What I love about this recording is that in the session, our engineer, Jeremy Michaelis (of the once and future Red Umbrella) had reasonable doubts that we’d be able to easily get drums to match the guitar track I had made previously. We were at the end of day of recording and I really wanted to get the drums, but everyone else was ready to go home. “Let me just try it once with you recording,” said Mike who was in the booth already. “Don’t you want to practice it once?” asked Jeremy. “Mike can do it, he’s like a super human.” Daniel pipped in. So we ran tape and what you hear in the mix for drums here is Mike’s only take! No practice, no restarts, punch-ins etc. After 18 years, Mike knows my moves and he had memorized the nuances of the demo. What could have been 20-30 minutes of work was only 4 min and 40 seconds!
“It’s a Gospel song!” That’s how Jason Monroe described this tune when he was the first person I played it for him in 2013. It came to me on New Years day of that year, first thing in the morning. I woke up reached for a notebook and over the course of the day all the lines came to me. The night before, New Year’s Eve, Monroe, Dennis Michaelis (of the once and future Red Umbrella & Jeremy's brother) and I had filmed a high-end wedding in downtown Chicago as part of Monroe’s film company, Highway 61 Films. It was such a fun and interesting shoot that it made me wax poetic all the next day.
New Years days are reflective times, I was nostalgic for the world of my childhood, in wonder of how far I’d come, and what got me through all the years: the love and grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord, my savior, and teacher. He has given me everything I need, so I owe a life in return. Each verse alludes to a Psalm (4, 8, and 121). In 2013, as now, part of my daily routine is to pray the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, which includes Psalms every day. They get into your blood.
But I must also sing the praises of Jeremy. When I played him my first demo, he liked the lyrics and the melody of the verses. But he wanted me to rewrite the chorus before we tracked it. I was reluctant and first, but he said it sounded too much like a U2 thing. Immediately I knew he was right. Rip-off U2-ish choruses are far too common in Christian music and I hadn’t worked hard enough to get my own voice and my style to the chorus. He didn’t let me take the easy way out. Well, a few days later, I was listening to Sam Phillips’ “Fan Dance” record and so many times she does this thing where the choruses or refrains are quieter or gentler than the verses. She again became my muse and borrowing that move, a day or so later, I have the chorus you hear here, which Jeremy did like and I’m proud of. In fact, recently I tried to think of how the original chorus sounded, and I drew a blank! It was pretty forgettable after all.
In 2013 asked my Facebook friends to finish the lyric “more polish than leather to my shoes these days…”
It was a line that came to me in a movie theater parking lot, in the snow, at Phil & Delaina Jellema’s wedding reception in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I knew it was destined to be in a song, but how to finish the couplet…?
Many poetic and some profound suggestions were offered, but one caused me to laugh out loud and I knew it had to be the one I used. Tony Parandi, an excellent drummer who I knew it college at IWU, simply offered “There’s more polish than leather to my shoes these days…I’ve got holy shoes, hooray!” It was at once tongue and cheek and slyly theological; a combination most welcome to my style. This is a song about how I hope to cooperate with God when he promises “to oppose the mighty with the weak.” (1 Cor. 1:27)
Its also about a long life in the realms the of the independent rock scene. So many of my brilliantly talented friends don’t really make two dimes to rub together, but they give so much healing magic through their music - whether they attribute that grace to God or not. With that in mind, I also allude to of the miracle performed by St. Peter when he tells the lame beggar “silver and gold have I none, but what I have, I give thee.” (Acts 3:6)
I mention the Dallas Cowboys toward the end, as a nod to my drummer of many years, Jason Monroe who loves that Texas football team. Although he didn’t play on the session, he was first to hear these songs in their raw form, as I said. We spent so much time together in the years of 2009 to 2014, making music, that I could not help but bring details from his life in to my lyrics.
The backing track is reminiscent of our old band Bottle Rocket Blue, which certainly spent a lot of time traipsing over the streets of Grand Rapids in the snow a decade ago. Thus you’ll hear bouncing 8th note power chords and jangly minors on the 60s-garage chorus.
released August 11, 2016
Songs by, Guitar, Vocals, Strings, Bass on track 1, Keys: Tom Adamson
Drums: Michael Bruneau
Bass on track 2: Daniel M. Lambert
Recorded by Jeremy Michaelis
at 7Spin Studio, Valparaiso, IN Fall 2013 & Summer 2015