It's been hard to know what to say when I explain the inspiration for “Harvest Moon” to people, so much so that I held onto it for two years, only sharing it with a trusted few. My relationship with music is complicated, not because I don’t love it, but because when I sit down to write or even to listen to music I love, all I think of is my brother. Peter was music. He lived and breathed the artist life and was a huge inspiration for everything I did with songwriting. I looked up to him, watched how he created, how he produced his tracks, how he mixed different genres together and carved his own path. When I lost him I think in some ways, I lost music too.
I’ve stared my grief in the face daily for nearly 6 years now and I will tell you, the pain of a loss like this doesn’t go away and I’m not sure it ever will. There were times that it felt good to put my feelings into words and music. I would get lost in it, pour my heart out just to listen back a few weeks later and be confused about what I was trying to say. Grief twists and turns, it changes like a shape-shifter and there is no telling what days will feel light and which will level you completely. Music and songwriting became something I knew without fail would pull me down into the mud, face to face with my loss and it became increasingly difficult to dig myself out of the dark places. So I put songwriting down, leaned into the places in my life that were teaching me, bringing me joy, and allowed myself to become open about a new path for my life. During this time I was often awoken early in the morning, just before the night would turn to day, gripped with the fear that I would lose more of the people and the things that I love, just like I lost Peter, like I was losing music. I remember sitting down with my ukulele and humming out a melody, wondering if I would ever write something that I loved again. “Harvest Moon” slowly appeared on the paper and after a few voice memos, I pieced it all together.
“Sometimes I wake when the stars are gone, but the sun is still on it’s way
And I cannot shake the feeling that I’m not done losing all the things I love.
How many times do I have to say goodbye?
How many times do I have to break?”
The last song Peter covered was “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young and his band played it without him at his memorial service in Brooklyn. Since then the visual of a Harvest Moon represented my brother and accompanied me through the darkest season of my life. So much so that it inspired the creation of my own “Harvest Moon”.
Peter’s music is impossible to forget and it is a part of him that I can hold onto. I put his record on when I need to hear his voice and I have time and space to sit in the deep pool of emotion it brings up. Peter’s original, “The Night Sky Became An Ocean” from his full-length album “Caveat Emptor”, is a song I will swim in for the rest of my life. His voice feels close and far away all at the same time and I feel comforted by the vastness of his production. It was almost like he wrote it for me to have after he was gone, something to instantly bring him close, a thread to hold onto that connects me to him, no matter how far gone we are.
These two songs became the inspiration for the chorus:
“I see Harvest Moons in my dreams,
night skies turn like ocean tides,
and stars are sending me the light
from wherever you are, wherever you are”
Mostly, I wanted to write a song that remembered Peter, a song that felt like it shared a glimpse into the experience of grief. If you are enduring loss, I hope you know that you are not alone. I hope you know that while the pain never goes away, you will get stronger and it won’t always feel the way it does right now. I hope you cling to the things that bring you joy until they pull you from the depths. I encourage you to ask the hard questions and redefine yourself in life after loss even if it means setting down the things that are too heavy to carry and embarking on a whole new path. As Neil Young wrote so beautifully, "I want to see you dance again".
If music can bring Peter back to me so quickly, maybe my music can reach him too. I hope he knows that he is thought of daily and that I miss him more than I could ever say. I hope this song surfs the ocean of his night sky, skims across many moons and gently lands with him like starlight.
Peter, wherever you are, I hope this song makes you proud.
You can listen to Harvest Moon by Vanessa Spear HERE
A huge thank you to producer Chase Coy for creating a landscape that perfectly fits this song and the memory of my brother. I'm forever grateful.