A conversation with Mary Knoblock about “Mustang Runners”

Q: Hi! What inspired you to write “Mustang Runners”?

A: Mustang Runners was inspired by my personal journey helping a friend that was going through a critical health condition and my response in being by their side through it all. I wasn’t inspired to portray the experience in a song until years after the event. One night during winter, I remember sitting down at my piano and I just started playing this really somber melody and Mustang Runners was born, the words just tumbled out ‘said I was a Mustang Runner’. 

Q: Can you tell us more about the story behind the song?

A: I would love for you to read about Mustang Runners, the full story in my book ‘Unblocked, She saw Light.’ Mustang Runners was a very complex story of the heart and soul and all between from a long hospital stay to months being so afraid a friend may not make it. They did. They’re ok. The song left us with me driving down a long road reflecting on the time in between the moments we try to immortalize forever and the madness we can all experience trying to make sense of something so right becoming something so fleeting interrupted by the threat of illness. So yea, I’ll stop there. The book has all the details. And it’s a sad story. Horses were a central theme. 

Q: How would you describe the sound and style of the song?

A: It’s neo classical at its roots, but very hard to hear because the classical piano was carried in the vocal melody but drowned out with heavy edm and trap elements along with dream pop echoes but I call it sad dream pop because you know, emo. The vocals were a bit of classical vocals and that can get very polarizing against synths. So I think it’s like walking into a foggy forest by the beach and walking towards a cave and hearing echoes of a voice that’s kindof lamenting and all the sounds just sort of trap you in that cave ambience. So yea, ‘sad dream emo synth cave pop neo classical’ genre. I can see the Mustangs nodding in agreement. 

Q: How do you think people will relate to “Mustang Runners”?

A: I think anyone who’s ever sat by anyone they cherished at their bedside in a hospital or bedside will likely have memories relatable but hopefully can find some solace and healing in the song. It’s like group therapy for going through the stages of grief. I’d call this song the Acceptance phase. 

Q: Were there any challenges you faced while writing or recording the song?

A: Well the lyrics sat for an additional year. I wasn’t sure what to do with them because they weren’t finished yet: until I came up with a new piano melody and when I heard the piano melody pour through, I immediately lit up and was like, that’s it, that’s Mustang Runners. And from the first take in the final recording, the words just took on a life of their own and left this really seeping feeling in the words, they just kindof lingered with oh runner, like right out the gate, you knew mustang runners was going to just knock us in the heart and unwind all our memories around running from pain, love, fate, life. There was this great angst in me that for a whole year, I was like this song has to come alive but it’s just not there and will it get there? So I wrote a book in between called ‘Unblocked: She saw Light.’ And in that book, my editor encouraged me to write more poetry. He’s really brilliant and I loved working with him, so my confidence in writing lyrics grew and before I knew it Mustang Runners became a poem in my book rewritten again, and it was finally ready for recording a year later. Like if I didn’t write my book in between, Mustang Runners may not have been here and that kinda does tricks on my mind. But I believe firmly challenges just shake out the gold. So the song survived, and here I was a mustang runner, two runners out of time. 

Q: Can you share any interesting or unique moments from the recording process?

A: I have never felt ‘overtaken’ by a song I’ve written quite like Mustang Runners. From recording the vocals, to composing and producing, the song after it was in the studio just fell together like a puzzle rapidly. Like it literally sprung to life in an hour. And when I heard it back, I had chills: and I felt this huge wave of ummmm I think this song was waiting to arrive and I can’t hold it back, it’s here and it’s ready and it’s not going through months of changes, it’s done. So very very eerie in its rapid coming together in the studio. And the vocals were a process of, um ok there’s something happening here and we’re just going to let that flow because that’s raw and authentic and we want the listener in on that tea. 

Q: What message do you hope people take away from the song?

A: That it’s ok to look at memories and not rush their conclusions. It’s ok to grieve loss. It’s ok to wonder about the journey, to observe it. It’s ok to express it. It’s ok to know you did your best. And you can heal too. You can feel safe in this song to take a moment and be like, it’s time to heal a bit today. It’s time to move on a bit today. I’ll be ok. You’ll be ok. The Mustang Runners are there for all of us when we want to escape a bit. 

Q: How does “Mustang Runners” fit with the rest of your music and your overall artistic vision?

A: It’s definitely a turning point. All of my music in the past has led up to a combination of neo classical compositions, with edm and trap and synth like soundscapes interrupted by just some real raw vocals, not too polished, just a simple small town girl in Oregon sharing her story with the only voice she knows and being ok with it. Overall, I do feel like it’s a maturing point for me, a bridge to a space of sound, vocals and arrangements that push boundaries in sound and songwriting. I’m ok running on the line, that’s abstract art, that’s a space I’m more alive in as a painter as well, so it’s a coming home of sorts in Mustang Runners and challenges me to take singing and songwriting to a new level – to explore the areas of my potential and my artistic vision within my music. 

Q: Can we expect to see any music videos or live performances of “Mustang Runners” in the future?

A: Yes! I’m working on an abstract video for Mustang Runners and lining up some art performances of the song and upcoming album it will debut on again on 9.8.23 so please check socials and my website for updates! Thanks for the beautiful interview too.