As the chaos and cognitive dissonance that defined 2020 begin to gradually subside, we’re forced to come to terms with all that we’ve lost to the COVID-19 pandemic: countless loved ones, innumerable life experiences, and what feels like an endless amount of time. Try as we might, there’s no glossing over the horrors of the past year. Painful truths like these are hard to acknowledge, but one artist in particular approaches such difficult topics with the rawness and ease we’ve been craving.
Matthew Fowler’s “I’m Still Trying” is a meditation on the tribulations of adulthood and change, topics that make so many of us shift in our seats. It comes as a single from his greater album, The Grief We Gave Our Mother, which is slated to drop this September. The final chorus of “I’m Still Trying” gives a nod to the project: “We would lay out in the sun to dry/Have a heart to heart from time to time/I remember all the grief we gave our mother.” “I’m Still Trying” arrives around five years after Fowler’s last release. In his own words, this five-year period was dedicated to gaining perspective “because life has a way of going.”
Fowler’s move back home and rediscovery of his family dynamic was the inspiration for this track. He spoke about this dynamic in an interview with Collide: “There’s a lot of my family in the [song and music video]. This song is about disappointment in myself, and overarching relationships that you have that you have full power to hold onto and nurture, but a lot of times, you don’t, or things happen and they kind of fall by the wayside for a while, you know?” And although all of the writing and production for “I’m Still Trying” was completed by the onset of the pandemic, Fowler’s exploration of family structures as an adult couldn’t be more relevant to those of us who spent 2020 cooped up in our childhood homes, forced to contend with the disrepair we tried to leave behind.
But what makes this track so memorable is the positive attitude Fowler adopts in confronting these unpleasant topics; he takes the acute and inevitable discomfort that accompanies growth and adaptation to new situations and channels it into something inspiring. The corresponding melody fuses elements of indie pop and folk music to capture the essence of nostalgia while also suggesting a brighter future.
The accompanying music video is the ideal supplement. Shot and edited by Fowler himself, it’s a profoundly personal production. The video is comprised of home-shot clips of Fowler engaging with loved ones and absorbing his surroundings, as well as old tour footage. “I really tried to give an overview of not only what touring is but travel and the people you meet and the friends you make. It’s such a powerful, moving experience,” said Fowler. “I’m Still Trying” is the perfect anthem for a post-Covid world. A world deprived of hope for so long, and a world attempting to rebuild.