Every song reflects a unique experience, thought, concern, or question. As a writer, I take great care in how I craft the pieces of music I share with the world. It’s important to me that they not only reflect quality, but also truth and honesty. In my personal life, I do not always wear my heart on my sleeve, and I do not enjoy feeling as though my deepest worries and vulnerabilities are laid bare. However, there is something about sharing a song that creates a safe space for this type of confession and openness.
In the spirit of exploring that safe space, I would like to take the next few weeks of the blog to share the stories, and at times, struggles, that inspired the music I’ve released to-date. Today, I will be discussing “Scratch” and “Eighth Sea,” the first two tracks from my EP Late Nights and Weekends. First of all, the title of the EP reflects the first chapter of my professional career doing music full time, and it is an ode to my musician lifestyle, for which my working hours are mostly late nights and weekends. I like the idea of each album marking a chapter in my musical journey (my first EP was titled Songs for the Sidewalk since I started as a busker/street musician).
Let’s start with the story behind “Scratch.” Not only is “Scratch” the first track on this record, but it was also the first single and first video released from this record. I wrote this song at a time when I felt as though I had a reverse-Midas effect; everything I touched or cared about seemed to end badly. I kept thinking that the only explanation for these outcomes was the common denominator: me. When things fall apart around us, it’s difficult to not feel at fault. My writing process began with a line that later became the 2nd verse: “I said I’d worked through this curse within me, but I must have lied to you. I swear that I did not mean to scratch you. But I’ve been known to leave a mark on those who dare to draw me close.” Throughout the song, I make a plea to the person I’m addressing to run away while they still can, because my bad fortune was contagious and rooted deep inside me. Writing this song was a great way to cope with and heal from a number of disappointments that seemed to plague me. Many of those disappointments have since resolved or just become a distant memory from my past. But this song remains a reminder of what that helplessness can feel like and a reminder that it eventually will pass.
The second track on Late Nights and Weekends is “Eighth Sea.” This song has a very random origin story… the chorus melody came to me while visiting Boston. I was there with other musician friends. We were riding the subway one day when, all of a sudden, a melody came to me! I didn’t have a way to record it in the loud and crowded subway so I had to keep singing it in my head so I wouldn’t forget how it sounded, and while doing that, some lyrics started filling in. I obviously didn’t have access to a pen and paper either, so I did my best to repeat the melody and lyrics over and over in my head until we finally arrived at our stop. As soon as I got off the subway, I found as quiet a corner as possible under the circumstances, whipped out my flip phone (yes, a few years ago, I was still rocking a flip phone, but that’s a whole other conversation), and began singing into the voice recorder on my phone. I walked around with that song idea literally in my pocket all day. The second we got back to our hotel, I sat with my guitar and started scribing everything from my phone recording and added additional parts I had thought of throughout the day.
At the time, I was getting over a fairly recent break up, so the concept of writing an angry break up song felt natural. This song is about feeling like a relationship was one-sided. The pre-chorus sets up the context of the chorus imagery: “I cried an eighth sea, just to sail away from you.” In this relationship being referenced, I felt like I had been the “giver” and the other individual had been the “taker,” hence the chorus lyrics: “So come with me to my new eighth sea, where I’ll drown the wreck you’ve made. There I can force you to turn the tables, so you’ll just give and I’ll just take… You’re my great mistake.” This song reflects many feelings of anger I was wrestling with following this break up. Interestingly though, this song has simultaneously become a fond memory since it was written during an extremely positive traveling experience with good friends. I suppose we can consider that one more example of how music has a remarkable way of reaching us beyond what even we can understand.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks. There will be more stories behind the songs!