Grief is a complex emotion. It can be overpowering, infuriating, paralyzing. The onset of tangled emotions can consume you if you sequester them in the confines of your heart. All of us have been touched by grief in one way or another and process it in our own way. It is like an ocean: ebbing, flowing, cresting, falling. Sometimes the waters are calm, sometimes they are violent. All we can do is learn how to swim.
Superior Siren vocalist Laura Mae Sellner lost her mother to brain cancer this past October. Inspired by the beauty of Lake Superior, and her incredibly supportive Superior Siren sisters (Rachel Gobin on Cello, Nyssa Krause on Bass, and Emma Deaner on Drums), she extended her vulnerability beyond the confines of her inner circle of loved ones to a larger audience. The music video ‘For Mother’ was created by Headwaters Entertainment to commemorate Laura’s mother Linda Ross Sellner. It premieres this evening at a special performance at Duluth Cider.
The eerie and hauntingly beautiful video pays tribute to life and loss. It showcases the collective pain (and sometimes joy) we all experience when we gather in any way to celebrate the end of a life, which is one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable human connection.
INTERVIEW WITH LAURA SELLNER:
MIM: Hey Laura, thanks for letting me chat with you for a little bit today!
Laura: Yes! Absolutely. I appreciate you reaching out and wanting to do a feature on this music video.
MIM: Yes, I’m excited for it. I hear that it’s premiering Friday?
Laura: Yes! So it will be released Friday morning and that’ll be on our YouTube page. And we are premiering it at Duluth Cider, a new, local venue in Duluth with a really nice space. We’ve been meaning to play there, so I just wanted to kind of combine the event with the release of the video and play a show as well.
MIM: Even squeezing in a live show there, that’s great!
MIM: I was surprised by the quick turn around. It seemed, from the photos of the shoot that were released with Wolfskull Creative and Headwaters Entertainment, that it wasn’t that long ago that you shot it. Was that back in November?
Laura: Yes, it was in November. The quick turnaround is mostly because we release the Superior Siren album in January. The song is on the album and I wanted to release another music video for the album during 2018.
I also wanted to put one more dedication to the album out before the end of the year, before moving on to new music in 2019.
MIM: That sounds like a really great way to close out the year, releasing this beautiful piece. Can you tell me a little bit more about the shoot itself and some of the planning that went into taking the song and making it visual?
Laura: The song is “For Mother,” and I wrote it about my mother after getting into an argument on the phone with her. I wrote it probably about three years ago and my mother died in October. Some of the lyrics really ring true to that event. She died from brain cancer and lost her memory. There’s one line in particular, ‘the time has come when the brain breaches connection,’ and that kind of was almost foreshadowing, it stood out.
So I wanted to make a music video for that song especially once she got sick. I wanted to dedicate something not only to the album but also to her. We were approached by Headwaters Entertainment because Emma Deaner, the drummer of Superior Siren worked with them on Charlie Parr’s “Dog” music video.
MIM: Oh, very cool!
Laura: Yeah, so that was our connection to them. They are fans of Superior Siren and learned about my mom’s passing and wanted to help us create a video. The vision that we had for it was very ethereal, dreamlike, ghostly, eerie. I imagined shooting along the shores of Lake Superior, singing the song in places where my mother liked to be. Matt Roy is the director of the video and he had a similar vision of shooting me singing the song and having it set in nature, having the shots of the woods along Lake Superior, tying the theme of me singing the song to my mother as well as bringing in these aspects of the surroundings in a beautiful way.
We shot the music video on Wisconsin Point. We chose that because we could get access to the beach to shoo. It’s a really beautiful part of the point, that sandbar has these beautiful strips of tall red pines and white pines. It’s very close to the beach and the shore, so it was a great location because we could move from one scene to the next very swiftly.
MIM: Absolutely beautiful from what I saw.
Laura: Yes! We were able to shoot for two days and capture all that we wanted to. It was just a lovely experience. Headwaters Entertainment, the film crew, were very professional and positive. They communicated well and were very receptive to my vision of the video and what my thoughts were. We just worked together really well. We were able to get a lot of good footage in the two days.
Particularly, the second day was really magical. It was a snowy day, but only lightly dusting, and the lake was really calm. We got there early in the morning and the sun was out, just these beautiful rays of light, and it was pretty warm for winter. So that was a really great day to shoot all day. And also, the end of the video, I walk out into the water and it was good that it was warm out for that.
MIM: Haha, that had to have been cold!
Laura: Ha, yeah, it took about three takes to capture all the shots that we wanted for that. But yeah, the main theme of the video is that I am dedicating, or kind of just paying a tribute, to my mother. All the while, I am holding these roses and walking through the woods, walking along the beach and bringing the flowers to the lake in remembrance of my mom. She and I spent a lot of time at the beach. She really inspired my love of Lake Superior I feel.
Growing up next to it was very special in Duluth. She just was always very passionate about the environment and instilled that in me. I have soo many fond memories being next to the lake with her. Yes, the video came together really nicely and I actually just got the final version today. It’s very beautiful. It’s a vulnerable thing…
MIM: Yes, definitely.
Laura: Sharing this song I wrote, for my mom during this time but also with… sharing it with my band members, to them there’s a sense of vulnerability, but I feel comfortable doing that. But then, bringing it to this team, this film crew that I don’t know. Yes, it feels vulnerable. But, there’s a strength in vulnerability, letting it go and letting it become something more than what I myself had created it as. It just brings it to the next level of art form.
MIM: Most definitely, yeah. It’s a courageous thing to do, to take something so close to heart and share it beyond the Superior Siren sisters and to share that. Sharing it with other people who might watch or listen and feel some of those same feelings in regard to their own experiences.
Laura: Yes, and that’s definitely part of why I make music, to connect with people and help them look within themselves and feel things that maybe are uncomfortable or frightening to feel.
Also, during this time and playing this song live, I’ve really just realized how much people are affected by death and losing loved ones and feel sadness. I’ve been approached many times at shows after playing the song and people are very moved and they thank me for sharing that. In a way, yeah, it feels like I’m helping them in some way. We’re all just helping each other to grieve.
MIM: Yeah, it’s interesting how… talking from my own past experience, I have a tendency to view my own grief as something that is my experience, my feelings, and I like to keep that private. But it can be so freeing to extend those boundaries and realize that we can all share and carry this grief as a human community, whatever you want to call it. As you said, we all have ties to experiences of grief. You don’t have to carry it by yourself.
Laura: Right, that’s very true. And, I did go through a time where I felt that it was very personal and I felt like no one could understand exactly what I was going through. But, as time has gone on, the more that I’ve opened up, the more that I’ve realized that yeah, we’re all in this together and we’re all feeling the same things. And, in order to kind of move forward you have to open up.
MIM: Were there any particular moments, on the beach or in the woods during those couple days shooting, where you were overcome by emotion in a good way (or any way), or felt your mother’s presence?
Laura: Actually, I became overwhelmed after the shoot the final day. I had been planning for the shoot, planning lodging and meals for the crew, and just kind of making sure everything was in line. We actually played a show in Eau Claire Friday, drove and came back Saturday, and went directly to the shoot. Sunday again a full day of shooting. So, very much during it I was very much focused on creating it.
MIM: The logistics.
Laura: Yeah, and just being professional, being on camera. I’ve done this a handful of times shooting music videos. Being on camera for a whole day can be overwhelming.
MIM: For sure.
Laura: Yeah, and I feel like all the while I did feel her, I did feel her presence. I think that is something that I have learned, that I just feel her all around me now. So, there’s this love that you have for your mother. When she dies, I was like well where does it go? Then I realized that it becomes a part of me and it surrounds me always and so I see her everywhere. In the sunlight, in the lake… I definitely felt her presence.
When we were leaving the beach we all drove separately. I was sitting in my van, just starting to drive away, when I was just struck with this emotion and had to pull over and cry because it was just… Yeah, it was a weekend of shooting this music video for my mother, and I became overwhelmed…through this grieving process it just kind of happens. All of a sudden I am struck with this sadness and I just have to let it come and let it sit.
MIM: “Leone,” off your self-titled album, was about your grandmother grieving her husband’s death, is that correct?
Laura: That is correct, yes. Yes, I am definitely inspired by human connection and all of the emotions that are intertwined when I am songwriting.
MIM: That was just something I was reflecting on as I was listening to the album earlier this morning as I was starting my day. It was a parallel so I thought I would ask about. But, this song obviously is your grief and your process.
MIM: Was there anything that you would like to share about this Friday? What you are excited about, nervous about, all of the emotions? Leading up to making this public to everybody?
Laura: Yes, I am very much excited. I am very pleased that it came together so swiftly.
I am very particular about the art that I create. So, to be satisfied with the video feels amazing. It’s just interesting that I wrote this song about my mom many years ago, but the video kind of brings it all together. She has passed and now it’s more of a remembrance of her. And so I’m excited to share that as well. And I have three sisters, and they are very pleased that there is a dedication to our mother that will be out in the world to share and connect with.
I’m excited to have another music video out there… I’m happy to be having it at Duluth Cider because it’s a lovely venue and the owners are strong supporters of Superior Siren and I think that it will bring even more of a sense of community around this, around our music, but around this event and this grieving.
Being from Duluth I am very connected to a lot of people. They have definitely extended their support during this time, so I think it will be really lovely to bring everyone together to celebrate this dedication to my mother. I also look forward to playing. Because, I just think that’s the proper thing to do, to share this music video and to share more music.
MIM: Have you been doing any songwriting during this time? Music that is to come or that you will pull from down the road?
Laura: Yes, I have been doing a lot of writing. And that has definitely helped me grieve and process. I definitely have music that I want to share in the future. The band and I are working on more songs. In 2019 we will have new music from Superior Siren, that’s really exciting too… to continue to write, to continue to create with the band, to continue to put music out there.
MIM: Well, I’m very excited to see what’s to come
I also wanted to mention that I’m excited that you have the opportunity in Lutsen to play with some amazing artists: Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr, and Lissie. It’s incredible to be a part of that lineup! I was very excited to see that.
Laura: Thank you! Thank you for saying that. Yes, we are very excited to be a part of that lineup, and especially at this annual event [ski party]. We’ve played with Trampled and Charlie Parr in the past before, but have yet to play with Lissie. We’re fans of hers. It’s just really exciting to be surrounded by very talented, like-minded musicians, and playing at Papa Charlies is really enjoyable. It’s a great venue.
MIM: That’ll definitely be something to look forward to. I myself was hoping to go, but I won’t be able to. Next time for sure, maybe at NorShor theatre! Maybe they’ll put together something like they did last year. I loved that so much! I think that’s when I first became acquainted with you women.
Laura: Yes! That’s true!
MIM: Yeah! That was at the showcase now that I think of it. That was a very specific, local Duluth showcase which made it even more special.
Laura: Yes. And, I also hope that the NorShor hosts more music. Because that’s a great historic venue in Duluth. We’re just happy for the opportunities that come our way, for sure.
MIM: Well, thank you so much for sharing with me today and extending that vulnerability.
Laura: Yes, it was lovely talking with you.
MIM: Yes, I really appreciate that.
Watch the “For Mother” Music Video Below: