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The power and heartbreak behind the song that won the Tiny Desk Contest

"I don't think it's caught up to me yet — how much my life has changed," says Emma Hardyman, singer of the 2023 Tiny Desk Contest-winning band Little Moon. The Utah-based band recently wrapped up the Tiny Desk Contest On The Road tour, headlining eight sold-out shows across the country. While on the road, Hardyman caught up with NPR to reflect on the life-changing win and also share the story behind Little Moon's winning song, "Wonder Eye."

Hardyman tells NPR the song was written during the time her mother-in-law was in hospice care. The melody came to Hardyman as she and her husband Nathan Hardyman, who is also part of Little Moon, drove from Utah to Idaho to visit his mother.

During this difficult time, Emma and Nathan Hardyman were also in the process of leaving the Mormon church in which they had grown up.

"And pretty quickly, just because of the circumstances, I realized that this song, this melody, was about death," says Emma Hardyman, who wrote the structure of the song before asking Nathan Hardyman to write the lyrics.

The couple were also observing the disintegration of many of the building blocks their Mormon belief systems were built on. "I've grieved past versions of myself throughout my whole life," Emma Hardyman shares.

"I really love where Mormonism brought me," Emma Hardyman says. "It introduced me to teachings that are supposed to love everybody, that are supposed to incorporate everybody. [But] it couldn't follow me to how much I wanted to take [those teachings] seriously," she adds, noting that many of the Little Moon band members are queer. She says Mormonism didn't align with how she wants to treat people 'without conditions.'

Emma Hardyman also shares that she had many self-doubts about herself as an artist when she and Nathan Hardyman met — but that he believed in her from their very first date. And in "Wonder Eye," the two even find peace in not having all the answers. Emma sings: "Is there a knowledge that is found not in knowing?" as she's met with the warm hums of the band.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elle Mannion
Kara Frame
Kara Frame is a video producer for NPR and pursues personal projects in her free time. She most often produces for NPR's explainer series, "Let's Talk: Big Stories, Told Simply." She's crafted stories about housing segregation in Baltimore, MD; motherhood in a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece; and food deserts in Washington, DC. Frame enjoys a break from the news when filming the Tiny Desk Concerts.