The Happiest Kind of Sad talks influences, picking his name, and ‘Smile At The Party’

The Happiest Kind of Sad caught a huge wave off his latest track, Smile At The Party. We caught up to talk songwriting and everything in between.

Mitchell Lemsing is an emerging Sydney artist with that rare ability to turn a guitar and a voice into a story. His latest narrative, Smile At The Party, not only struck a chord with existing fans; it struck a chord with thousands of new listeners.

The track found its way onto Spotify’s beloved Coffee & Chill playlist, giving the artist a huge boost just in time for his upcoming album. We caught up with Lemsing to learn more about his creative process. Take a look.

The Happiest Kind of Sad

HAPPY: Hey there Mitchell! Whereabouts do you find yourself today?

THKOS: Hey! So I am currently living in North West Sydney, where I have my own studio which I spend most of my time in, but we are in the process of selling our house, so life is a bit hectic right now, but luckily I still have my studio to tune out in!

HAPPY: ‘The Happiest Kind of Sad’, where did this name come from?

THKOS: I think the main reason I chose that name was just the fact that happy-sad music is my favourite kind of music to not only create but to listen to as well. Music that is melancholy and sad yet hopeful at the same really resonates with me, and I thought it sounded cool and more exciting than just my name so I decided to stick with it!

HAPPY: Massive congrats on the release of Smile At The Party… tell us a bit about the track…

THKOS: Thanks so much, I’ve been overwhelmed with the insane response to the track! So Smile At The Party started off as just an idea I had floating around in my head after a big night out. I was sitting back at home and I decided to pick up the guitar because I’d been having a tough time mentally and found music as a way to get it out.

The line But I guess, I’m just the smile at the party” just seemed to come out and so I began to write a song about feeling like everyone loves you and loves having a laugh but when it comes to the next day, they are all over there and you’re still just here. Further, where the feeling of being just a smile at the party derives from.

Although the track came from quite a personal and intimate situation in my life, I felt like it was a feeling that many people would have felt at one time or another and so that’s when I decided to actually go into the studio and make it into a finished product. I like to view it as a song for people to confide in, to help them know that they aren’t alone.

HAPPY: This song has some really hard-hitting tones/themes… how have you translated these emotions into a sonic piece of work, was there anything you found particularly challenging?

THKOS: The production/recording process was the reason I left this track tucked away for a long time as I knew that finding the right balance of layers and intimacy within the track would be key to translating the emotions in the song towards the audience, yet it was easier said than done. I figured that a certain level of simplicity would suit the track best so I began with just recording vocals and the acoustic guitar and then slowly added in parts to fill it out.

I then reached out to a very talented friend of mine and asked if he could write a string part for the second verse and onwards, not knowing if it would oversaturate the song. Within a couple of days, he sent through a seventeen-part string section which just brought the song to life and packed on so much more emotion towards the listener.

HAPPY: What advice would you have for artists who want to get more personal with their work?

THKOS: From my experience, I’ve found that generally people just seem to resonate and enjoy songs much more when they are written without a barricade and the artist lays out everything. We are all human and we all relate in countless ways so I would just advise artists not to hold back with what they’re feeling, no matter how stupid, funny or dark it may seem, as I guarantee someone will be able to relate to it.

I also find this a great way to turn the everyday things/events of our daily lives into special moments or memories, no matter how ordinary or uninteresting the subject may be.

HAPPY: What comes first for you; the theme of the song or the tune?

THKOS: I don’t like forcing out songs, so I often don’t pick up an instrument or go to write a song until I have something on my mind I want to write about or just get off my chest, so I usually will have a theme/subject before I come up with the tune. However, this is not always the case as many times I’ve come across a chord or a sound that reminds me of a place or a person and so through that, I’ll begin to write a song. It’s very dependent on the situation but I think it’s good to have a mix of both ways when creating a song!

HAPPY: Who are some artists that inspired this alt-indie sound?

THKOS: My biggest inspiration both sonically and lyrically is probably Bon Iver and specifically the frontman of the group Justin Vernon. His lyricism never ceases to astound me and the honesty and emotion he portrays is the reason I came to love music as a way to express myself. Apart from them, other artists such as Chris Lanzon, Alexander 23 and Clinton Kane have also been some key inspirations for my project.

HAPPY: What can we expect in the future from The Happiest Kind of Sad?

THKOS: I have so much in store for you, it’s the waiting game that’s killing me!! I have a new single Am I Not Enough? coming out on Friday, October 29 which I am really excited about. As well as that, it’s yet to be announced but the recent singles I’ve been dropping over the last two months are all part of a larger body of work which I am SO excited to share with you all, so keep an ear out for that as it’ll be announced within the next month.

Apart from releases, with everything slowly opening back up I’ve also been in talks with a few venues around Sydney and will be announcing some dates for gigs early next year, so I cannot wait to get up on stage and sing for you all.

HAPPY: Cheers Mitchell!

THKOS: Thanks so much for chatting with me, it’s been great! Excited to share more of my music with you all.

Listen to Smile At The Party below:

Interview by Jasmine Kassis