Premiere: Coping with Grief in EXES & JOME’s Poignant “Stay Still”

exes x jome press photo
Hypnotic, heavy, and heartfelt, EXES and JOME’s breathtaking song “Stay Still” evokes grief’s everpresent weight and those brief, but powerful moments of emotional release.

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Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some pain never fully dissipates, instead scarring over to leave a residual and haunting ache. EXES and JOME’s breathtaking new song “Stay Still” evokes grief’s everpresent weight and those brief, but powerful moments of emotional release.

Everybody tells you
That it’s something you get used to
But I don’t want to lose you
Cause I fear I might lose me too
Stream: “Stay Still” – EXES x JOME


Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Stay Still,” the second single off EXES and JOME’s collaborative EP, Nothing’s Out To Get You (out March 8, 2019). Composed of Brooklyn-based Allie McDonald and Venice beach-based producer Mike Derenzo, EXES have established themselves as a powerhouse of electro/dream pop excellence over the past three years. They released their debut album Before You Go in October 2018. Comprised of LA-based songwriter Jesse Epstein and New Orleans-based writer/producer Christoph Andersson, JOME appeared out of the blue in 2016 with a stirring, wintry warmth; their woodland pop music is like a gentle quilt of sound, as is best exemplified in their 2017 debut album Tunnels.

Just as two plus two makes four, EXES and JOME are a match made in heaven. Their first collaboration resulted in 2017’s propulsive “Better Better,” a poignant reflection on romance and change. Two years later, the foursome’s content is even more powerful.

EXES and JOME’s new music is soft, sweet, and stirring. Nothing’s Out To Get You‘s lead single “One Day” is an entrancing song about growth and place, recognizing how we will, in some distant future, be in our parents’ shoes. The melismatic line “it’ll be us one day” pays homage to those who have already reached that next step in life; it’s a token of appreciation echoing respect and affection, acceptance, and perhaps a little anxiety or agitation as well (that could also just us projecting our own feelings, too).

Stay Still - EXES x JOME

Stay Still – EXES x JOME

For the first time
Wishing we had more time
Wishing for a storyline
One that doesn’t end without you
And it feels like walking with my hands tied
Bracing for the sunrise
Til it starts again
If I stay still
Will you meet me where we both fell
If I never move
Maybe I will maybe I will
See you soon
Maybe I will maybe I will

A powerful portrayal of grief and longing, “Stay Still” captures the lingering pain that forever resides in the hearts and minds of those who have lost a loved one. The slow, brooding ballad delicately highlights Allie McDonald’s evocative voice against an ethereal, lilting backdrop.

“‘Stay Still’ was the first song we all wrote together while on our writing trip in Marin,” EXES’ Allie McDonald tells Atwood Magazine. “Jesse had a copy of Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” and began reading excerpts out loud to all of us. We instantly felt a deep emotional connection to her words and thoughts about grief and loss as we all have experienced this in some way or another. In one excerpt in particular, Didion discusses the devastation that follows months after everything returns to normal. The days are passing, the world is spinning and she lays completely still, believing that her husband has not passed away — in fact, he is lying next to her.  She even keeps his boots in the closet just in case he needs them when he returns.”

She continues: “’Everybody tells you that it’s something you get used to‘ was one of the first lines we wrote. Time was a crucial element, lyrically for us. We were inspired by this sort of in-between grief. The feeling that lingers months, and even years after immediate loss. The feeling of release — the slip that happens when for a brief, dreamlike moment you forget that he is gone.”

exes x jome press photo

EXES x JOME

I have felt this dreamlike release many times over the past seventeen months, imagining my mother’s presence when her absence feels too alien to comprehend – even now, a year and a half later. This fleeting euphoria is a welcome escape from a dreadful reality, but it’s always promptly followed by waves of guilt and dread as reality sets back in. You’re never gone for long enough to truly soak in the fantasy; you never get to bask in that inviting glow. That’s what dreams are for – and sometimes, falling asleep at night can feel like its own release.

But for some vague and indeterminate period of time, every so often, you feel free: Free of the truth that has weighed so heavily upon your heart. Free of your guilt for being alive, when someone else doesn’t get to have that luxury. Free of the absence that forever keeps you from being fully present, and fully connected.

Nothing's Out to Get You - EXES x JOME

Nothing’s Out to Get You – EXES x JOME

So no, time doesn’t heal all wounds. You just learn to live with scars, and that’s what “Stay Still” is all about: Coming to terms with the grief that will forever be a part of your everyday existence. You will never be the same again; gone is your innocence, but in its place, you might find an everlasting love. It doesn’t make up for the loss, no; but it’s at least a little comforting.

EXES and JOME aren’t taking any shortcuts. Their music offers insights into some of the most difficult, and also emotionally-compelling topics. Grief is universal; we will also experience it in life, and we will not be prepared to handle it. No one is.

Just know that it isn’t always darkness. There are blips of light that shine through – sometimes when you’re moving, and sometimes when you “Stay Still.”

Stream EXES and JOME’s bittersweet and breathtaking new single exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

Stream: “Stay Still” – EXES x JOME

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Stay Still - EXES x JOME

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com