Ever feel trapped in your thoughts, yearning for childhood innocence? On her stunning sophomore single, “Harder,” Kitchener, ON’s Avalon Stone sings with a world-weariness that belies her 20 years—and makes it land with a raw, emotional force that explains why she’s already a respected not-so-elder stateswoman of rock in her native Canada. Check it out on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_mK3hN4QOw
Avalon Stone’s hard grungy alt-rock ballad ‘Harder’ is a deep dive into the struggle against mental confines, intrusive thoughts and innocence lost.
Getting up in the morning, my mind doesn’t stray from the bed
Fear, it paralyzes and it occupies my head
Because once I’m awake, there’s no excuses left
It’s getting harder than it used to be, Stone laments. Days getting longer, all I do is sleep.
The rhythm section of drummer Wes Bartram and bassist Donovan McKinley marches inexorably forward in half-time while Caleb Bourgeois’ melancholy guitar chords reverberate through a vintage Echoplex, laying the foundation for Stone to really go in for the kill:
So don’t you tell me that some things are easy to change
Cause I don’t see no other way
It’s getting harder than it used to be
Than it used to be
A clever, clear-eyed reversal of the “It gets better” trope? Not every performer has the moxie to pull that off. Stone, though, is no ordinary 20-year-old. Lighting up audiences since she was 11, she’s played more than 300 stages in Ontario and the U.S., from bar gigs to festivals drawing audiences of 15,000 and up. Having led her own classic rock band for nearly a decade, she emerged as a solo artist with the arrival of her 2023 single, the polished and defiant “Forget You” to international acclaim.
The slower yet even more arresting “Harder” (written with collaborator Joe Jacobs and produced by Juno Award-winning Kevin Dietz) shows us a different side of the artist, perfect for those darker winter months. Avalon shares, “I always knew ‘Harder’ would be the January release. It’s a time when many struggle with depression, and I wanted this song to be a companion during those tough moments.”
Listen on Spotify here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_mK3hN4QOw
Filled with raw emotion, nostalgia, and a killer guitar solo, “Harder” may be achingly mournful, but it never feels like a dirge, thanks to the way her voice grabs every single note by the scruff of the neck and shakes it until the stuffing comes out.
Stone delves into the emotional complexity of mental health struggles, capturing that feeling of being trapped in your own thoughts. The song mirrors Avalon’s personal experiences and offers a raw, unfiltered exploration of depression and innocence lost. “Every one of us has experiences that teach us hard lessons” contemplates Stone, “and a lot of the time we get stronger because of them, but sometimes they really knock you down and you feel like you can’t get up again.”
When it comes to life beyond the footlights, Stone has already been around the block enough times to be a sage source of guidance. Between family tragedy and getting into the music industry at a young age, she has had more than her share of hard lessons. What counts is that she also knows how to leverage it, both for herself and for everyone else. “Harder” is sobering in its disillusionment, but it isn’t cynical or fatalistic. Instead, the ending is open to interpretation and adds depth to the song, offering a realistic portrayal of mental health battles. “It’s about being real and not sugarcoating the struggles. Sometimes you’re not okay right away. Sometimes the intrusive thoughts are winning, and you don’t have the energy to fight them. Sometimes you find it in you to break through and carry on.” says Avalon, reflecting on the song’s impactful message. “I’m not here to tell my fans how to feel, I’m here to tell them it’s okay they don’t know yet.”
With its grungy sound, heavy blues undertones, and a soul-stirring guitar solo, “Harder” showcases a perfect blend of Avalon’s musical roots and her contemporary alt-rock edge. The song’s narrative is further brought to life in its poignant cover art by Lucky Seven Photography, featuring Avalon trapped behind a symbolic clear plastic barrier – a striking metaphor for mental confinement.
So, the song might be called “Harder” but it will help you feel less alone on a cold, dark winter night.
A prelude to Avalon’s highly anticipated album “Chained,” set for regular releases throughout 2024, promising a blend of nostalgia and innovation, weaving raw emotions into alt-rock anthems.