The Hinterhaus

by Gillian Grassie

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This is Gillian's crowdfunded sophomore album – conceived in Berlin, recorded in California, and independently released in Philadelphia in the dead of Winter 2013.


released January 29, 2013

all songs written by Gillian Grassie
Gillian Grassie - vocals & harp
Todd Sickafoose - bass, vibraphone, marimba
Ben Goldberg - clarinet
Rob Reich - accordion
Allison Miller - drums
Dina Maccabee - viola
featuring special guest Janis Ian (vocals and keys on 'Dust & Wax')

produced, mixed, and recorded by Todd Sickafoose at Earycanal, Oakland, CA
Janis Ian recorded by Brandon Bell at Minutia Sound in Nashville, TN
Allison Miller recorded by Ken Rich at Grand Street Recording in New York, NY



all rights reserved


Gillian Grassie Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gillian Grassie is an American singer-songwriter and harpist who splits her time between Philadelphia and Berlin.

"It’s rare to hear a young singer with such control and understated soulfulness, and even more rare to hear a harp provide such a deep percussive groove. I was immediately captivated by her sound.” - Grammy-winner Marc Cohn
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Track Name: Marrow

How can a body prove its worth?
what if I gave the wind a curl?
hoping some industrious bird
might weave it into something warm and good

‘Cause there’s nothing hard at all about the center of a bone
it’s sweet to suck the soft marrow
keep on working at me ‘till I’m all hollow
and lighter than a dove-tailed swallow

Oh to be made to rise above
and build nests out of straw and mud
singing out the sweetest songs
to make the night not seem so long and dark


But I was made to stand upright
on earth that’s cracked like elbow skin
and worry about frost at night
and feel the weight I’m carrying
Track Name: The Canonization of Margot Price

That night I climbed the stairs
as though I were making a pilgrimage
as though when I had reached the top
I might become
illuminated and wise

but I saw her there
crouched at the kitchen table
lost to the world
in the ritual consumption

of spoon to bowl to maw
bone rubbing bone noisily
and milk dribbling off her jaw
until the box was gone
I saw, I saw

I saw her there
through the bathroom door
purging herself
of the shame that rotted in her gut
until she was no more
than a relic

I thought of the woman
who’d been made a saint
for lying on a plank in her basement
until she had starved to death
and of the one who cut off her breasts

I thought of lighting votives on her clavicle
like the ones burning in the catacombs of Paris
and praying for her resurrection
saying, “Come back to me, oh please,
come back to me.”
Track Name: The Hinterhaus

There is a house behind your house
a floor beneath the floorboards
with planks of spruce sanded smooth
and cut to fit the corners

and no one would have noticed
no one could have guessed
that every time they’d come around
they’d been your courtyard guests

when was it that you forgot?
who you were and were not
how to feel as you looked out
at all man’s suffering and pain,
so exquisite, so mundane
saw the trigger of a gun
curled like a question mark

I know what it is
to be half transformed
still burdened with the evidence
of what you were before
but all of this forgetting –
tell me how it’s done
tell me where you keep the memory
of somebody you’ve loved

there is a house behind this house
curtains upon curtains
oh but you can come anytime you like
my door is always open
Track Name: Back to Your Flat

Your scent is still on my dress
and my hairs are on your sweater
the ink is still wet
on how this will be remembered
I never knew, no, I never knew
and I never could have guessed

that when we laughed our way back to your flat
I might never come back the same
oh and we laughed our way back to your flat
I may never come back the same

we’re propped up on our elbows
belly-down upon your bed
the dictionary is opened
to the word earnest
yeah, your English it was pretty good
but you didn’t understand


Oh and I hope that Serendipity,
the traveler’s patron saint,
is smiling sweetly on you now
as you bike home in the rain

Track Name: The Mark

There was a moment where I had really lost my style
I’d keep flashing my teeth at people and calling it a smile
I thought I’d fooled everyone but you took me aside
said be kind, oh be kind, oh be kind, won’t you be kind
oh be kind, oh be kind, oh be kind, won’t you be kind

so we went buzzing around like two drunken honeybees
mix-tapes and double takes and letters overseas
you say the corniest things, I can’t even believe
but it’s sweet, yeah it’s sweet, yeah it’s sweet, oh you’re so sweet
yeah it’s sweet, oh it’s sweet, oh it’s sweet, oh you’re so sweet

time stretches like taffy
melts quicker than salt
I just want to be happy
for however long we’ve got

You took a felt-tip pen, drew a circle ’round my heart
I said, “so what’s this then, some kind of modern art?”
you said, “no, it’s just so I can better learn my mark
if I fall, if I fall, if I fall, oh if I fall,”
if you fall, if you fall, if you fall, oh, I will follow
Track Name: Dust & Wax

Oh we had a spark so brilliant
my love and I
and we wrote a pact and sealed it
vowed to keep it bright
So we found ourselves a lantern
and thought we were safe
not seeing where the light was bending
not seeing how the warmth escaped

But while we were packing I found
soft, hand-rolled candles
buried in a drawer
and I cried to see the pair like that –
dust clinging to the wax

I think everyone’s smoking now
just to prove they can breathe
see this cloud above my head?
well, that air was in me


So scortch me, Love,
but do it quick
Pass our fingers
near the wick
Pour a pool onto the paper
and press our thumbs into it
Track Name: Sweet Manhattan
I know a place down in Chelsea
where my friend works as the hotel barkeep
and he'll fix me a drink
if I sit down to think
and the thoughts that I think get too heavy

Take two parts of your favorite bourbon
and one part of tremontis mirto
those brandy soaked cherries
bring out the myrtle berry
and a dash of those old orange bitters

Oh silk and satin
oh sweet manhattan
and summer so far away
you're looking blue, bird
go find a new bird
to keep the winter at bay

Je prefere les romans
je veux habiter dedans
parcequ'ils ont plus de sense
que toute mes vrais romances

J'ai cherché entre tous les mots
ceux muets and ceux très forts
mais si tu demandes une reponse
je peux seulement dire,
"Euh, bon, ça depends..."

Alors quelle genre cette histoire?
Je ne comprends jamais les fins
Si je commencais à rire
oh est-il vraiment une comedie ou quoi?
Je sais pas
et donc je boire

Oh silk and satin
oh sweet manhattan
and summer so far away
so clink your glasses
toss down the hatches
a warmth that is here to stay


[French Translation]

I prefer novels
I’d like to live inside of them
because they make more sense
than my real-life romances

I searched between all the words
those that were silent
and those that were very loud
but if you ask me for a response
I can only say, “um, well, that depends…”

So what genre is this story?
I never understand the endings
If I start to laugh
is it really a comedy or what?
I don’t know, and so I drink
Track Name: Borrowed or Begged

Oh I’ve got these blackened traveler’s feet
and I’ve got this broken train-stop sleep
I got miles unfurled in front of me
before I reach my own country

I can’t count the places I laid my head
seems most of them were borrowed or begged
and it may have cost half of all I own
but I know the difference between a house and a home

I dreamed that I was fast asleep
with a pup on either side of me
and a grey cat stretched out at my feet
in a lover’s bed in North Philly


So I’m riding in this foreign car
sucking fruit I don’t know the name of
and this I would give you my love:
something sweet and strange upon your tongue

Track Name: Summer

I saw a man
singing here on the street
he had holes in his shoes
you could see his bare feet
he wore a smile on his face
there was pep in his step
I thought man, what’s he know
that I don’t get yet?

You know I feel such a misfit
when I look at the sky
‘cause I’m so down and lowly
and it’s so divine
you don’t have to be crazy
to feel you’ve lost your mind
you don’t have to be happy
to be doing just fine

Take a ride, windows down
sharing songs with the town
they all mix with the sound of cicadas
coming back from the beach
we got sand in the seats
and some salt water taffy for later
when we return
with our memories
and our songs
Track Name: August

You sleep like a child
so trusting and deep
while I lean back into
a late night symphony

my felt tip scratching in the dark
with the noises of mice in the kitchen drawers
I can hear them from all the way down the hall
but I don’t mean them any harm

Oh, and it occurs to me
there are several sorts of peace
yours are wrapped up in your dreams
and mine is solitary

lying next to you
in the soft space of this room
I’ll whisper a tune
of yellows, pinks, and blues

of climbing the hills with oil pastels
and a box full of old newspapers
with people I love and the moon coming up
our hunger fully sated


see, even the power lines
cannot mar or hide
the beauty of the skyline
in this brilliant, fading light

and there in the gloaming the cattle are lowing
the grasses are blowing gently
bowing their heads with reverence
for the majesty of the heavens