If you’ve ever wanted to trade in city drudgery for a pastoral life, you’ll identify with “Trying to Feel at Home” by The Lowest Pair.
Written and sung by Palmer T. Lee with harmonies by bandmate Kendl Winter, the melancholy song is a highlight of the duo’s upcoming album, 36¢, arriving digitally on Jan. 14. Trampled by Turtles’ front man Dave Simonett served as the project’s producer and engineer.
Lee answered a few questions by email about the poetic track.
CMT Edge: I can identify with the line about only walking three blocks to work — and how some people would call that lucky. It’s a smart way to illustrate the narrator’s frame of mind. Did you envision somebody else when you wrote the song, like a millworker who would rather have a piece of land, or is it from your perspective — or a bit of both?
Lee: “Trying to Feel at Home” is a personal narrative. I wrote that song while I was living in the Logan Park neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. I was literally living three blocks from the mill I was working at. I wrote a lot of songs while working at the mill. It was the only way to stay sane while performing the tedious labor.
I had five gardens in the yard of the house I was renting, and I was studying urban farming at the local permaculture research institute. So I was almost constantly daydreaming about someday having my own land where I could plant trees and raspberry bushes. The dreams weren’t new but prevalent in mind because of how I was spending my free time.
The harmonies are well-placed as the song unfolds. What do you think they bring out in this particular track — either in the music or the message?
I think our vocals are a strong suit for us, so we try to harmonize in arrangements as often as possible. Kendl has a very emotionally powerful voice, so it fit perfectly when Kendl opted to sing the entire second verse with me.
I appreciate the gentle arrangement of the song. How would you describe the experience of recording the song and working with Dave Simonett?
The arrangement for the song arose organically. We recorded the whole record playing together, sitting across from each other in a room, just like we would have played the songs live.
Kendl had worked out the melody on an open-back banjo in the clawhammer style, and it sounded great to me, so we kept it that way — except she used her Ome banjo on the recording instead of the open-back. I don’t think fingerstyle banjo would have served the longing vibe of the song very well. I wrote the song on guitar and I was playing guitar when I showed it to Kendl, so when we went to record it, I played guitar.
Dave produced the whole record with a pretty gentle hand. He would offer suggestions whenever he had them, but for the most part, we kept the original arrangements we had already been playing the songs live with. My six-string was actually in the shop the day we had that session, but Dave had a 1973 Martin D-35 in the studio that sounded great and played real easy — so I recorded that song with it.
Check out the CMT Edge premiere of the Lowest Pair’s “Trying to Feel at Home.”