Singer-songwriter Stephanie Seymour’s new single “There Was a Time” — released just in time for Valentine’s Day — reflects on themes of love lost. The lyrics resonate for those of us who have experienced the loss of friends and family members during the pandemic, or felt a loss of connection to others, or long for encounters without the fear of COVID infection so that we can return to satisfying our emotional and creative selves.
But the song also conjures thoughts about better days. The video below — filmed and edited by Seymour’s husband Bob Perry, partially in their Ringwood yard and home studio — is filled with shots of performers rejoicing in dance, surrounded by trees and fall foliage. It captures the song’s gospel quality and invites a sing-a-long.
The weariness of this time lends itself to purging projects. I, and many of my friends, have unearthed old letters and photographs while we clean out the contents of boxes hidden in the back of closets and drawers. They remind us that there was a time when we strolled with someone long gone.
Seymour sings about those moments when we look back:
There was a time when rainbows filled the room
The world was filled with hope, by every single word you spoke …
There was a child, the angels sang in tune
The world eternal springs from all of life’s much finer things
There was a child, hang on to him, there was a child…
Don’t pretend to be all the things that everyone around you sees
Quiet brings the sound of inner harmony, washing over like a breeze
Let it be, yeah.
“I wanted it to be a celebratory song, because I didn’t want to dwell on death,” said Seymour. “I also felt that we as human beings on this planet have been going through such difficulty recently that I almost needed to write a joyful song. Hopefully most people can look back at photos, or hear an old song, or read an old letter they saved that brings back happy memories.”
Seymour said the song was partially inspired by the late Eddie Van Halen’s relationship with his ex-wife, Valerie Bertinelli. “Eddie Van Halen is one of my favorite guitarists,” she said. “After his death, I began thinking about when he and Valerie Bertinelli were the ‘it’ couple in the ’80s and ’90s, and a flood of wonderful memories came back to me.
“Though I wrote the song with them in mind, the lyrics are universal and relevant to anyone who has fond memories that are brought back by photos, music or whatever it may be.”
She said that while Halen and Bertinelli divorced prior to his death, she found it admirable that “they remained friends and really devoted themselves to their son.”
She said that Van Halen meant a lot to her as a guitar player, as well. “Because of my background as a drummer, I really keyed in on bass players — actually rhythm sections in general — of bands, and didn’t think very much about guitars,” she said. “But when I heard Van Halen, I immediately noticed the guitar playing because of the absolute unique style that he had. I feel like my appreciation of his technique grew as I matured as a musician.
‘But it was the seed of my understanding of what guitar players bring to the table in terms of the overall sound of a band. I would also say that Andy Summers (of the Police) had the same effect on me. His sound is also absolutely unique.
“I was devastated when Eddie passed away. I played Diver Down a lot — it’s my go-to Van Halen album — and looked through a zillion photos online, many of him and Bertinelli, whom I adore. Seeing those old photos of them in the ’80s reminded me of happy times — the concerts I saw, playing in my first real band in high school.”
Drummer Ira Elliot (of Nada Surf and Bambi Kino) joined Seymour, recording from his studio in Sarasota, Fla. Perry (Winter Hours) played guitar and bass. Sherryl Marshall and Deborah Berg provided backing harmonies and Ray Nissen played keyboards. Garrett Faccone, Erick Storckman, Ken Zampella and Nissen played horns. (For the video, Elliot’s wife filmed him at in Florida, where they live, and Nissen filmed himself in Maryland).
Seymour released her last album, There Are Birds (produced by Perry), in 2019. An avid bird watcher, she combined her passion for music and bird watching through the album.
At 23, Seymour joined the all-female New York-based power-pop band The Aquanettas as a drummer. Later, she provided back-up vocals and percussion for Psychic Penguin and formed her own band, Birdy, releasing the albums Supernominal Paraphernalia (1999) and Quarantine (2002) on the Cropduster label. When she isn’t playing music, she works as a medical editor and takes time off from work in the spring and the fall to study birds in migration.
“There Was a Time” is ultimately more about the future than the past.
“I hope it conveys that there were good times in the past, but that doesn’t mean that good times are gone,” Seymour said. “I really believe good times can and will come to us, especially if we keep working at what we enjoy doing. Music is one of my two great passions in life, the other being birdwatching. I went through a long stretch of not making music, but once I started again, I realized that I needed to keep doing it because it brought positivity into my life.”
Seymour said she is thrilled to be making music after all these years.
“Whatever your passion is, keep doing it. Don’t forget about doing what you love to do, because I think that’s when you lose a certain spark. This is not to blow off the fact that there are difficult times ahead, too, but in order to achieve a balance, you’ve got to do things that bring you joy.”
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