I had the idea for this song while on tour this fall and wrote down as many words as I could at the time. Now that I’m days away from the year bringing a close to this project and still a good handful of songs away from making my goal, I’ve decided that I don’t have any more time to wait for the words to show up. One of the things I have learned this year with this whole writing experiment is that I am inclined to be an inspired writer rather than a craft writer. I’m guessing that professional writers who are also required to make deadlines might find themselves with a similar conflict but I really have a hard time stomaching what people in entertainment call “phoning it in”. Especially when I know who is going to hear this stuff. I want to bring my very best to you all who have been supporting me and the band for so long and that (as you all can probably tell) sometimes acts as a bit of a hang up.
This is my “nostos” song (see: poems by Homer) . Touring is hard, no matter how much I love it. Because the bulk of what I currently do is college shows, touring is heavy in two parts of the year; Fall and Spring. So, after a busy September, October and November of being far from home (equal parts literal and figurative) December was the month to which I was looking forward. I’ve got to assume that’s pretty similar for most people who give their attention to their work all year and then get to break for Christmas or any vacation, whether it’s a week or just a couple of days. Christmas has always represented the best pieces of home for me and even though things aren’t exactly the same as those growing up years, I still try to hold on to them. With all this, I still never intended to write a holiday song.
Looking back on these songs, a lot of them are centered in relationships. I have always said relationships are the most important thing to me and it seems this project is yet another piece of supporting evidence. I wonder, though, if the evidence shows what it is about relationships that I find most important. Is it other people that I find important or is it how those other people make ME feel? Should have probably considered how personally revealing all of this content was going to be before releasing it.
Can’t wait to finish this song, whether it’s for you or just for me.
In a live recording of a Martin Sexton concert I heard him say how he recorded a song idea on his “Dictaphone” that later turned into his song Glory Bound. In the between footage of the Bela Fleck and the Flecktones DVD Live at the Quick, Bela mentioned how he used to call his answering machine at home (when there was such a thing) and record ideas so he wouldn’t forget them. To follow in the steps of these writing mentors of mine, I have been recording ideas into the last three cell phones I’ve had. I still have the ones that are deactivated because they have recorded ideas that I’m not sure how to extract. Nevertheless, I’m still recording every idea that comes up and filling up the memory of my current phone. It can happen anywhere. We toured to Texas in the bus to play at Fort Hood army base and I just started singing this pre-chorus and chorus out loud. It just came out all at once. I quickly recorded it on my phone.
Not sure where the story comes from but I can identify with the characters. Losing the girl to the other guy, being busted up about it and just making excuses like it wasn’t my fault. More than anything though, I just liked how it sang. I wasn’t thinking of writing a song about California. I just sang it like that and it stuck. But, after taking some time with it and fleshing out the rest of the story, I realized that for a kid like me from the Midwest, California is a good metaphor for a place that seems too far away to ever think that people who go there ever return. Probably more literal that metaphorical.
I spent time in Santa Monica with a friend Kevin Daniel (look up his music. He’s a guy from Granville, OH who just moved out there and is doing pretty well) in the one area of California that I have mythologized in a big way. (see: the Dogtown and Z-boys documentary) I was in the heart of it and even long-boarded by the old Zephyr shop (that doesn’t exist anymore, not even as Horizons, too sad). Wilshire runs East and West into the Pacific and the “1″ or the Pacific Coast Highway runs along the beach front and then turns into Lincoln Blvd. South of I-10. I referred to “Wilshire and the 1″ as if it was an intersection. The truth is, Wilshire intersects the part of Lincoln that isn’t the “1″, which is almost the corner of Kevin’s apartment. But, those are lyrics you should expect from a guy that doesn’t live there.
——This is a re-post so the date stamp won’t match the original posting. Some of you mentioned you were having trouble commenting so after a few failed attempts at fixing it, I decided to start from scratch. ——-
Ok so, I mentioned in the last post that this song would come along side the last one. But, I decided to post this one first. Look out for a song called California (away) to fulfill my statement about the two songs that are cut from the same vine.
Some of these lyrics are place holders, but I still think it gets across what I was hoping to say. The song started off with a pretty simple inspiration. I was in the other room at our big family dinner when I overheard my cousin’s 5 year old girl playing in the other room. She said, “We need something to make it beautiful”. Who knows what she was talking about, but I thought it made for a strong statement that uttered a sentiment that I related to. Life is good, but we also live in a broken world and I think it is built within us all to desire a better situation than we have.
I wanted to say this in a way that is hopeful and not too heavy which is why the tune itself is so “happy”. The two are having conversations about some serious stuff but he is helping her not remain in despair. Even if he doesn’t understand completely what she is going through, he can at least understand that she has it rough for the moment or for awhile but that it doesn’t have to define her. I don’t even think he means to give her any kind of advice, I just think he wants to let her know that he is there for her and to remind her that she is stronger than she thinks.
This song and the next are cut from the same vine. They are branches of the same tree of inspiration. A story that is personal but hopefully universal at the same time.
I posted this like a week ago and realized I didn’t label it in the right category. So, it showed up on the iTunes podcast but not here on the website. There are some thoughts and lyrics missing instead of me doing my usual fill in mumbling (ala Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder studio demos if you have ever heard some of those).
I stood up one evening in my normal state of sleep deprivation and started playing the opening guitar riff and lyric as if I was covering someone else’s song. Admittedly, the feel of the tune has a current flavor as well as maybe harkening back to that “U2″ power rock thing so that could have been the familiarity for me. But, the lyric just poured out and started filling up this story that I didn’t know I wanted to tell. I think the story of someone leaving home to start a new exciting life has been told many times. The thing is, it’s never been MY story. I live in the same 12 block radius where I grew up and have watched many of those adventurers head out for a new life. I thought it would be interesting to speak for those who are left back at home.
The thing that really hurts is not that they are just physically gone, but that they don’t even seem like they are missing you. In fact, I wonder if they were ever really here to begin with. The song Like a Rolling Stone by Dylan has a line that says “No direction home”. It’s also the name of a documentary put together by Martin Scorcese where Dylan talks about being born in a place that seemed far from where he was supposed to be. So, his life has been a journey to find his true home. I wonder how his brother David felt about that?
More Ways Than One