Silence Won't Be Stilled

 

Too late to make a call 
No sleep yet not awake 
Breathe deep and try to bear 
The crushing, lonely ache 

On my face, close my eyes 
My mind will not let go 
Regrets, powerlessness 
Pray for the morning's glow 

A weary soul won't rest 
An empty heart will go unfilled 
Tears can't be suppressed 
When silence won't be stilled 

Wish for a voice to hear 
Long for a loving touch 
To kiss you one more time 
One word would mean so much 

You're in my sweetest thoughts 
They comfort me and sting 
For I have always known 
You lifted everything 

In forsaken space 
Solace can't be found 
The night commands my heart 
Without the slightest sound 
In my weakness I can't fight 
So I'm calling to the light 
I'm calling to the light 
I'm calling to the light

The lyrics and music for this song developed at the same time, but not initially intended to go together. A neighbor had given us a piano (awesome, right?) and I was playing around with the chords for maybe several weeks. I wrote the words away from the piano and found out later they fit together.

The words were my response to a tragedy in the neighborhood. It was a normal night until police cars pulled up across the street. The son of my neighbors had died in a terrible accident. Of course, the parents were devastated. Everyone was shaken up. He was young, in his 20s. He also had a younger brother.

I didn't want to pretend to know the depth of loss and grief his parents suffered. That wouldn't be honest or honor their suffering. Instead, the sadness from the situation was a jumping off point to explore something I understood very well--feeling alone, sad, and afraid.

Silence can bring rest. It can also be unrelenting. It can be passive or menacing. When you are hurting and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, silence can magnify your hurts and fears until you don't think you can go on. Joy might come in the morning, but there is a night to endure. Enduring is all you can do sometimes.

The realization that this life is fragile and those I love can be gone in an instant had been on my mind more than normal. It was so clear in the wake of the loss of our neighbors' son.

Several months after the accident, our family was at a local place getting ice cream and we saw his parents. We talked to them, wished them well, and promised them our prayers. Then I saw tears in the eyes of the mother as she watched my boys, who were probably doing normal brother things, like bickering.

I never told them about this song. I didn't know if telling them was appropriate. I still don't. I hope they have found a place with kind people where they can experience some healing and make sense of life as it is now. 

 

 

No Longer Home

 

The drive across in Greenville 
Used to lift my spirits 
Holds nothing for me this time 

Emptiness is creeping in 
I can't explain it 
Rather speed past the Louisiana line 

Hard to know what's the same 
What has changed more 
Me or this shadow of a town 

They all used to be my friends 
Now I do not know them 
Did we drift apart or let each other down? 

I'm all alone 
This is no longer home 

Yeah there's no point in trying to recreate it 
Yeah we finished the game but didn't know we'd played it 

In front of my old house 
A kid is shooting baskets 
On a goal that my dad hung for me 

Take a turn down Camp Road 
Now I'm going back in time 
Hope to find where my innocence might be 

I'd pick up a fifth of whiskey 
And head out to a party 
At a dead end on the outskirts of town 

But the time for that is gone and 
Who knows where to go now? 
A dry county ain't no place to come down 

I grew up in Crossett, a small town in southeast Arkansas. I went to college in Nashville, and I used to love the drive home to see my family and friends. Enough of my classmates would still come home for the major holidays and summer. It was fun to be sort of grown up (but not really--at all) and still feel connected to places and people I grew up with.

The anticipation of seeing people and the time alone in the car listening to Paul Simon is still one of my favorite memories of this time. It was magical hearing the sounds and words of (Simon's) Graceland as I made my way through the cotton fields that seemed to be "shining like a National guitar." Seriously folks, if you don't know the song, go listen.

My parents moved to North Carolina when I was still in college, and it would take a while before I figured how just how much I missed that connection. I didn't fully belong in Crossett anymore, and I couldn't simply transfer the feeling of home to Asheville.

I made it back to Arkansas less and less, and I didn't see many friends when I did. My grandparents lived in a nearby town, and every time I went home I could tell they were getting older. Going home stopped being fun and become something that made me aware that things would never be the same.

The more time that passes, the more this is true. More friends pass away or fall out of touch. Parents get older. The seemingly small sins, joys, and hurts of youth come back with aching power in a drawn-out crescendo that doesn't hurt until it really does.

I think it's OK to spend a little time mourning the loss of the way things were. There were precious moments back there for sure. But if I let myself get stuck, I'll miss out on what's going now right now. These are precious moments too. Just like my younger years, they will slip right by.

 

 

Faith to Run Again

 

My hands are stained by this cursed soil 
Shadows shade my eyes - I need a miracle 
To find some pleasure in the toil 
Empty the tank, find a heart alive and full 

I'm tired of falling down 
From chasing my own crown 
I can't outpace the fear that waits within 
I'm struggling in vain 
For a prize I can't attain 
I need a race to win and faith to run again 

The mirror says we're past our prime 
Aspirations fade if we won't fan this fire 
Baby we ain't got much time 
Gonna grit my teeth, take hold of this live wire 

Time to loosen up my grip 
On empty dreams I longed for 
The grave steals what change won't strip away 
When this story's all wrapped up 
Who's left to mold a meaning 
From sentences left scrawled upon the page?

This song was the scariest for me to let anyone hear or put on the EP. It felt more vulnerable than anything I've ever done. I wrote it after a very hard day at work. I felt trapped and scared. Then angry. How had I ended up here? Eventually I asked myself a better question:  how was the way I was thinking about my life causing even more frustration and pain?

It's very easy for me to fall into the comparison game and find myself unhappy even when I'm in a position many people would appreciate. I don't think this stops when I accumulate more and more possessions and accomplishments. It's a race I can't win.

When I pause to appreciate the present moment, I begin to see things clearly. 

Life is screaming by at a pace I can hardly believe. It seems like a few months ago when I got married and when my kids were born. I consider myself young, but the truth is that I'm not as young as I like to think. The responsibilities I've racked up and the reminders my body gives me when I forget that I can't do everything I used to have highlighted this.

Still there are desires, some that must be let go and some that should be pursued. I'm learning to reject fear that tells me not try--that it's easier not to care. At the same time I'm learning to appreciate that not everything will turn out the way I want. I can work hard and be content with giving my all, towards a goal or to the people around me. I don't have to punish myself by constantly comparing my situation with others or with the ideal picture in my head.

Easier said than done. Luckily, there's a benefit to this getting older thing. I'm getting better at it.

Like this? Get updates in your email and download a song you can't get anywhere else here.

 

If Only for a While

 

If only for a while 
Gonna put my feet up 
If only for a while 
Gonna rest my mind 
Cause there's things I've seen 
There's things I've done 
I still carry through time 

Before I walk this road 
Gonna sit in sunshine 
Before I walk this road 
Gonna find a friend 
Cause there's those I've loved 
There's those I've lost 
It all comes back again 

Can't stop the river's running 
Sun and moon still take their turns 
It happens all the time is what we say 
Still, the Mississippi ends 
Empties into oblivion 
Under somebody's last sunset every day 

Before I close my eyes 
Wanna tell my children 
Before I close my eyes 
I'll plant it in their minds 
"You wield too much light 
To fear the dark 
Wherever your road winds"

This song almost didn't make the EP. It was written very quickly, and it's a simple song. I guess I didn't take it seriously as a result. When I was considering leaving it off, my wife and others said I had to put it on the EP. I'm glad I listened, as it's probably my favorite track on the record now.

I wrote it after watching the very long but amazing Tom Petty doc Runnin' Down a Dream on Netflix. You need to watch this if you haven't already. I was inspired and annoyed that he is so masterful as a songwriter.

It's funny that without thinking much about what you're singing as you're making up the words, the song can still hold together. This is not how I usually write. Most of the time I labor away at shaping what I want to say and revise, revise, revise. There's a time for that, but sometimes it's best to just get out of the way and let the song out. That is truly a mysterious thing.

When we were recording it, Joe Gilder kept singing Macy Gray in my headphones before takes as I was trying to record guitar. He sounded just like her. After hearing him do this a handful of times, I just busted out laughing. It was like trying not to laugh in church. The result is the laughter at the beginning of the track.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting similar notes about each song on the EP. To make sure you don't miss one, be sure to sign up for my mailing list below.

Like this? Get updates in your email and download a song you can't get anywhere else here.

 

Burned Seafood

 

David, my little bro, is a chef in New Orleans. I mean, he's legit. A couple of Christmases ago we were at my parents--all my siblings, and their families--and he decided to make gumbo. My dad's family is from Louisiana so we like our gumbo.

Anyway, Dave starts cooking the roux, and he's being pretty aggressive. He's trying to make it as dark as he can without burning it. In the process, he's tossing in all of this amazing seafood. I'm getting super geek-hyped to eat some gumbo at this point.

So stuff starts happening in the kitchen. Maybe the kids distracted him, or maybe he was talking to me. I don't remember. What I do remember is that Dave started freaking out. He was getting red in the face and throwing pans, and the bones in his forehead were poking out like horns!

The roux was burned. Ruined. I felt bad for him (and for me 'cause NO GUMBO) but I wrote lyrics about the situation. Later on I recorded a demo of it. The songs I had written for The Promise at that point were pretty heavy, and I wanted to do something fun and goofy.

Sign up for my mailing list to download it for free. This song won't be available anywhere else!