“wilderness” is the opening track of the “july” EP in the “yearbook” series.
this song is a bit of a time capsule.. while working on writing yearbook, i knew that at some point in the project, i wanted to return to my young roots as a songwriter and write a song that would have fit in stylistically with my older albums, like “ghosts” or “keep no score.” as i was playing around with different ideas in that vein, i remembered a demo i had made sometime around my “ghosts” album in 2003. at the time, i got distracted with the songs that made it onto that record, that i never had time to finish it. when my next record “keep no score” was being put together, it didn’t have a home there either, so it was left unfinished.
so i brushed away the cob webs on this song and i was so excited to have new ears for it because the entire direction and concept suddenly made perfect sense to me, and was exactly what i was hoping to achieve with a song inspired by my musical past.
the music in that old demo, was fairly arranged musically.. but the lyrics and vocal melodies weren’t working.. and though there was a general arrangement in the song, it had some holes there too. so i went to work right away and discovered all sorts of directions and ideas that i would have never thought to try back in 2003 when it was first demoed. it was so fun to hear those old sounds in tandem with my new, current sounds and ideas.
i ended up keeping several of the recorded elements from the original demo in the end – some of the electric guitars remain, a few little keyboard bits, etc. but i knew that a key instrument here would be drums. so i called up my good friend, jacob marshall (mae), and invited him to be a part. he kindly accepted and with engineer help from mark padgett (mae) jacob recorded his drums in NC and it sounded fantastic right out of the gate. was so pleased!
lyrics for this song were tough to write. if i remember correctly, i caught a pretty bad flu virus right around the time of writing these words… so the process was a little slower than other yearbook songs. i wrote this song about my new little niece, who was born shortly after this song’s release.
these words are about the sacredness of new life. about the importance of welcoming it into our world. in spite of how wild and broken life has made us, as adults. this brand-new, fragile, beautiful life rests on the shoulders of that overgrown wilderness in us. in this song i wanted to examine the contrast of new life being entirely helpless and delicate, and some how is entirely dependent on the selfish, rough edged, dangerous world we call home.
when i write “dear wilderness” – i am talking directly to the parent, who represents the most important the role in that little ones’ new life.
all in all, i really enjoyed writing this song (in spite of getting the flu in the middle of it!) – it was incredibly fun to visit the past for a bit! feels good to pick up that electric guitar from time to time.. on my next project, perhaps you’ll hear a little more of that sort of thing. we’ll see.
much love, ryan
dear wilderness, be at your best. her armor is thin as the fabric of her dress. i know the rules: the weaker trees bend. but make her immune when your temper storms in.
when she gains her balance, be as still as you can be. when she’s climbing branches, be the feathers underneath.
when she regains her balance, be as steady as she needs. when she trusts you blindly, be her worthy lock and key.
though it goes against every grain of your sand, like turning wolves into lambs, be your best for her, your best for her.
when she holds her balance, be as gentle as she needs. when she shines her brightest, let no dark cloud intervene.
wow! i can’t believe it’s already december. i think i say this every year, but 2012 has been the fastest year i’ve ever seen. is it possible for years to have variable speeds? if so, i nominate this one as the quickest yet!
though it only seems like a few months ago, exactly 2 years ago today, my “december” ep was released. since it was written, i’ve been working my way through writing blog posts about each of the 36 yearbook songs, and how they were made. to learn how each of the 3 “december” songs came to be, click on the titles:
this particular EP features my first ever original Christmas song, “snow.” when it was released, i asked you fine folks to send in video clips of winter/holidays near you.. and we got videos sent from around the world, which turned into the community-made “snow” music video. i thought today, on the birthday of the “december” ep, it’d post it for those of you that haven’t yet seen it! this fun video project was made possible by wonderful friend of mine named bob davidson, who helped me out in compiling all of these videos together.
(side note: there will be many more projects like this, requesting contributions from you, in the very near future! can’t wait! lots of fun ideas to come!)
i hope your december is absolutely wonderful!! thanks so much for listening and reading!! happy december.
I hope this email finds you well and that your heart is good and ready for a beautiful holiday season! Lots to tell you about this fine Thanksgiving Eve: New Project, Holiday Sale and FREE Christmas music!!
Over the past several years I’ve made a tradition of recording a Christmas song each year, to be given away free (I like to think of them as musical Christmas cards!) That tradition has accumulated into an entire Christmas album, entitled “Christmas Collection 2012“!
This year’s addition is “I Heard the Bells,” inspired by Frank Sinatra’s classic version of it. It’s not as well known as say, Jingle Bells, but I think the lyrics to this song are incredibly beautiful and moving – I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it.
Another tradition around here is our annual Holiday Sale! Use the code: GEORGEBAILEY when you check out and get 20% OFF anything in the entire Sleeping At Last online store!! Includes: Yearbook CD Box Set, Art Collection, Keep No Score Vinyl, Shirts, etc! Merry Christmas Shopping!
Psssst… If you head on over to sleepingatlast.com you’ll find a small clue about my NEW upcoming project! I am SO excited to share full details with you soon! (12/12/12!)
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you know how very grateful I am for you! Not just because it’s Thanksgiving either… You truly mean a lot to me and I really can’t thank you enough for supporting me and my music!
1. Halo 4 (don’t judge me.)
2. Christmas Lights (i know it wouldn’t be as special, but i’d still love it if christmas lights were hung everywhere, all year long)
3. My New Gibson J45 (it may be a tad on the ugly side, but goodness, i sure do love this guitar!)
4. Wreck-It Ralph (such a sweet, clever and fun movie! see it!!)
“hourglass” is the 3rd, final track of the June “Yearbook” EP.
this song came together very quickly in the writing process (something i’m always grateful for!).. but it ended up being one of the hardest songs to record in the entire 36-song yearbook project! as soon as the song was finished being written, and i pressed the record button, it had ‘troublemaker’ written all over it. but as i listen now, i believe the struggle in recording this song is actually what makes it work. the song itself is about struggle… about coping after unimaginable loss, so i suppose it makes sense that it needed to be a challenge.
this is the first song of mine that features the harp as a main instrument. i loved the idea of having such a heartbroken song be nearly entirely carried by the most angelic and heavenly instrument there is: harp. harpists being hard to come by, i asked a few friends if they new of anyone who might be interested in recording the parts i wrote. my good friend, ryan francesconi came through and suggested his californian friend, diana rowan. i reached out and she graciously accepted the invite and headed straight to a studio in her hometown to record her gorgeous performance. the first round was absolutely gorgeous, but i had forgotten to mention a few technical requests for the harp parts. diana was kind enough to head back into the studio right away to record again from scratch, with the updated parts. a few hours later, i received the perfect and beautiful performances you hear now. i was ecstatic! real, live harp, played beautifully by someone as gifted as diana rowan… is truly a treat!
i recorded the vocals right away, but it didn’t feel quite right. sometimes when songs are brand-new, it takes a day or two to really get a handle on how the song should be sung. to adjust to the tempo, cadence and overall feel of the track. most of the time, it’s a very quick process to feel all snug and fitting. but, as i said, this song needed to be a struggle in every part of the recording, so it took quite a bit longer. eventually, the melody and my voice made peace and got along quite well. after finishing up the vocal, i had the foundation.
when i wrote the first few chords of this song, i knew right away this was going to be a song about being entirely broken. about the heaviness grief. i often write about this subject, but when i do, it is usually scattered supporting different themes. for “hourglass” i wanted to stay there. not just mention grief, but write entirely from the perspective of someone experiencing it fully. this is a snapshot of the moments right after loss, and right before the funeral. it’s the thought process of someone wrestling with the not only the weight of such loss and grief (losing someone so dear), but also at the same time, wrestling with the strangeness of all of traditions and rituals of a funeral (dressing up, greeting cards, keeping things together and civilized.. etc.)
the final lyric is the sliver of a silver lining, of clarity:
but i once heard honest words: ‘though nothing may ever be the same, the heart keeps widening for change.’
that final lyric was tough to come by, but i was rather grateful when it arrived. i wanted to write a song about grief, but at the end of such a song, i was getting worried that this song was going to collapse under the weight of all of that sadness!
after adding some layers of piano, electric guitar detailing, etc. the song was completed. it’s a sad one, but i’m very proud of how it all came out. even if it was born out of struggle and grief.
we’re taking turns at shattering apart. at least we’re taking turns.
how did we get so good at dismantling these hearts? how did we ever get so good?
we dress our best to receive their sympathy. at our worst, we dress our best?
“time heals all” according to these greeting cards. oh how we’d rather time resets.
if we could turn the hourglass, we would. if we could move a grain of sand, we would. if we could find our way back, we would.
our minds keep spinning webs of question marks and of regrets. will our minds keep spinning webs?
i once heard honest words: “though nothing may ever be the same, the heart keeps widening for change.”