Behind the Songs on Learning Faith
A little bit about the inspiration and process for the songs on this album…
So much in life is uncertain and yet I feel the most alive when I make a conscious choice to move toward what scares me. Often, my gut instinct is to take a risk. I’ve come to see any choice to act on that instinct – artistically or otherwise – as an act of faith. This song was the first I wrote for the album and also laid out the concept for the whole album.
So Fucking Cool
This song was just something I felt like I had to say. I developed a hell of a foot cramp stomping my porch board so fast through this track but I think it worked.
If There’s a God
In summer 2013 over 6,000 Texans who oppose Governor Perry’s policies gathered at the Capitol Building in Austin to protest. Being there was the most moving thing I have experienced in my adult life. Natalie Maines came with her acoustic guitar and sang “Not Ready to Make Nice”. I’ve been all over the world and have met some inspiring individuals, but to see this huge crowd of people speaking up for their rights was beyond. It gave me faith in democracy despite the fact that Perry’s legislation was ultimately (amid much legal controversy about the voting process) passed. I thought about Bob Dylan’s Masters of War and how his unabashed anger makes that song so powerful. For me, tapping into one’s righteous anger is part of connecting to God.
When I first started writing the album, I was just at the beginning of falling in love with someone. All my fears about relationships were screaming in my head all the time, “don’t let him in!”. But then whenever I’d just meditate, I’d just hear the word “Surrender” and feel a sense of peace. There’s that faith thing again – listening to my intuition. I brought the song into Feathers and we demo’d it, just me and the guitar. When I got home later that night he had sent me an mp3 of this super 80’s/Eurythmics sounding track and I was like “oh hell yeah!” (I loved the Eurythmics). Also,
I once had a past life regression specialist tell me that in multiple past lives I’d been killed for speaking up for myself or my people. She said she spent our session removing a karmic plate from over my heart and sword from my throat. I was thinking about that when I wrote the lyrics for Surrender.
A rumination on the stubborn optimism of the heart…it’s really easy to get cynical when you look at the news today. But then it’s like, I still feel inspired all the time. There’s so much beauty to find in this world when we look for it.
This was the one song which had to be totally stripped down: just my vocal and guitar – anything else would have distracted from the story: an adult looking back on their childhood with a parent whose behavior was scary and unpredictable. So many people with alcoholism or other family problems are afraid to talk about it and that’s where the dysfunction and pain get passed along. This song is about healing by telling the truth.
This is my understanding of what a world without access to women’s healthcare looks like.
Only the Blues
I love the completely basic beat and swampiness of this track. It’s just a heartbeat and a cry, put through a vocal mic, a couple amps and a porch board. I am so grateful to Feathers for hearing the sparse simplicity of this tune. Any time in my life I’ve been at a loss as to where to go for musical inspiration, I’ve turned to the blues; it always works.
I have been on the road on and off for 20 years; it can be a dangerous lifestyle for anyone who hasn’t faced their own demons. So much time alone, away from friends and family and in constant motion is what leads people to rely on drinking/drugs, etc. to get them through. The road has almost taken me down a few times. This is the story of a good friend whose demons got the better of her.
Long Way Down
I was part of a weekly songwriting challenge run by my friend Matt the Electrician. Every Thursday morning he’d email us a phrase and we’d each have to turn in a recording of a song including that phrase by the next Wednesday. The phrase that sparked this song was “under the northern” which as you can see is not a full thought which leads me to believe that Matt might have been really stoned when he came up with it. At any rate I’m very grateful to Matt for the inspiration. The phrase ‘long way down’ – I just feel like whatever drives me to create, to survive, to put myself out there for the sake of my art is some really deep seated thing I’ll probably never fully understand. I’ve just learned to listen to it because it’s gotten me this far.