In today’s age, technology has flooded our lives with content. Caught in the mire are modern musicians who champion an art form that’s more widely distributed than any other throughout human history. And we, more often than not, overlook the music created by unfamiliar faces because it’s challenging. We’d rather have an easy listen, a known quantity to skim through while we think about something else.
Hearing is easy, but listening is difficult. Welcome to “Why We Like It”, where we rebuke the trends in favor of thoughtful analysis and underknown sounds.
“Sleepless” — Sean Cleland
How We Found It
Honolulu native Sean Cleland keeps us awake in our SubmitHub inbox. He seamlessly blends together singer-songwriter, rock, pop, blues, R&B and soul genres. His brand of music puts his heart on the line as listeners pick up the call to see what he’s saying. The Na Hoku Award winning singer/songwriter can’t seem to find peace in sleep on his latest release.
Why We Like It
Restless nights from insomnia, late night writing, and constant twitter scrolling are created by my constant need to escape my thoughts. Whether it’s actually good for me or not has yet to be seen because I’m totally functioning correctly (lies, these are lies), but the thing that keeps me up at night the most is my constant need to reminisce and reflect. My head is never empty when there’s a memory occupying it, so why not think about that memory? Sean Cleland’s “Sleepless” puts me right in that mindset.
I think the true charm of the track comes in his voice and how well it just suits the nature of the song. He’s the sandman that’s here to guide you to bed, but it’s also so smooth and enjoyable that I have to listen to it over and over again. He’s restrained but strong in his vocal to perfectly fit the late night atmosphere created by the production. I could easily spend each night listening to it until my phone runs out of power.
With a dreamy guitar and soothing, funky synths, Cleland comes in with his soft and repetitive chorus, “I’ve been so so so / nah nah nah, Sleepless.” The first time I hear it, it sounds distorted, as if I’m groggy and waking up from the most unfullfing nap ever. After it goes on for a bit, the song’s instrumentation strips back the little it has to the first verse. Calm and cool, Cleland has a swagger that’s more surfer chic than debonair. His voice guides you along a moon risen midnight stroll on the beach as he serenades you. While his voice is relaxing, the content of the verses are stuck in thought, and Sean can’t get out of his own head even when the person he loves most is next to him.
My mind state in creating this song was to try to convey the feeling of being awake at night, unable to either shut off your mind or relax enough to drift off to sleep. We wanted to keep it dreamy on the verses and then have a kind of wonky funk/ R&B Thundercat-style chorus.” – Sean Cleland for CentralSauce (2020)
Alone together until the end of time, but when the time together stops and you’re left alone in your head, you’re lonely. Restless, endless nights take place in the spot reserved for the one you love most. You could reach out to them and hold them but they can’t enter your mind to untangle thought untold. The feelings translated to me on the track are relatable as I’m trying to constantly get out of my head but until I do, my thoughts will keep me company.
From Sean Cleland
I wanted to convey the feeling of isolation one can get when you are sleepless and awake in the middle of the night. “When the night is long, the mind seems like a prison between the ears.” Though I created and recorded this song prior to the beginning of the COVID pandemic (and the resulting social distancing), I can’t think of a more timely concept. We are all “alone together” moving through this single crazy event. I really liked that phrase “alone together” as kind of a juxtaposition of meaning of the two words in the phrase (how can we be “alone” if we’re “together”?). So I think the concept that I was referring to initially as a kind of insomnia reference turned out to be fitting for our current global situation in a way.
“Sleepless” is one track off of a 17-track record divided into two parts called “Chroma (vol. 1 & 2)”. The first 9-song volume will release in December, with singles being released every 3 weeks prior to that. I love that we created a record that has many different types of tunes and timbres. This is why I wanted to call the album “Chroma”, because I feel like the songs all have a single thread that connects them, but they are all different “colors” in a way.” – Sean Cleland for CentralSauce (2020)
More From Sean Cleland
To follow Sean Cleland on his journey, you can go to his Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on his latest project. You can check out some of his previous singles “Cheap Thrills” and “Chroma.” You can also listen to his previous albums The Process Of (2018) and The Winter Room (2009).
More to Discover
Subscribe to the CentralSauce mailing list so you never miss out on the freshest sauce. Check out this continuously updated playlist of songs Tyler has added to our Discovery section! Each track or artist has been featured in our “Why We Like It” section, so be sure to check out the page here on the site.