It started off with my thinking about this really vast prairie scene. That was one of the initial hurdles, and the other one was using the drawings as a metaphor for memory. I use this term a lot, but it’s an approach I have that I share with the writers who I love called impressionism. These are songs that are very impressionistic in that they’re like this string of images, this kind of hazy soundscape. That is what makes up the story—that standard rule of ‘show rather than tell.’

My biggest musical influences, like Iron & Wine, Patty Griffin, and Gillian Welch, all have a way that gets listeners to ask a lot of questions no matter how specific they are, piecing together who these people and places are for themselves. They’re widely applicable songs and can identify with feelings of loneliness or loss or love, so I love the idea of guiding people just enough to take a guess. There’s that line—’pressed to my mind’—that’s indicative of those drawings from the video being permanently pressed to the page in a way that’s irreversible.

I really wanted that time lapse. Initially, it happened earlier in the video and now it happens in the end, since I thought that it fit the pacing better. We thought about the scenes by the window, my reflection, and the piano, asking ourselves if there was an opportunity to clutter the wall with these drawings to help embrace song’s ebb and flow. I caught up with a high school friend, Seth Scott, randomly in Tempe, and he introduced me to his friend Dallas Campbell. We told Dallas about the music video idea and he was on board, so we got started!

There was that element of two females and their relationship I wanted to highlight. I wanted there to be that ebbing and flowing and things leaving us and becoming hazy and clear at different times, at different points in our lives in past experiences. I wanted that image of the woman in white coming closer and standing beside the woman in black, all before the woman in black faded into the distance. The woman in white was played by my actress cousin, Marian Lacey. She really had the right look for it.

I knew the only prairie we could find that really looked like a prairie was between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Dallas and Seth took some scouting and found the perfect spot. It was snowing the day that we filmed it, hence the striking sky in those landscape shots. It was freezing, though, and we were wearing those lacy tops that I had so carefully chosen for this video. My dad said that the last precipitation they had was that day, which was really coincidental.

We shot some of the video at a home that was flipped into a restaurant in Pine, AZ called the Randall House that’s owned by Barb O’Connor. As for the piano scene, we pushed my parents’ piano against a wall in a living room, which in itself took several hours! The drawing scenes were made possible by Aubreigh Brunschwig, a graphic designer and photographer from Denver. We were able to wrap those up in just a couple hours in the living room.

It took us a few months to put this video together through coordinating it, shooting it, and shifting the scenes around—not a few hours like I had initially expected. I really thought it would be shot a lot faster, not really knowing about how this process would work. in my mind, it was pretty straightforward, but it turns out just shooting the video itself took hours. Dallas and Seth were really troopers, though, and they carried through. We put the real intimate shots at the beginning with the time lapse and the overhead shots at the end of the song, and it was finally complete.

Where does “Standing Still” fit in with the overarching themes of Seed & Silo?

A lot of ‘Standing Still’ came about because I was listening to coverage on the Bears Ears national monument in Utah, where it’s been proposed that we cut down 2 million acres of federal land devoted to the monument down to 250,000 acres. The argument happening now from these supporters of the process is like, ‘Why do we need this place? Why is 2 million acres necessary when we are still preserving this monument?” That’s because they’re trying to tap into national resources.

I wanted to press into our collective memory and how literature and art and national parks preserve our unity, and preserve these histories that are really important to groups of people and to our country as a whole.

The song is about memory and how it affects us on an individual level. The album, more broadly, covers how memory affects us collectively and why it is important to learn lessons from those who came before us, and to apply those lessons now. The Homestead National Monument of America exists to preserve the original homestead and preserve just 160 acres of tall acre grass.

Homesteaders meant to farm in the Midwest and places like Nebraska and the Dakotas, but since prairie grasses went 30 feet into the ground and were really hard to pull up, they had to do it manually. It was an incredible feat and gave the U.S. and edge economically and agriculturally when they did, but it was at the expense of many American Indian tribes and the environment. They didn’t really account for environmental effects until the Dust Bowl, when it became clear that prairie grasses contributed to a balanced environment. We have to learn from experiences like that and situations like that so that we can create decisions about the environment and about regions that have incredible historical and spiritual value with caution. We need to look to history to direct these decisions.

With this whole album, I wanted it to center around this idea of memory, and just understanding that we’ve been shaped by the actions and decisions and lives of those before us so that we can learn from them and shape the lives of those who come after us.