[LEOs biweekly Sonic Breakdown column deconstructs a single song from a Louisville musician or band.]
Sometimes songs arent developed from preconceived ideas, but instead they pour out of the writer as a spontaneous surprise. Savannah Ecklar, frontwoman for Mother Runaway is no stranger to this. Its precisely how the song Hands & Knees was written. Its a song that could be about the joy of love. Its a song that could be about the sadness of love. Ecklar leaves it up to us to decide.
At the time I wrote it, a few years ago, I think I just thought it was a love song about this idea that a relationship can save you and ground you, she said. I dont know, its also kind of sad to think you need a relationship for that. Getting older, you realize that its not the case. I think there are two sides to it, and it depends on where youre at when you hear it, as to how you view it.
Her method, she tells me, was to simply lay it all out there, to record what she was thinking and feeling at the time. Or at least everything she thought she was feeling.
This song came really naturally to me, Ecklar said. I was living with my boyfriend at the time. I was 22. I was home alone, and we had a little studio, and I just sat down and wrote it. It all came out at once. Its still one of my favorite songs. So, it really wasnt an idea, just what I was thinking and feeling in that moment.
Hands & Knees certainly wears its inherent emotional content boldly and openly visible. The songs initial notes of acoustic picking and Ecklars robust, breathy vocals give the impression she is in the room with you. Even when the song notches up the energy, around the two-minute mark, blossoming with drums, the ambience of nearness remains clear.
With this song, especially at the time I wrote it, I feel like I was really picky about what I was listening to, she said. I feel like its really my own sound. I had been playing with a band for about a year around that time and we had just broken up and I was just starting to write my own stuff. You could say it was the beginning of the Mother Runaway sound.
Initially, the idea of the song serving as a double entendre hadnt occurred to her. You could call it a musical sister to, say, Madonnas Like A Prayer, begging the question: Is it about love or is it really just about sex?
Theres a line that says youve got a good head now on your shoulders / on my hands and knees, Ecklar said. I was talking with my current boyfriend about how that could be taken. It could be taken as like completely bowing down, just giving yourself over to someone. And he said, Yeah, or it could be sexual. I remembered that it wasnt intentional at the time, but I wondered if I didnt really write it that way. Thats whats fun about being a songwriter. You can slide in dirty things without being completely vulgar.
Hands & Knees is from the 2018 Louisville is for Lovers compilation.