debut album - Lyrics

It’s been a month since I put out my debut album, so I thought I’d put this together so everyone can see the lyrics written out, along with some insights in to how each song was written and its meaning. If this sounds interesting to you, keep reading! If not, well, that’s all good too.

Some general information about my songwriting process: I usually start at a piano. I play some random stuff, and eventually I land on a short chord progression that feels good to me. Either that, or I sit down at the piano crying (the truth comes out) and play whatever I need to play to express myself. Anyways, that little chord progression I land on is quickly accompanied by a melody, and then I go from there. I add some more chords, more melody, and there I have the complete framework for a new song. Next I do some editing, and finally I add the lyrics.

For this album I based the lyrics on me. My experiences, my feelings, my memories. I tried to capture abstract emotions that I couldn’t put in words prior to writing the songs. Usually, I connect these experiences with a location, so a lot of the lyrics are painting a picture of a place I associate with the song. Often times, this is nature, as I get a lot of creative inspiration from my travel and outdoor experiences.

Below you’ll read about changing skies, mountains, wildlife, and a good dose of my personal experiences. You can also expect a few sloppy lyric sheets from my notebook, some nice pictures from my recent trip to Death Valley, and my commentary on each song. Hope you enjoy :)

My trusty notebook and pen


SUNRISE I

Slowly lift your lashes

To the call of the birds

A first glimpse of light

Daybreak shortly after

Ooh ooh

Wrap me in the yellow

Orange red and gold

Soon the colors grow

Light will melt the snow

Ooh ooh

Ooh

Tops of trees illuminate

Mountains catch the sun

A welcome kiss of warm

A prelude to the storm

Ooh ooh

Ooh

Ooh

Right after I wrote this song, I knew how I was going to tie this album together. Before, I just had a collection of songs I had written throughout a year of my life. They were about various topics, memories, visions. I was thinking and thinking about how I was going to connect them, and then I wrote this song…

The repetitive pulse, the key, and the ambiguous meter of Sunrise I all made it feel like the start of a day. It reminded me of waking up in my bed in the morning; my face cold from my open window, my body warm in the cocoon of my comforter.

It reminded me of backpacking (one of my favorite things to do in my free time), and how special a sunrise is when you are out in nature and experiencing it first hand. Really feeling that icy cold of a fall morning. Waiting for the sun to reach you to warm you up, give you life.

I tried to capture these experiences within the tune and lyrics of this song, and once I realized that it was about a sunrise, the album came together. I knew I was going to shape it like the cycle of a day; sunrise, sunset, through the night, and back to sunrise again.


ONE EYE

One eye open

Limited perception

Glazed, foggy vision

Floating through time

Lost with no mission

Thoughts intertwined

With a simple touch

I’ve escaped

The suburbs in location

But not the state of mind

The pain that is neutral

The bark with no bite

Content with the moment

Upset with the lies

Too stationary

Too insane

Are these

Feelings leftover from tumultuous times

Constant recover

I’m catching up while

The path is getting steeper

As you stop to take a breather

You can’t run away

No you can’t run away

Always looked over

Got something I need to prove

Genuine complements can’t fill the void

Wish I could believe them

Wish I could enjoy

My craft again

I guess I’ll wait

For these

Feelings leftover from tumultuous times

Constant recover

I’m catching up while

The path is getting steeper

As you stop to take a breather

You can’t run away

No you can’t run away

[sax solo]

Feelings leftover from tumultuous times

Constant recover

I’m catching up while

The path is getting steeper

As you stop to take a breather

You can’t run away

No you can’t run away

Feelings leftover from tumultuous times

Constant recover

I’m catching up while

The path is getting steeper

As you stop to take a breather

You can’t run away, run away

Run away, run away

Feelings leftover from tumultuous times

Constant recover

I’m catching up while

The path is getting steeper

As you stop to take a breather

You can’t run away

No you can’t run away

From me

One Eye is by far my angriest song on the album. Anger is a weird emotion for me - I really try not to get angry in my day to day life, and for the most part I don’t feel the urge to. I have always been one of those people that leans towards sadness as opposed to anger, but this song actually brought out some anger for me! Which felt AMAZING to release in a safe and productive way.

The general anger of this song comes from a host of medical problems that I had. Since they were related to my hormones, those events have taken a huge toll on my emotional well-being. This all happened a few years ago, but I am still dealing with some of the effects today. They have shaped who I am whether I like it or not, and that is just the way it is. It has resulted in a fairly restrictive lifestyle for me in terms of mental and physical health, and most of the time I’m okay with that…

But sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I just get really frustrated that I can’t just enjoy life in a carefree way the way that many other people my age do. Sometimes I get sad about this, but when I was recording the vocals for this song I felt a really strong anger come out. My body was shaking, my voice was cracking, but I felt ALIVE.

The repetitive conclusion of the song reminds me of how it felt to be at the mercy of hormonal depression... constantly repeating again and again, getting worse as you try to recover, until you break.

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EVOLUTION

Clouds start swirling

A hurricane

In my mind

Why do I suffer

When everything’s going all right?

I’m still searching for the sunrise

Traveling through the night

Goes forever

So it seems

From time to time

Darkness embrace me

I am so afraid

I’ve gone blind

I’m still searching for that sunrise

Traveling through the night

Take a step and you’ve gone farther

Take a breath it wont be easy

Loyalty, friendship, sustaining

I can’t thank you enough

There you have an evolution

Slow and steady

So settled down

In this life

Why am I nesting?

I was born with wings

To take flight

I’m still searching for the sunrise

Traveling through the night

[trombone solo]

Take a step and you’ve gone farther

Take a breath it wont be easy

Loyalty, friendship, sustaining

I can’t thank you enough

Yet again, an evolution

During my second semester of college, I went through a rough time… I was very down for a while, but I’ll spare you the details. The gist is that I was incredibly sad and unproductive for a few months - the only thing I did was write the first two verses of this song. I was trying to capture the frustration and relentlessness of hormone-induced depression. The unreasonable sadness that has no cause, and knowing that its just a chemical imbalance yet there was nothing I could do to change my mood. At the same time though, I wasn’t consciously thinking about writing all of that. I was just expressing the way I felt at the time. Helpless, and afraid it wouldn’t end.

Enough with the depressing stuff! So a few months go by, and I still hadn’t finished this song. However, I was feeling much better mentally, so I was back to practicing and one day I remembered this song. I consulted my old voice memo I made of the first verse, and finished up the song. I wrote the chorus both about the progress I had made, and the gratitude I felt for the people that stuck with me though that time.

Finally, the last few verses are about feeling better, but a little too content. Kind of stuck in a routine that wasn’t great, neither here nor there. Being bored, and wishing I had a more exciting life. Definitely not as dark as the beginning of the song, so I noticed a lot of growth and positive change throughout those few months. Hence the name, ‘evolution.'

My notebook page of various ‘to-do’s’ for each song, along with some drawings of feet


PLASTIC STAR

See

Hear the river pounding

Stay within the rise of the stars

I have never felt this close before

I will capture this night

Forever

Glowing

A plastic star on my ceiling

Lay uncovered on my bunk bed

I will always remember

All those years ago

Never fading

Slowly let go, and

The present turns to memories

Gently release me

To think of a future

Where these are just the good ol’ days

It’s something I can’t explain

Feel the Earth below my body

Moonlight falls upon my skin

Young and speaking of infinity

Comets

We wish

A secret

Together

A decade passes like a fading sunset

Again

Underneath a blanket of stars

How far have I come to get here?

How far will I go away in the future?

Slowly let go, and

The present turns to memory

Gently release me

To think of a future

Where these are just the good ol’ days

It’s something I can’t explain

It’s something I can’t explain

Plastic Star is my personal favorite song on this album. Writing this was one of the first times I felt that I successfully transferred a feeling I was unable to describe in to a product of music and lyrics. The concept for the song is based on a realization I had about a year ago. It was a moment of reflection – I looked back on my childhood and just realized how suddenly distant it was. I thought of how real it all felt back then… how sure of everything I was. I had a life plan for myself. I had my ‘forever’s’ figured out: I’ll have this friend forever, I’ll always be like this, I will have sleepovers under the stars forever, where every time we see a shooting star we wish for donuts the next morning. How did that all slip from concrete reality in to a vague memory of the past? I was so sure of who I was and how my life was going to shape out, when did that all change?

As I wrote the lyrics for this song, I connected a few different specific memories in my life and tried to explain this feeling I was having – this intense nostalgia, sadness, loss, anticipation. The first verse is about the night I had this realization. I was on a backpacking trip, looking at the stars, when suddenly I started crying. I couldn’t explain why at that time, but though the process of making this song I now know why I was crying that night. 

The next memory is an old one. When I was in elementary school, I decided to do an experiment. This was back when my brother, sister, and I all shared a room and I was on the top bunk. A few feet from my face were these green-ish plastic stars that glowed in the dark. I stared and one of those stars late one night, and I decided that I was going to remember it for the rest of my life, kind of like taking a mental picture. It was a little deal I made with myself, and as of now I still remember that little star on the blue painted ceiling that night.

The third memory refers to an old childhood tradition I had. My siblings and friends would often get together and have sleepovers. We would all grab sleeping bags, line up on a tarp like sausages, and look at the stars. We would talk almost all night, looking at the stars. Talk about the universe, our fears, donuts… as kids do.

The last verse is bringing it back to that night I had backpacking when I had this whole realization. I was also laying on the ground looking at the stars. It was such a similar experience, but I was such a different person, with different people. I had different plans, different routines, different passions. Different friends. It was all different, but all good. So good. I can’t let this life get away from me like my childhood, it’s too real. I have it figured out. I know who I am. Theres no way this can be reduced to an old memory - but that’s exactly what I thought as a child. I guess we’ll see how it turns out 10 years from now…

My original lyrics page for Plastic Star (right page)


MOON

Hush

You’re glistening 

A soft

Silver

Glow

I think, I had

An epiphany

I think

I finally know

And I howl it to the moon

Howl it to the moon

Feel the mother breathe

Shallow, steady,

True

Stifled by her children

She’ll live,

But will you?

And we’re just howling at the moon

Howling at the moon

Howling at the moon

Howling at the moon

I wrote this song and didn’t show anyone for a long time. I was convinced it was too simple and boring, but something about it stuck with me over the months that I tried to ignore it to write more ‘interesting’ music. I originally wrote the music to this song right after Trump got elected as a way to work my feelings out about that whole thing. It started as a “this sucks but we’ll get through it together” song, but over time it evolved.

Fast forward a while, and I was taking a sustainability class in school (this is related I swear). We learned about all of the terrible news regarding climate change and pollution, so the general doomsday reality of the planet’s future weighed heavy on my mind. Simultaneously, I was trying to finish up this album, and I decided to add this song to it. So, naturally, the lyrics I wrote pertained a little bit to this nature and sustainability aspect of my life.

Another fun fact about this one: the original version of this song was arranged just for voice, tenor sax, and upright bass. It was very simple and raw and stripped down, and I actually recorded it that way (thank you Luke and Isaac!!). However, there were complications with receiving the files for this take, hence this new version with strings that appears on the album.

Death Valley moon


SUNRISE II

Ooh ooh

Tops of trees illuminate

Mountains catch the sun

A welcome kiss of warm

A prelude to the storm

Ooh ooh

Now we’re awakened

And I’ll see you all again

Witnessing a sunrise

I wanted to conclude the body of this album by recapping the first song. The idea behind this was constructing the album to be like a day-night cycle, both starting and ending with a sunrise.

The original doodles of the album concept


SUNSET

And now I watch the sunset

I see the clouds in your eyes.

The burning red

A last glimpse of light

Turn to the east - a darkness

Its like the rise of night

Turn to my side

A heartless little smile

A question behind the setting sun

Transgression

I’m told it’s yet to come

But we’ll see

We’ll see

We’ll see

The beetles scurry to their homes

Look up and see a star

Let’s make a wish

We’ve made it this far!

I’ll shut my eyes if you close yours

Now place your hand in mine

Go spread your wings

And fly us to the sky

A question behind the setting sun

Transgression

I’m told it’s yet to come

But we’ll see

We’ll see

We’ll see

A question behind the setting sun

Transgression

I’m told it’s yet to come

But we’ll see

We’ll see

We’ll see

A question behind the setting sun

Transgression

I’m told it’s yet to come

But we’ll see

We’ll see

We’ll see

This song took the longest to complete out of everything. It was at the point where all of the other songs were arranged and recorded, while Sunset was just sitting there, a rough sketch at best. We had recorded a few string tracks, but had no idea what to do with them. Then, one night I was messing around on my computer, and I decided to try and make this one an electronic song. I quickly made a VERY rough demo of the track on Ableton, showed it to Nathan, then we took it into the studio and polished it up.

As far as lyrics go, a lot of this song was written within the theme of changing times of day. I tried to evoke the ominous yet beautiful tone that a sunset creates. Additionally, I wrote the chorus of this song about a startling tarot card reading that I received from a friends mom. I still don’t know if I believe in tarot cards or not, but the cards I pulled suggested that I was going to do something very dramatic and even violent in the future… so thats where the “transgression, I’m told it’s yet to come, but we’ll see” part is all about.

Another fun fact about this one: it was originally supposed to be placed as the second to last song of the album, but something about it seemed like it needed to stand alone at the end. It starts and ends with a string quartet, fading the sounds of the album in to the distance, similar to the light fading at the end of a day.

Lyrics sheet for Sunset (right)

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