A few months ago, I stumbled across a submission from Swiss artist Mo Klé, and immediately fell in love with the beautiful simplicity of the song, and after that I needed to find out more. So after a few months of coordinating and trying to get our schedules to line up, I was lucky enough to enjoy a zoom call with René Grünenfelder, the singer-songwriter behind the name and the incredible songs…
So let’s get started, first of all, I just want to ask how are you feeling about the release of your latest single The One, and the upcoming release of your first album?
So it’s my first proper album, I’ve released an EP before in 2019, but this is my first album. I’m really excited! It’s been a while since I recorded the album, and even longer since I wrote the songs, so it’s really exciting to give birth to these songs and show them to people. I was really amazed by the feedback for The One – the single that came out recently, there’s another single coming out in about 4 weeks called Parallel Worlds, which is also the title of the album. It’s all very exciting.
Wow that’s all amazing, congratulations for it all! So why did you release The One as a single first? What made it stand out for you?
It’s not the first single I released actually, I’ve released two singles before this – I started releasing songs off the album in February and, as you do now a days, I started releasing song by song or maybe 2-4 singles, that’s what I’ve been doing so far, and the first single was more of a rock song, the second folk-rock, and The One is more of a pop song. I just love the mood of the song, and I knew that it had to be a single, because if you release it first you know that it’s going to stand out more than just a song on the album.
I was looking through your Instagram this morning, and I noticed you said that the song is about that one great love of your life, but also the contrasting pain you feel when it disappears – and similarly on your website you say that Parallel Worlds is about contrasting ideas in this world and the absurdity of them. What drew you to this theme, what made you want to write about it?
The One is one of the few love songs, and as I mentioned in the post love comes and goes, we all know that. Sometimes things don’t turn out how we expect them to turn out, that’s something we can all relate to, and it made it a bit easier to write, but what can I say, the song means a lot to me. It doesn’t refer to one single experience I’ve had, but as you grow older you make your experiences, you’ve been in love and fell out of love, you had relationships that turned out awfully, and it just kind of summarises the various experiences I had. The main theme of the album, if you wish, are the contrasting aspects of life, in a way only our lives we are living, they are different lives to the people around you. , you know there’s so many different experiences happening and I mean we are also living such different lives to other people in other parts of the world, right? If I compare my life in Switzerland to people in lesser situations at the moment it’s so absurd – and you wish to change something and of course you try and contribute to the life of those people too, but in many ways you are powerless – and it kind of adds meaning to the song Parallel Worlds. We all know of these parallel lives that we lead – but, what can I say, what I like about writing songs is just to observe things, things that I see in my own life and bring those out into a bigger context, that’s what I like about writing songs and I hope the people can feel it.
These ideas you’re bringing up are very self aware, I really like that side of your songs . I want to talk a bit about your songwriting process though, when you sit down to write a song do you know what you’re going to write about or does it just come to you? Do you do lyrics first or melody? All that kind of stuff
Every time it’s a bit different, but mostly I have an idea on guitar,you know a riff or a sequence of chords and it just kind of pops up, you know a melody and stuff – it’s a kind of magic, I don’t know where it comes from but very often it fits the mood that I’m in in that moment and just words pop out that don’t really make sense at that moment, but I write them down and keep saying them, because I know in that moment that I’m on track to something, and it will lead me somewhere in the end. That’s usually the way I do it, and the few first lines I find easy, but it can take much longer to finish a song – you might have the verse and chorus but then you have to think about structure, you have to bring in a bridge and how to connect all the parts – think that’s the harder part for me
So what originally made you want to get in to music?
I mean I’ve been doing music pretty much all my life, I started when I was 13 or so with a punk rock band, with my friends, and we played in that band for about 10 years – and those guys are still doing it now. It was then the music that my parents were listening to, and then I discovered my own music and started buying my own CD’s, and it was a kind of energy that drew me towards that kind of music. It was kind of an adventure in the beginning and then it became more serious, and then I wanted to improve my skills and play live shows. I’m also not a full time musician, but I dedicate a lot of my time to writing songs because it’s something that I love – especially the writing part, I don’t consider myself a huge singer or a huge instrumentalist, it’s just the writing I enjoy most.
You mentioned your parents music, are they a big influence for you? Or if not, what would you say your main influences are?
My parents are not really musical, I didn’t grow up in a very musical household, but you know when you’re young you just listen to your parents music – but then I branched out into punk and grunge and discovered bands like Nirvana. It was only later on that I started, to appreciate their music taste more, one that I remember is Paul Simon, who I think is great – you know all those songwriters from the 60s and 70s are definitely a big influence for me. I keep listening to those records and learning from those songwriters, and now adays it’s a lot of other songwriters that I draw from for influence. But, I can get inspiration from many things, I read a lot and if possible I try and discover new places
Would you say you take influence more from places and people and things that are physically around you, or your emotions and experiences?
Yeah, I think I draw inspiration from personal experience, but its very often a reflection on life – you know when after a while you realise what you actually felt in a moment, and very often I like to reflect on everyday life and stand back and think. I’ll take a walk in a forest and reflect on the things that have happened, so it’s a bit of a mix.
So, you said you were in a punk rock band, which is very different to your signature acoustic style now, so I have to ask how you view your change as an artist over the years?
Of course my sound now is less loud and not so fast, so it’s very different, but I got back to music through getting more into artists like the ones we were talking about before, but still I can see similarities. I do miss those times in the band with those guys, because it gave me that spirit of just doing things, and not overthinking stuff. And now I’m not in a label, I am self-releasing my stuff and I don’t want to stop myself from anything, and that’s still the punk rock spirit in me.
I did see you have your own label, Horse Behind a House, can you tell me a bit about it?
Yeah I have my little label, at the moment it’s just a vehicle to release my own music, and to do some administrative things that are attached to that. I just came up with it for that, but who knows, maybe in the future I’ll want to release other artist’s music too.
I did want to ask, what’s the history behind the name?
The story is that my grandad, he was a joker, and when I was little he wanted to boast and show off how well he could draw, and he told me ‘look I’ll draw you a horse’, and I was really excited, you know? But what he did was draw a house, and drew the tail of the horse so you couldn’t see the it, but you could see it’s tail sticking out, so it was a Horse Behind a House.
Let’s talk about the music video for The One, it’s very lovely but it’s also so beautifully simple, and definitely parallels the song, so how did the idea for it come about?
The story for the video is a story in itself, I shot it in Portugal, because I run a fashion label and I’m very often in Portugal for that, so I kept visiting and I knew that I wanted to do a video for the song. I contacted a few video makers from Instagram and one named Rafael Farias replied, and we got in touch over Skype, I showed him the song, and the connection was immediate. He immediately understood the vibe of the song and came up with the idea of having different backgrounds with me trying to take a self-portrait, accompanied by my guitar and this red cloth. The story he wanted was that the red cloth disappears in the middle of the song, symbolising love and loss, and then at the end it comes back. So he wanted to go with this coming and going of love, and losing things but finding more. I think he did an amazing job, and we shot over one and a half days which was great. It’s a very simple idea and technique, but I think it works with the song.
Okay, last question for you – bit of a rogue one, but if you could perform a gig anywhere in the world tomorrow where would it be?
Good question. Maybe London again? It just came in my mind, maybe because I’m speaking with you, but I played a few gigs in London and I have very nice memories of the venue and the people.
– About The Author –
Sienna is an Australian musician who made the move to London last year. She’s developed a massive love for the UK music scene and has recently become the first person apart from Kevin to write on The Sound Sniffer blog. She’s got wicked taste in music and is super chilled.
– About ‘The Sound Sniffer’ –
The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.
Check out my Interviews HERE