A few weeks ago, Tover — the new collaboration from artists Arlo and Emi Grace — defeated UK saxophonist Snake Davis to win our eighth Glassetonbury tournament after an intense, back-and-forth final round. Their song “little bird” provided a catchy, Latin-inspired club mix about letting go and feeling free. We caught up with the duo to discuss their experience in the tournament, their development as a duo, and their goals moving forward.
Congratulations on winning our eighth Glasetonbury tournament! What was your experience like in the tournament?
Arlo & Emi: Thank you! We had so much fun with it. The first two rounds we were frantically reminding friends and family to vote. But as we started winning, by the 3rd and 4th rounds, everyone got excited about the results and started to vote without our reminders.
Emi: I had all of my cousins vote, they were so excited for the contest!
Arlo: My parents shared with their friends from childhood, my sister shared with her friends at work, as did my cousins – we had quite the crew following us!
How long have you two known each other? How did you meet, and how long did it take you to form a musical chemistry?
Arlo: We started working together remotely this past April, over Facetime. I was in the Bay Area at the time and she was in Santa Barbara. Emi had found a few of my tracks on Spotify, and reached out to me asking if I would want to collaborate. The timing could not have been better – I had been working alone during Covid for several months and was looking for some new musical inspiration. Then I listened to her stuff and immediately was blown away by the tone of her voice – It was so unique, like nobody I had ever heard before. I replied with an enthusiastic yes. Musical chemistry was immediate – from the first virtual Zoom session we were on the same page. I could not have imagined a better voice to suit my musical style. Her voice actually reminded me of MØ, who is one of my favorites.
Emi: I first heard of Arlo through his roommate, who used to live in Santa Barbara. I checked out his spotify page, and I was instantly blown away!! I knew I had to reach out to this guy haha! I had never worked on electronic music before, but I was so curious to see if we could create something with the combination of both of our styles. I reached out to him and within a week we were up until 4am every night working on new stuff. When we first started working together Arlo and I lived about 6 hours away, so we started off by sending audio files back and forth, and having sessions over zoom/facetime. Our musical chemistry was awesome right off the bat, and we quickly became very close friends as well which has made working together so much fun!!
Arlo, I know you come from a jazz background. Who are some of your personal favorite jazz greats, and how do you think coming up with that background has informed your music now?
As a guitarist, my first favorite was Wes Montgomery. I learned just about every song on his album “Movin Wes” and I used to listen to that album as I walked around high school in between classes. His phrasing is so beautiful, it sounds like he is speaking through the guitar.
Melody writing is my favorite part of music – and I attribute a lot of that to Wes and to jazz improvisation in general. I certainly translate that to my music now – I embed melodies in everything. Even my chord progressions have a melody to them. Oftentimes I have multiple melodies going at once. I love that! In addition to Wes, I love George Benson and Pianist Vince Guaraldi, who made the soundtrack for Charlie Brown.
Emi, what about you? What music influenced you early on, and how has your taste and musical influence evolved as you’ve grown?
Early on, I was heavily influenced by rock and roll. I started playing guitar when I was 6, and I used to spend hours in my room, before or after school and in between soccer practices coming up with riffs and playing scales. My early influences were Bruce Springsteen, Amy Winehouse and Van Hallen, but when I started high school I was also very influenced by bands like Paramore and No Doubt.
Recently, I have gotten more into acoustic guitar, and I really discovered my love for songwriting. I definitely have influences on the singer songwriter side, although I can’t pinpoint any one in particular.
When did you start writing “little bird,” and how did it come together? Can you take me back into the studio and recall your favorite moment or moments from writing/recording the song?
Emi: I was about to leave for work when I looked down at my phone and saw Arlo sent me a super rough guitar track – it had a reggaeton feel that was amazing. I called him right then and there, and ran into my recording room in my garage. When trying to find a melody, I sang what ended up being the “let it fly” hook, and after that the ideas were just flowing!! I ended up being severely late to work, but it was so worth it!
Arlo: It was totally worth it – the vocals we recorded on facetime that day ended up being used in the final song. We really captured the energy of that moment in the recording.
I was actually in Boston at the time, but as soon as I got back to San Francisco I drove down to Santa Barbara with my mic to record the rest of Emi’s vocals. In our sessions there, we came up with all of the crazy harmonies and shouts and stuff that you hear on the chorus and outro sections!
Emi & Arlo: Funny enough, we both have synesthesia, and that certainly contributes to the overall joy we find when making our music. Our favorite part of recording “little bird” was getting all those harmonies together – the colors we were seeing when writing those were so amazing.
The song has already eclipsed 600,000 streams on Spotify! To what do you attribute your early success?
Arlo & Emi: We think what people like most about this song is the overall positive energy. It’s catchy, but the message is also uplifting, so when you sing along you don’t feel ashamed in any way – you’re like “Oh yea, I would like to let it fly”
Also, we did lots of pitching to playlists in Europe. We found that Germany and The Netherlands are particularly vibing with it. There is a Dutch DJ named Jack Da Cruz who found our song, and he said he played it at his recent show in Spain! He reached out to ask if he could remix “little bird”. We said yes, and wow, we love his remix! It’s going to be released on Smash the House, a dance label in the Netherlands. The release date is September 24. Stay tuned for that! Jack specifically mentioned how he loves the energy of Emi’s vocals. I think the good vibe and uplifting energy is something we strive for in our music.
What are you working on now? Do you plan on releasing an EP or album in the near future, or are you focusing more on singles right now?
We have so much music in the works, and we cannot wait for you all to hear. We are planning to drop a single every month starting on October 8th.
We would love to release an album next year – we certainly have enough musical seeds to do so. But we don’t have the budget to promote all of them at once. So singles for now.
What do you hope people take away from your music, and which lyric best highlights the way this song or project makes you feel?
Arlo & Emi: We want our music to bring peace, joy and refreshment into people’s lives. So much of what we write about is inspired by nature and the lessons that can be learned from nature. Even with the more electronic production, we still strive for “organic” sounds.
Lyrically, we discuss ideas that have helped us to enjoy life, and that might help the listener, too. We also discuss ideas that we are still struggling to understand, like death, and letting go of the desire for more. When listening on a deeper level, We hope someone might ponder the lyrics with an open mind, relating them to his/her own life.
When we wrote “little bird” we were both going through some big transitions in our lives, and so we had been reminding each other to just go with the flow of life, and that it will settle down eventually. So, when Emi came up with that “let it fly” lyric, we used that as a jumping off point. We decided to use the bird as a metaphor. Birds are always moving from one place to the next, and are masters of flowing, if you will.
“When that bird, lands on your shoulder, you can say hi, but don’t you try and hold it, yes it needs ya, cuz it wants to be noticed, but when it’s time, let it fly”
These lyrics really capture the essence of the song. There will be good feelings and good times, but if you try and grasp onto them too tight, then those good feelings quickly turn to sadness. Learn to enjoy, but also to let go. The world is constantly changing, so learn to let go of one moment and be ready to find good in the next.
To this day, we both still listen to this song as a reminder to “let it fly”. We hope our listeners will enjoy our music in a similar way. For fans who listen on a more surface level, we hope that the energy we put into our music is enough to bring a sense of peace, joy, and refreshment into their life
How does Tover compare and contrast to each of your solo projects? What do you think this musical pairing allows you to do that you may not otherwise experiment with in your solo careers?
Both Arlo & Emi: Tover allows us to write about consciousness and the connectedness of all life in a much deeper, more refined way than in our solo projects. We have both flirted with these ideas individually, but it is harder to develop them alone. Our discussions together really bring our spiritual ideas to life.
In our solo projects we might explore collaborations with other writers and producers. This means we may diversify in genre more, and bring in lyrical ideas from other artists as well. For example, Emi may go into her rock roots, and Arlo may go into his electronic side. But Tover is really dedicated to bringing spiritual ideas to life, above anything else.
We hope to help people find the inner peace that is there within themselves. When the mind stops running and all the dust settles, what remains is a sense of joy of just being alive. Those are the feelings we want to bring into our music. Peace is there among all people, and our music would like to bring it out.
What are you most looking forward to in the future, and what are your goals for the rest of 2021?
We just love making music and are looking forward to keeping doing what we are doing! We hope our music brings others great joy just as we feel when creating.
Our other more quantifiable goal is to release a song per month for the next several months, starting in October. So stay tuned for more!
Where can our readers go to find more information?
Our spotify page, Tover, and our instagram page, @tovermusic
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
We are all on this world journey together, and we really hope to connect with you through our music. Thank you so much for reading and listening! Feel free to reach out if you want to connect with us. We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for your time and for this interview.
You can stream “little bird” on Spotify below!