FM premiere. ‘A Simple Understanding’ by Morning Bear

"How do we find something to hold onto when we're in the darkest points of our lives?"
21 February 2024

A Harmony of Strength and Insight

Denver-born and now Copenhagen-based, singer/songwriter John Runnels breathes new life into his orchestral indie folk ensemble, Morning Bear, with the emotive single A Simple Understanding. Following a six-year hiatus, this comeback is deeply moving, providing an insight into Runnels’ experiences with loss, perseverance, and self-realization.

Known for its vibrant soundscapes, Morning Bear merges the tranquil subtlety of Bon Iver and Jose Gonzalez with the complex structures reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and Sufjan Stevens. In A Simple Understanding, Runnels crafts an intricate musical mosaic featuring cello, violin, piano, among others, framing his evocative vocals within pop-inspired tunes.

The resurgence of Morning Bear stems from Runnels’ personal odyssey, shaped by heartache and adversity. The global pandemic, the tragic loss of friends, a severe injury, and struggles with anxiety and depression cast Runnels into a sea of uncertainty. Yet, from this turmoil, he has emerged with newfound strength and clarity.

Runnels reflects on the track’s inspiration: “People are often their own worst critic. ‘A Simple Understanding’ speaks to the self-loathing you feel when you have hit rock bottom. How do we find something to hold onto when we’re in the darkest points of our lives?”

The single, a reflective continuation of Morning Bear’s discography, presents Runnels in his most raw and exposed state, armed only with his acoustic guitar. Recorded in a single live take during a rainstorm in a quaint UK garage, A Simple Understanding captures the essence of Runnels’ trials and tribulations. The song’s heartfelt lyrics tackle the depths of self-criticism and the quest for hope amidst despair.

The intimate acoustics of early Bon Iver are mirrored in A Simple Understanding, which shows the therapeutic power of honest songwriting. In this track, John Runnels reveals his personal challenges, delivering a song that connects with others in similar situations while also serving as a symbol of hope and unity.