Skip to content

Song Sources: Somewhere Between

September 7, 2019

This is part of an ongoing series about our recordings. To read more in this series, click on the category “Song Sources: Stories behind the recordings.”

I wrote this song in my head during a run a few years ago. I started it somewhere around the half mile mark and had everything but the bridge in my head by the time I finished the third mile. Sometimes they really do come to you that quickly. I was playing with Stephen Lee during his brief stint in Baltimore and I definitely owe him for the dark tone and twang in the song.

Lyrics

This is your classic boy-meets-girl, boy-has-job-that-keeps-him-traveling-all-the-time-and-considers-his-entire-life-a-mistake story.

A friend of mine in San Antonio — someone who was a professional musician all their life — was telling me about the time they met a really well-known songwriter, who was still living in his car into his 50s. Someone who had written one or two hits for other people but was still just scraping by, working like a dog their whole life just to do something they love. My friend said that he didn’t want to end up like that — and he hadn’t. He’d sobered up two decades before and had a wonderful son who was also a musician. Another friend of mine is getting married this year, and I remember her telling me how angry she was that she’d spent years living out of a van putting in as much work as people with less talent (my words, not hers), and she was approaching her late 30s with nothing to show for it, whether from music or “real” life. She’s having success on both fronts now.

But some people, like the narrator in this song, never get that. They just make a mess of everything, and ruin three or four lives trying to have just one.

When I was in Ashville had everything needed in the world
She had marmalade lips and pretty Madonna curls
But I came home too late maybe one too many times
She said I fed her just one too many lines

We are all somewhere between nowhere and here
Just along for the ride, never the one with your hands on the wheel

I flipped the story a little here. I had the second verse first, but it read better to put the current state of things in the first verse, since it fit better with what the chorus was doing. The second verse ends with what might have been too bitter of a line for early in the song, and was a little more fitting heading into the bridge.

She said turn down your wheels, and I will be your home
Anywhere you rest will be a place to rest your bones
But anywhere I’ve been is no place to raise a kid
A family’s another stupid thing I did

I had a beer with a friend from years ago in town
He said he’s surprised to see me back around
He said he wished he’d traveled all his life like me
So I told him what I am to bring him down

Twenty years living out of suitcases “giving it a go”,
could’ve been a hundred more and I’d have just as much to show,
making less than you can eat on and drinking what you earned
I guess I came from nothing and to nothing I’ve returned

Music

The verse chord progression (vi-I-IV6-I) was lifted from U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” but it’s a fairly common chord progression in folksy songs, like Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” The guitar chords are muted and backed by a four-on-the-floor bass drum beat with very few snare hits to build some tension. The only thing really clever going on with the music is the intentional deflation in the chorus, which is short and heavy on minor chords instead of “lifting” as a normal chorus would.

The feel change in the bridge is meant to sound like the narrator is spilling the whole thing in one breath. The drums switch to a traditional back beat before launching into a four-bar drum fill to launch into the final chorus.

Recording

This was recorded in late December 2015 and tracking finished on New Year’s Eve. The guitars (my Larivee for the fingerstyle lead and my Tennessee for the flatpicked rhythm) were both miced with a single condenser. I was still recording in the dining room at the time, so there’s a halfway decent real “large room” reverb on the guitar and vocals. The drums, like every song on the album, were programmed.

I wrote the opening riff on a banjo, so it retained a little of that feel. If I’d had a better banjo at the time I made this recording I might have used it, since I really like how this song sounds when we do it as an acoustic trio.

Since this ended up being all acoustic instruments, the main challenge as I remember it was getting the bass to sound a little more like an acoustic bass. I tried a few different setups, but in the end I had the best luck simply running the viola bass direct through a FET microphone preamp I had built and minimizing the compression on it.

My recording session notes tell me that at one point I tried adding an electric guitar, but it must have sounded awful because I didn’t keep any of it. Even though when we play this live I use the electric, I think that was probably the right choice for the record overall. (I ended up bookending the album with fully acoustic songs.)

Like most of the tracks older than 2017, the “mastering” for this track was all done in the box.

One of my friends told me this was a dark way to start an album. But it went first because it was more upbeat than my original choice, “Now We’re Gone,” which is coming up next.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: