There’s a certain type of stillness that comes right before inevitable loss.
I think people are generally pretty bad at dealing with bittersweet endings, but really good at drawing them out. Messy breakups often take weeks or months to really subside, and even the most mutual ones take a while to wade through. The last two minutes of a basketball game usually take forever, because the losing team decides that fouling every three seconds is the best way to deal with being down fifteen points.
But, for how perfect and painful the closing chapters of Harry Potter were for all of us, I think people are supposed to be this way.
Because there really is beauty in the moments before loss.
Just listen to Golden Hour.
Before Spacey Kacey won album of the year, Matthew Pinder was way ahead of her. The Bahamas-based singer-songwriter does his part in capturing the mysteriousness of life’s golden hours – the inexplicably peaceful moments before losing things you love.
The song is built lyrically and sonically around this concept, delivering lines slowly and surely, making every last moment count before it fades out. Like the hour before the sun sets completely, the song is calm and beautiful, but not without sadness and regret. Pinder’s soft, aching voice washes over the listener and insists that they stay for the full 3:36, though it feels much longer in the moment.
It’s so full of stillness, yet so charged with honest emotion.
So, when the song ended, I decided to ask Matthew a few questions about how he wrote it.
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How did you start making music?
Music was always there from a young age. On and off guitar lessons since I was about 10. But it wasn’t until college that music became so important to me. I began to sing with my friend, Carly; she really taught me to sing. Once I had done a few open mics and sang many cover songs with Carly, I began writing. Now I can’t get enough of it.
Who are your influences?
Noah Gundersen is a huge influence for me. When I first began listening to him I was struck by his honest, vulnerable lyrics. That mixed with his powerhouse vocals, he’s my favorite singer. That’s how I wanted to write. Other major influences include: Corey Kilgannon, The Head and the Heart, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker. Whenever an artist just gives their all emotionally, I can’t help but be drawn to it.
Is your writing process more organic or laborious?
It’s hard to say, each song comes differently. There was a time when my college professor challenged me to write a song a day for 30 days. I’d never just sat and forced myself to write but to my surprise, several of the songs from my new album came out of those 30 days. I would say that normally, my writing process is a bit more lax, but I always tell people, writing’s weird, it’s difficult to explain. I just aim to be as honest as I can in my lyrics.
What is your goal when you write a song?
My goal is almost always to convey a feeling or multiple feelings I’m currently experiencing. I want to connect, I want to engage. These terms can be overused I guess but I really do want my songs to have some sort of impact on the listener. I want a listener that hears one of my songs to want to know more of the story and be able to relate it to theirs.
You tend to deliver lines slowly, as if you’re asking listeners to soak in each lyric for a moment before the next one comes. Why this approach?
I guess in certain songs I am feeling more contemplative than others and I am trying to get that across. I’m just really big on the importance of lyrics. I do want listeners to take them in, to feel like they’re getting into my soul. I guess sometimes it can feel more honest or meaningful to sing like that, to slow the world down with a song.
What makes a song bad?
Well, I guess firstly, if I can’t connect with the singer’s voice I’d call it a bad song. I know I’ve talked a lot about lyrics which I do feel are hugely important, but if I don’t like the voice, I guess I’d call it a bad song. That sounds a bit harsh…this one’s tough. I think it’s one of those topics where the answer is, “when you know, you know.”
What advice would you give to other songwriters?
I’d say write as much as you can. I would also suggest sharing your writing with people you’re close with. That can be scary! But I always show my close friends what I’m working on, I find that just having others listen or read takes a bit of the pressure off and makes me less self-critical. Don’t just wait for a song to come, if you want to write a song, get started. With all that said, I’m the farthest thing from a writing expert.
What was the first part of “Golden Hour” to be written?
I wanna say I just started from the top. I was smoking a cigar which is where the “ashes” term came from. I think I wrote the whole song from top to bottom. Verse, chorus, verse, etc. Also, the melody of the chorus used to be the same melody that ran through the whole song. It wasn’t until I got in the studio with my producer, Chris Jacobie, that he suggested I switch up the melody in the verses. I’m thankful for his advice – it made the song so much more dynamic.
The verses carry a sense of longing and desperation, and then the choruses completely flip that feeling into hope. What made you decide to build that contrast?
The song did come from a bit of a broken place, a place of regret. The verses reflect my sorrow in hurting someone but not wanting to let go. The chorus is the big hope, that we’d be together, in the beauty. This idea of one person being a part of every facet of my life felt huge and I wanted to express it in that way. Its essentially a letter to the one I love. That I messed up but just stay here in the light with me, because you’re everything.
Why the phrase “golden hour?”
The title is quite literal. When I was writing the song, I was sitting on the balcony in the sunset here at my home in Nassau. It all just felt right. Like this place and time is perfect for me and you.
What’s your favorite lyric from the song?
The chorus is definitely my favorite part of the song.
You’re in every song I hear and every song I write.
Just this sense of having this person in everything.
Did production play a role in the writing process?
The songs were all totally written before I got in the studio. Working with Chris did make these songs greater than I ever thought they could be. Somehow, in the studio we made “Golden Hour” feel like the ocean. The song feels like home to me. Like I said, the melody did change in the studio, but other than that, I feel like we kept true to what I’d originally written.
Do you want listeners to take away a message, emotion, or both?
I’d say I definitely want listeners to feel the emotion I put into the song. Other than that, the song is theirs now.
Any new music in the works?
Right now, it’s all about the new album coming in April, Give Me Some Time.
Are there any touring plans we should know about?
Touring. I want to tour. I plan to tour. My issue is that I’m not a US citizen, I’m from the Bahamas. I’m working on figuring it out (visa stuff I guess) but I want to tour in the States. Really I wanna tour anywhere. I just want to get out there and share my music with more people.
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