Every creative piece has a story. Whether we are discussing a work of art, a movie, or our favorite song, each are a creative output that is a result of some input. Each of them comes from somewhere, some place of longing, loss, or perhaps personal triumph. Lately, many of you have been asking about the stories behind my songs. Some of you know more than just the songs from my EP, Songs for the Sidewalk, and have inquired about those tunes, but for the sake of brevity (not generally a strength of mine, though long-windedness seems to come quite naturally), I’ll just address that collection of six songs. Part 1 will deal with the first three songs on the EP: “A Thousand Miles Between,” “Waiting on the Sun,” and “The Tree Song.” In an effort to settle any questions about where these songs have come from, what inspired me to set pen to paper, and in an effort to be candid and vulnerable (also not a strength of mine), here are the stories behind the first three songs on Songs for the Sidewalk:
1) “A Thousand Miles Between”
I wrote this song four years ago while attending the Contemporary Music Center, which was based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts at the time. In order to attend the program, I had to make the choice to move from sunny Southern California to a scarcely populated island off the coast of Massachusetts… in the middle of winter! When I finally decided to make the move to the East Coast, I embraced the idea of relocating, except for one small thing: I had just started dating a really great guy that I had known for almost two years. After discussing our options of either breaking up or trying out a long distance relationship, we decided to just break it off. I went to the island with a broken heart over the loss. This song is essentially a conversation with the island, asking if it can save me from the hurt I was feeling, “Just need a couple thousand miles between. New isle, please undo my memory. Don’t know if men are islands but it seems that surely this woman will have to be. I have to be.” On a more positive note, the split sparked a creative fire that led to a number of my favorite compositions. The experience on the island ended up being exponentially better, because I was single and had the freedom to embrace every aspect of the journey. So not every loss remains loss. There is always something to be gained!
2) “Waiting on the Sun”
This song was also written while living on the island. I used to stay up late and write songs in the laundry room or lining closet of the music school, since other students generally opted to use the practice rooms, rendering them occupied. This song was written mostly in one sitting while retreating to the linen closet. I’m a bookworm and like to read everything! I had recently read Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, because I had always enjoyed King Solomon’s writings; he was so honest and had a sort of artist’s melancholy that I could relate to. I had read several chapters that discussed how meaningless life felt to him at times and how we waste our time toiling over pointless pursuits. I found his musings and poetry so moving and thought-provoking that I decided to write my own version of it. The phrase “waiting on the sun” is meant to describe how we are all like slaves to the sun, waiting on it hand-and-foot. We just let day after day roll by, participating in the same tired activities and sharing in the same empty quests for fulfillment, “We press the plows to the field each day we rise, labor for a master, then act surprised when he cracks our backs with whips and steals our grain, reaping what we sow since we have no claim” and “All that we can do has been done before; History’s repeating, but each time more worn. Wind’s not for chasing but my feet won’t stop, can’t put down my chains when they’re all I’ve got.” I wanted it to be a reminder to myself to break that cycle and aim higher than the mediocrity I’m so often faced with.
3) “The Tree Song”
This song is about my favorite climbing tree back home in California. There’s an area near where I grew up called Balboa Park, and it’s one of the central points of San Diego. I have so many wonderful memories of taking class trips to Balboa Park when I was in grade school. We were supposed to go there for learning activities, like exploring the many reputable museums the park has to offer. But the highlight for me was always climbing my tree, which made its home in the middle of Balboa Park. It was huge and had the most amazing roots growing up from the ground around it. It had vines hanging off every tangled branch. It was a childhood wonderland!… I wrote “The Tree Song” when I was 18, and I was a couple months into my first year of college. I was still living in San Diego, but it had been a number of years since I had really spent time in Balboa Park, so I decided I’d return to pay a visit to my beautiful tree. However, when I arrived at the tree, it was being held up by wires and was fenced off so that no one could get within 50 feet of it. The tree, MY tree, had become so old and worn out that it could no longer stand on its own and could no longer receive the eager children it once embraced so emphatically. This was a coming-of-age moment, in which I had to face the realities of adulthood and growing up, at a time in my life when I was already beginning to tackle that challenging transition, when I was already questioning the magic I once saw in life. The tree reminded me that we all have to grow up and grow old. But I also saw hope that life is still beautiful. This tree gave happiness to countless children like myself who would forever cherish those fond memories, “Your vines and leaves brushed my shoulders. You always knew how to offer comfort…. If I scraped my knees, you’d make me better. Your magic never failed to renew me.” I, like my tree, could bring light into other peoples’ lives. And maybe in my old age, they too would remember “When I could touch the sky.”
So there you have it, friends, the stories behind the first three songs on Songs for the Sidewalk! These are all little pieces of my life, my story, and my development as a person. I hope there are parts you can relate to and pull from. That’s always the most beautiful and touching part of the songwriting process, the final step where music acts as a gap to connect with others. I can only hope these small offerings of myself resonate with those who choose to listen.