“Born To Live Alone”

Well I was debating even throwing this song up on my blog because it’s pretty tragic and depressing. Songwriting is kind of scary for me because I’m not the most open person in the world, and I believe to write good lyrics you have to be super honest and vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable sometimes.

My main philosophy would be this: music is a energy source by which raw emotion experienced by one individual can be transferred to another individual by a more effective means than simply speaking. But the problem is, to write a good song that communicates an emotion effectively you have to channel that energy in an unfettered way. That raw emotion has to be filtered through lyrics, chord progressions, layers, performance, and if you want to get really detailed I guess you could say the emotion is filtered through the very pickups on your guitar and the very saturation of the tubes in your amplifier. It’s fun to pick those filters, but if you do it wrong you end up losing energy throughout each nuance of the song writing process and the final product will have about as much energy as a toddler after a sugar rush.

Although I believe I am a lifetime away from mastering that process, I am proud of this song because of the response it has received at shows. I have had quite a few people approach me after shows and tell me this song brought them to tears, and on two occasions I watched a few people cry from the stage while I was singing the song. Don’t get me wrong, I get no sick pleasure out of watching people cry, but it has been a good indicator to me that the energy and emotion of this song is communicated with at least some level of effectiveness.

“Born to live alone” is a song I wrote about a cliche yet moving topic: how a relationship ends. Most of my friends that know me well are acquainted with my increasing apathy toward romantic relationships that stems from a painful experience I had in my first and only serious relationship. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail on an online blog, but what I can say is I was totally stupid for ever entering the relationship in the first place. Whoever penned the quote “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is full of it. When I cast my mind back on the turn of events I am filled with guilt, anger, and regret. I hold onto all those memories like a bottle of compressed air which is why this song is really potent for me. I think its a pretty polarizing song. I figure the listener hears it and either thinks, “this is the most emo piece of junk I’ve ever heard.” or, “This song is honest and I love it.”

I first came up with the idea behind the song when I was driving down a very busy high-speed intersection by the school where I met the girl about whom this song is written. I can still picture the lane I was driving in and everything. I went back and took a slow exposure shot of the street shortly after: IMG_8829

Given the close proximity of this intersection to a school- there is always a lot of foot traffic and I have heard lots of stories of people being hit by cars there because of how blind it is for the driver.

I drove down this intersection and envisioned going 55 miles an hour and looking ahead to see a little girl in the crosswalk, but realizing too late. I imagined what it would feel like to get out of the wrecked car and running over to a dead body and feeling that sick feeling I felt when it all ended with someone I loved. And then I envisioned the years of remorse for something you just can’t change, but still haunts you in vivid memory. I can still see this image, the exact spot on the intersection, the exact details of the crash, in my minds eye when I play the song. I can picture someone telling the driver- “just get back out there on the road. It’s not your fault. You win some, you lost some.” Just like people tell me all the time about dating here in Provo. The scene feels more and more real now that I brought it to life with a song.

The worst part about tragedy is that once the wreckage is cleaned up, the horror of everything is no longer visible to the naked eye. Only those who were there when it happened can know the specific pain it brought, and while the for the rest of the world it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, the invisibility of the experience makes it worse for those involved. So, for better or for worse, I decided to resurrect this experience with a song. Here’s some lyrics, and a live living room recording I did with my band Grey Glass:

Born to Live Alone

 V1

 Before the light was red the child took to the street

Her broken body lay crumpled at my feet

The pool of blood rolled out and it shone in the sun

But there’s nothing in this world that I could have done

Chorus 1

Cause Darlin I was, Darlin I was,

Born to live alone,

And I don’t mind,

Take your time while,

You walk yourself home.

V2

Now you and I started young and much to fast

The lights were changing and I knew it couldn’t last

And I told you to wait and look both ways, and then I watched you run

But there’s nothing in this world that I could’ve done,

Chorus 2

Bridge

 So someone please

Wipe the blood off my knees and pray

And doctor please,

Won’t you tell me that she’s ok

Cause the time was wrong,

And now were bleeding in the sun

But there’s nothing in this world that I

Could’ve done

How I wrote, “Old”

While most of my songwriting in the past has catered more toward a more intimate, mellower sound, the song “old” is exciting for me because it leans more toward some of the reverby arena-rock sounding songs written by my idols.

Although this song is relatively simple musically, it took a few months to piece together a sufficient story to write about.

The story all started when I drove home to my hometown of San Diego, CA after failing my accounting class and feeling pretty pessimistic about school and life in general. I am very enthusiastic mountain biker and decided to take my bike home to do some dirt jumping to help forget about my failure in school.

mtb soar

Upon returning home, I went out for a ride by myself but things just didn’t go as planned this time. I rode into a jump I had landed many times before, but this time got bucked off my bike just before the takeoff. I flew about 15 feet down a hill and absorbed all of the impact with my left shoulder. while I didn’t get pics, here’s a sequence of a similar crash I took a few years back:

crash 1crash 2

I walked the couple miles home in serious pain, and when I couldn’t lift my left shoulder I knew something was wrong. I got home, my dad cut my shirt off, and we drove to the ER. I have had lots of bad crashes, but never experienced that level of pain before. I started to black out 8 times in the hospital(I counted) from the pain. Long story short I took home a broken scapula(shoulder blade) and a bottle of pain killers.

The pain killers lasted me about a week, and then I endured the pain for another 7 weeks before it healed. You are probably wondering what this has to do with writing a song, and I assure you it relates. Every night when I would lay down on my bed to sleep I could feel the pressure spreading apart my shoulder blade and tugging on the damaged bone. It was killer. It would take me hours to get to sleep, if I could sleep at all, and every night was miserable. I felt pretty helpless physically and pretty drained throughout the day. However, this gave me time to write lyrics. I would write every night about different topics, while everyone was asleep. Slowly, a theme emerged. I realized just how helpless I had become due to my injury, and longed to be back home where someone could take care of me. I spent a lot of time in my apartment alone, trying to ignore the pain in my shoulder so I could fall asleep. I realized for the first time in a long time, I really needed someone else’s help. I felt like an 100 year old man in a nursing home, without a nurse. Once I finally got to sleep, when I would wake up in the morning it would take what felt like forever to get out of bed, because sometimes the pain of hoisting myself into an upright position would make me start to black out again.

fractures

Luckily, however, I healed up in time for our annual family Lake Powell trip that summer. If you have never spent a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell, I recommend you do. This particular trip was very therapeutic for me and I had a lot of time to think. One afternoon,  I took the jetski out to a cove by myself and held down the throttle as far as it would go. I was flying across the lake and when I got to the shore I stopped to take a moment to myself. I realized how wonderful it felt to be healthy again, but I also pondered the feeling of helplessness I had experienced in the prior months. I realized that my feeling of helplessness extended far beyond just my physical body. I realized that redemption would have to come with help, that I needed a teammate to help me through life. This was a big turning point for me, since prior to this trip I hated the concept of romantic relationships and marriage. But for some reason in that moment it clicked that if I was going to get through life, the only way to do so would be if I had someone to spend it with me.

jetski

I skied back to the boat in time for dinner, and for a few hours, I felt very optimistic about life. I walked onto the roof of the house boat to watch the stars with my dad and the sky was bright with no city lights to dim it. I penned some lyrics about redemption using symbols like water and fire to represent the cleansing process of life. I topped the verses off with a chorus about feeling old and helpless, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, because I had someone to take care of me. I haven’t found that person yet, but the whole experience lead to an arena sized rock song, so it was all worth it. I used melodies I had dreamt up while alone at my apartment during the summer- which made the broken shoulder worth it. I love playing this song, and though it’s simple, the lyrics mean more to me than people will probably ever know. Stay tuned for a recording.

Lyrics:

V1

Your eyes are like glass on a lake in the morning of summertime,

your warmth overtakes me as i settle deep in your wake,

with my broken shoulder I’ll carry you into the water,

and we can pretend for tonight that we never knew cold-

Chorus 

and I see light in the night sky

I feel old for the first time

V2

tell me you love me cause Im in the mood for believing,

that Ill live with you in a song where well never be found,

with my broken faith I can carry you into the fire,

and we can pretend for tonight that we never knew cold

chorus 2

and I see light in the night sky

I feel old for the first time

and I see light in the night sky

I feel old for the first time

Bridge

I dont sleep like I used to,

I dont sleep like I should

I dont sleep like I used to,

I dont sleep like I should

The “Mark Twain” Writing Process

About a year ago, I was sitting on my bed in my apartment in Provo, Ut, wanting to write a new song. I have a pretty strict policy about not writing love songs, and I also had a theme that had been occupying my mind for months that I felt would translate perfectly into a song. I had just finished listening to, “My Third House” by Kings of Leon, which starts with a fast, scratchy guitar riff with lots of break-up. I wanted to write a song with that strumming pattern as the foundation, since the theme of the song would turn out tense and frustrated.

Mark twain

I chose the chord F#Minor to hold the angst the right way and started experimenting with melodies, and the song, “Mark Twain” was born. My Fascination with Mark Twain’s life began when I listened to a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, a Mormon leader and scholar, while a missionary in Austin, Texas. Elder Holland gave a speech at BYU relating Twain’s struggle with religion his entire life, as well as the tension in his marital, familial and social relationships with people. I was moved by Elder Holland’s description of the author’s battle with God and man while Twain inspired the world with his writing. Upon returning home from my mission I was reminded by my father about a story that struck me deep. The story comes from a book by LDS scholar Hugh Nibley, and tells the true account of Mark Twain, who was boat captain on the Mississippi. After losing his job as a boat captain, he returned to Lake Tahoe, a sanctuary for Twain. One evening he set fire to a large portion of the forest that surrounds lake Tahoe, sailed out onto the lake and watched it burn down.forest fireI couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the story. Some call Twain mad and irresponsible for what he did, and he most likely deserves those titles. However, my mind began to play the story over and over and the nighttime imagery of the flames scorching the trees while reflected on the clear blue Tahoe water haunted me. I believe Twain’s motivation behind such a senseless act of pyrotechnics ran deeper than just a mere lust for entertainment. What was Twain trying to prove? Who was he trying to reach? Was he trying to prove to the Universe that he mattered? Perhaps Twain’s ability to start the forest burning down was symbolic of Twain’s desire to harness any human capabilities he possessed to exert a supernatural force on the universe that he felt held him captive. Maybe he wanted to prove a point, or settle some age old score with an enemy or lover. His ignition of the forest definitely could be likened to the influence his books have had on the world. For Twain, what started as stories have spiraled into masterpieces that still influence the world today.LakeTahoe2I couldn’t help but put myself in Mark Twain’s shoes, especially since I wanted so badly to write a song about his experience with the forest fire. At the time I was writing the song there was a girl I knew, who I really wanted to like me(no this is not a love song). She seemed interested at first and then quickly started to ignore me again, which was very frustrating to say the least. I wanted so badly to make her notice me that I wondered what in the entire world I could do to encourage her to spark some interest in my lonesome self. But, I realized she was engrossed in other things that held little value in my mind, and I thought to myself, “Well, even if I burned a whole forest down right in front of her eyes she wouldn’t see a dang thing.” I gave up. But the frustration didn’t wear off and that angst was coupled with my hatred of schoolwork and my inability to adequately express my feelings about the world to others. #emochild I decided to put myself in Twain’s shoes and write a song from his perspective, with a bit of my own. My band, Grey Glass and I decided to tackle the song head on and throw in instrumentation like keys( Fender Rhodes) played by Jordan Reading, drums by Scotty knudson, cello by Karlene Budge, bass by David Budge, and guitars by Nephi Henry and myself. I sing lead vocals and penned up the lyrics with the help of David Budge on the bridge. The song serves as a frustrated anthem for those striving to make a powerful imprint on the world around them and those they love. We recorded a living room demo with our friend Taylor Woodward, who did the work for free, bless his heart. Here it is:

Like our band on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to encourage us to make more music. https://www.facebook.com/heygreyglass?ref=br_tf @heygreyglass

Lyrics:

Go get a tank of gasoline baby and put a sweater on

I got a boat in the back of the truck and we’re not gonna sleep til dawn

And after we set the forest on fire we’ll sail onto tahoe blue

You say that you’ve never seen fire in the sky well it’s burnin for me and you

And my whole life

I’ve been trying to change your mind

To love me blind

And I swear that I’m taller than the trees I’m burning down

And all this talk that there’s something in heaven’s gonna make me lose my mind

So I’m gonna put my pen on this paper til all of my thoughts unwind

But all my stories and all that I’ve written can’t breath life back into you

I wanna know that I’ll see you again but I’m scared to believe that’s true

No matter just how tall I get

I can drown like the next man

And I can burn like the next man

No matter where my story gets

I’m gonna end like the next man

And I’m gonna die like the next man

And my whole life,

I’ve been trying to free my mind,

But I’ve been blind

And I swore that I’m taller than the trees I’m burning down

And my whole life,

All these pages have been turning me,

Set me free,

And I’ll swear that I’m smaller than the lies I’ve spread of thee