A short story for a short song: back in 2010, a friend of mine let me know that an independent film maker in the area was looking for original music submissions for their project. I looked into, read the premise of the movie that was given, wrote this song for it and submitted. They never got back to me so I assume it wasn’t picked.
I never did see the movie when it finally came out, but I feel like the song turned out alright. So there’s that.
I can be more critical of others than I care to admit. I try not to be. When I listen to something that doesn’t appeal to me, I always try to remember to ask myself “do I really think this is bad, or is it just not a style I’m in to?” Because I am very selective in my musical tastes. I’ll even admit to being close minded from time to time.
There are times when my judgmental side gets the better of me though. There are times when I can’t help but think that somebody is doing something for all the wrong reasons, that they’re not out there because they have the desire to perform, or because they’re in search of a creative outlet. Some people just want the attention and to have something to do in front of their friends. And it gets me pretty fired up.
But it’s totally BS on my part! First, who I am to have any idea why any particular person is performing? I can be suspicious all I want, it doesn’t prove anything. Second, even if they are, so what? It’s not a crime. If they want to play just so they can yammer into a microphone, why should I care?
This song is for those folks, whether they are real or imagined. I know better than to think I have right or reason trying to tell someone how to do what they do, but having a tune to help pour out some of that some of that unnecessary negativity is a nice way to handle my hang ups.
So yeah, I guess you do your crazy thing and I’ll do mine.
Growing up, I was told that my great grandfather had killed himself when my grandfather was eight. A few years before he passed in 2012, my grandfather told me a story of his childhood that went into further detail.
As my grandfather tells it, his father Francis Louis Link was a rum runner during prohibition working out of Vermilion, Ohio. Alcohol would come over Lake Erie from Canada. Francis Louis ran the speakeasy, with my grandfather having memories of have root beers while his father had his meetings, and having a new family car every year. Whether the police were on to him, or the money was running out, my grandfather was unsure. But at the age of eight, it was my grandfather that found his father dead in the room above their garage after taking a gun to his head.
Some of my older uncles claim the speakeasy tales were just my grandfather being colorful, but either way, I deemed the story one worth telling. And while the song may name Francis Louis, the song is really an ode to my grandfather, Richard Link. After his father’s death, he went to live with his aunt and uncle. As a young man he worked the Lake Erie shipyards and joined the merchant marines during World War II. While on leave, he met his future wife, came home after the war and had nine children with her. And the rest is history.
I never knew my father’s mother, as she died of cancer when I was very young. Looking back, I always find it tremendous to have descended from a man who suffered such a tragedy so young and was still able to lead a full and amazing life, through good times and bad, providing for his wife and nine children and getting to watch them start families of there own. I think back to him and the tragic story of Francis Louis as a reminder that adversity of any shape and size can be overcome.
It’s been said that many successful musicians find themselves with their less than favorite songs being the most popular. I’m sure that comes with it’s difficulties, be it the frustration of a self-thought master piece going unnoticed or a fluke being praised. Still, I hope there’s some satisfaction in the fact that something they created is enjoyed by so many.
There’s a similar feeling for me with this song. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Last I Ever Heard. Quite the opposite actually; it makes me smile every time. It’s a silly fictional story of me driving like a lunatic down I 79. The car, a 1985 Toyota Corolla that my father bought for $200 in 2008, is non fiction, which makes me smile even more. It was a great car for a broke college kid to bum around in.
The song was a lot of fun for me, I just never expected everyone else would like it so much. It tends to get a lot of reaction from the audience, maybe because driving recklessly in a vehicle on death’s door is a story just about everyone can tell.
This is a song about a person we all know, or rather, a type of person we all know. The drama magnet who lives to declare their hate for drama. The free spirit who doesn’t care what you think and won’t censor themselves for anybody but just can’t figure out why you don’t like having them around (“I’m just being myself!”). Their you’re best friend when it suits them, but when you have it bad, they’ll be the first to let you know that they have it worse. Politely ignore their abrasive tendencies or become part of the cult they claim is responsible for their victimhood.
They are the tragedy, waiting for the curtain to rise.
I think I’m getting better at coming back to entries from the early end of my writing career. I go in thinking “there are so many things I would do differently if I was writing this song now”, and then I realize that I can do those things differently. Which is liberating! I wrote these songs, and even if I thought at the time I had set them in stone, I can go all King Arthur on them and be the one to un-set them.
For this song, I could cop out and say I have no idea what I was writing about when I wrote it, but the truth is I remember exactly what it was about. Absolutely nothing. I liked the descending minor progression (thank you, “All Along the Watch Tower”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “House of the Rising Sun” and “Coming into Los Angeles” to name a few) and I had no idea what the words were talking about, but they sounded edgy and politically driven, so why not?
There was also a silly bridge in the song where it turned to a major key and had some (even less meaningful) throw away lines. At the time I thought the song needed something to change things up, but looking back now I found the section very out of place. So I took it out. Which I love that I can do.
Everyone falls from time to time. We fall down, we get knocked down, we knock ourselves down; no matter what initiates the push, a push is all it takes and gravity does the rest.
At first it might come as a surprise to fall, but most of the time, once you’ve reached wherever you’re falling to and the alarm from the falling process has faded, it’s not really surprising. It was just difficult to see the fall coming from way up there, or maybe it was even deliberate ignored for whatever reason.
What’s more surprising is who stops to help you up. Coming across someone who is able to give you what you need when you yourself don’t even know what that is, THAT is surprising.
This song is about falling down and getting picked up.
It’s not the first time I mentioned my dislike my the business end of the music world. Negotiating prices, trying to get a hold of whoever does the booking, waiting for replies, it can all just be a headache.
The struggle to get better at it is never ending, but I’m also always trying not to get worked up about it. Where You Been pokes fun at the business world, the general struggles of having a reputation, figuring out if it’s worth anything (and to who it might be worth something to).
The double entendre in the title sums it up. Where you’ve been might matter (and it might not) and that’s pretty much how it’s always worked. Where you been?
Low times can be surprisingly productive. While there are the days when levels of depression set in and productivity of any kind is nil, there are pockets of lowness that create the necessity of an outlet.
I spent a brief stint in Pittsburgh staying with my brother. I was between jobs (which can easily contribute to lowness) and being in a bit of a rut, I was glad for the change of scenery. A Helping Hand came along during this brief stretch. I was paying for mistakes after not listening to others and going along with things I knew weren’t doing me any favors.
Let’s face it, we all have times when we know we’re not going to manage alone (some of us more than others). A lot of the time, asking for help can be the hardest part of getting through the harder times.
The year I started college was the first year I had a live performance. There was a local coffee house that had music on Fridays and Saturdays, to which I stopped in and met the owner Renee. She booked me, which started the first of twenty some gigs I would play there over the next 5 years.
Renee was and is the big sister I never had. As a timid kid starting college, she not only gave me an opportunity to start learning to perform publicly, but was also never afraid to push me and tell me what I needed to hear, whether I wanted to hear it or not.
Right around the time I met Renee, her youngest daughter, Sophia was born, and in the following years she became a regular at the coffee house, both for my performances and to entertain customers herself.
Renee and Sophia were inspirational people to have in a very pivotal point in my life (as a person in general, but particularly as a songwriter). Renee always pushed me to break away from leaning on covers and start making my own songs. Thus, one my earliest songs was an ode to her daughter and my dear friend, Sophia.
I lament that busyness has kept me from seeing them regularly, but they always have a very special place in my heart. And should anyone ever ask where I got the motivation to be a songwriter, I can always picture Renee smiling smugly in the back of my mind.