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  • Writer's pictureThe Rough & Tumble


"From the desk of the self-appointed tiny folk band fan club president (Alabama chapter) I am listening to the new CD for the first time as I type this. Because you care, I thought I would share my thoughts...

"Love the new arrangement of Cicada. I like the up tempo. This is my 2nd favorite song that you guys do. Maybe partly because of the tragic story of the lost videotape. But out of dark pain comes great art and it was one of the events that made you the tiny folk band you are today."

--Larry Jelley, Self-Appointed Tiny Folk Band Fan Club President (Alabama Chapter)

When we moved to the South, we will tell you, our friends had some prime ideas as to what sorts of songs we would be writing. Most of them entailed broken trucks, dogs, and beer bottles. But one clever friend, as Mallory was unpacking her things in her two-bedroom-with-six-roommates house in Black Mountain, NC, made a suggestion that would actually stick.

"I was thinking," Ann had said to Mallory, "you could make a song with the line 'kiss you like kudzu,' see because kudzu is that plant down there that's suffocating everything. You know, like a smothering relationship."

"Okay," said Mallory, writing it down. "I'll see what I can do."

The line stayed in her notebook for the two years Mallory and Scott lived in their small North Carolina town, where they were working jobs in coffee shops and art galleries and making ends meet with a Friday night busking gig at a double-decker-bus-turned-coffee-shop in Asheville, where they would make a cup of coffee and $15 each, which they would promptly turn into a cheap bottle of wine and a bowl of olives from the olive bar at the local grocery store. Amidst their southern scenery, Mallory twirled the line around, sharing it with Scott, and neither of them coming up with more before or after the bottle of wine. They, instead, sat on Mallory's front porch listening to the cicadas call, Mallory recounting her first few weeks in this strange land, where those prehistoric-looking monster bugs had shimmied themselves to the surface of the earth, just to fly and dive-bomb her on her way into her first job at the Biltmore.

Circa "Cicada" photo where The R&T was safeguarding against all sorts of Nashville infestations.

Two years later, the line made no further progress into a song as Mallory and Scott packed their things from that town, and headed west separately to Nashville. There, as the origin story goes, was the birth of The Rough & Tumble (though some historians argue this point), and Mallory and Scott found themselves again on Mallory's front porch, listening to the cicadas in some sort of monster-horror-story sequel. The Great Southern Brood, as they were called that year, were those of the 17-year dormancy variety. So as they cut into trees to lay their new eggs, attacking everything that walked, only to keel over and leave a sea of insect carcasses across the city, the old line began also creeping from the inside of Mallory's notebook. Only three years dormant, but this little bugger seemed to think it was ready-- along with a few other southern infestations.

It was a rainy afternoon with an electric guitar when Mallory hatched this little song. When Scott arrived after work that night, it was practically crawling around. By the time Scott left for the evening, it was flying around and dive bombing both of The R&T's brains. So they took their flying earworm to the studio a few weeks later, to be included on their very first EP, We Sing in Your House When You're Not There... we even ordered pizza. A little melodica, a few shakers, and this song laid a few idea eggs of its own. But those songs are history.

A sketch by Mallory of Scott while recording the first version of "Cicada" in 2011.

A sketch by Mallory in the studio back in 2011 while Scott recorded guitar for "Cicada."

Which brings us up to date. We haven't quite been able to shake this particular song, one of our earliest hatchlings. Over the years, it evolved from a line and a story to something that resembled a bit of our own story. Maybe the dormant growth period for a song is never really over. We were reminded of that as we chose to include it on Cardboard and Christmas Lights this year, as its metamorphosis came full circle with an electric guitar and a few old shakers.

Though the original version has somehow gone underground for a few years, you can find the new version of "Cicada" on your own copy of Cardboard and Christmas Lights or following the link above to stream on Spotify.

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