It's been fascinating to watch the creative development of Laura Gibson, the singer-songwriter who, among other things, inspired NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts series. (She played the first one ever, then came back with a full band to play our 200th.) Gibson's evolution from whisper-quiet balladeer to assertive bandleader has been downright inspiring: The album she released back in January, La Grande, lives up to its name with songs that reach well beyond her interior world.
That might be one reason "The Carob Trees" didn't make the cut on La Grande — the song is lovely, but it isn't dressed up in that album's busy sonic clatter. A look at relationships dating all the way back to Adam and Eve, the song would have fit more neatly onto earlier albums like If You Come to Greet Me or Beasts of Seasons.
We asked Gibson for her own thoughts on the song:
"The Carob Trees" came after a visit to my friend Raul's family home in the countryside near Valencia, Spain. The house and land had been in his family for many generations. Raul told stories of trapping quail and collecting olives when he was a child; of his parents stomping grapes into wine. Raul's great-grandfather collected stones to build terraces up the hillside in order to plant trees on the land. There were olive trees and almond trees, and then also a type of tree that wasn't familiar to me. Raul didn't know the English word, and didn't know the Spanish word. Finally, after he called it "poor man's chocolate," I realized they were carob trees.
I was thinking of all the generations who spent time under those trees, and how we move forward in time and in relationships, both within and also outside of our own will. Thinking of will in relationships, and of trees, and of lineage, I was reminded of the story of Adam and Eve. The narrator in the song became a mix of Eve, Raul's great-great-great-grandparents and myself.
Back home one day, I had been singing the refrain melody in the living room, and my boyfriend and sometimes musical collaborator (Sean Ogilvie of the band Musée Mécanique) sat down at the piano and began playing and whistling the counter-melody, perfectly embodying the other character in the story. The song didn't quite fit among the songs on my La Grande record, but it is really dear to me, and I'm happy to share it now.
Gibson and her label, Barsuk Records, will release "The Carob Trees" digitally soon.