What a year it has been. And like many artists and musicians in the past year, we have been given a bit of reflective time, and time to scour our archives and find hidden gems. The pandemic has given me time to do exactly this, and what I’ve come out with is a collection of songs written in the last four or five years, songs I’ve loved but had nowhere yet to display them.
Some of them were left on the cutting room floor from my last album “The Other Side of the Sky”, deemed too pessimistic and angsty for the airy, positive theme of the album. I came to realize I had a fistful of “misfit songs” that fit really well together.
After I released “The Other Side of the Sky” I wanted to do something that was expressly “opposite” of that album, and so I set out to make a grounded, earthy album (what’s more opposite to sky than ground?) and so this album was born. While I had written the songs for “The Other Side of the Sky”, I simultaneously had this collection of songs building up.
Thus was formed the concept of “Meanwhile, Back on Earth…”, songs that were equally as honest as their predecessors, but maybe a bit more realistic and raw.
We open the album with a heavy, gritty sci-fi song “Farewell to the Master”, based off of the short story by Harry Bates (you may be familiar with the cinematic adaptation “The Day the Earth Stood Still” that lost sight of the original story). It sets the scene: a craft from the far reaches of space and time touches down upon planet Earth to deliver a message. (Who’s the master, though? Being or machine?)
The next track is “Escape the Maze”, which grapples with the idea of “busy-ness” running rampant in our consumerist society. We run run run like a rat in a maze, trying always to get the prize, but not realizing that we’re still stuck in the cage. Can we ever slow down?
“Children of the Universe” discusses the learn-as-you-go nature of life. We make mistakes all the time, but we can learn from them. In fact, that’s the best way to learn. And we don’t have to feel bad for making mistakes: We all make them, we’re all stumbling and confused. We are all children of the universe!
“Poor Ol’ Tree” is a personal favorite that tells the tale of humanity’s demise through nuclear war…told from a tree’s perspective. The poor ol’ tree narrates a scorching blast, a nuclear winter, and the desolation and loneliness that follows mutually-assured destruction.
Following that stark song is a somber, almost optimistic ballad “As Best We Can” that reminds us that, while the political and social atmospheres around us constantly shift—and sometimes violently—we are resilient. It might not be comfortable to keep going, but we can and must. Perhaps we could even help the people around us as best we can in trying times. The old ways we knew might die out, but new ways and new worlds arise out of it.
We pick up the pace a bit with “Hey, Ain’t that Just Life” that piggybacks off of “Escape the Maze”’s theme of consumerism. This song tells the tale of unjolly Jack and Jill, who buy into the consumerist lifestyle of more-is-more: Jack buys an expensive car, and has to get a second job in order to pay off his car (that we got to get to his job…a vicious cycle…), and Jill lives way beyond her means, hoping her credit card bills don’t drown her. This striving for material gain is like going up a hill. What will you find at the top, though?
“Scarecrow Joe” is a song about a scarecrow named Joe. How does a scarecrow feel, standing in a field alone and lonely, scaring all his potential friends away? Sometimes we can relate all too well with his plight.
“Goodbye Yesterday, Never Mind Tomorrow” is about when you get too tired of playing games. Too tired of regretting the past and fearing the future, you throw your hands up and say “I’m done with this.” You just want to rest here, now, and not worry about the mistakes you made or trying to win people over.
“Dark Autumn Wind” is a seasonal song about the cold, bitter winds of Autumn sneaking up on us and stealing our warmth away.
“Armageddon, Ragnarok” follows on the coattails of “Poor Ol’ Tree”: it wrestles with the idea of mutually-assured destruction and religious zealotry. People can be so convinced in their ideologies that they begin to see their fellow humans as the enemy that must be destroyed…but guess what? When both sides think that same way, you’ve come to an irreconcilable impasse where the only answer is death and destruction. Everyone is convinced it is the end times prophesied in lore and legend. It’s an eschatologically-fueled race to the finish.
“The World Moves On” is a somber, morbid look at our own mortality. It was inspired by a dream I had where I had time traveled to the future just after my death: I saw people I knew going through my belongings, figuring out what to keep and what to sell. The world moves on after we’ve died. It’s a place not meant for us. So live life now, while we can.
“I Shoulda Had Another Cuppa Coffee” might just be a lighter note to end this album on. It also might be what I thought to myself when I finished putting this album together. A slew of pessimistic, raw, uncomfortable songs. Wow, maybe I need another cup of coffee…yikes. Regardless, this is a fan favorite, and it’s about time it’s featured on an album! A timeless, universal subject! Who doesn’t want another cup?
In conclusion, this album touches on uncomfortable topics: rampant consumerism, loneliness, exhaustion, mutually-assured destruction, fundamentalism, our own mortality. Living on the Earth is tiring, thirsty work. We mess up, we make mistakes, we struggle, and then eventually we die. It’s important to recognize these truths.
When we make mistakes, we can laugh it off and learn from it; when we struggle, we can recognize the inescapable reality of that and wake up to the fact that everyone struggles. We’re not alone!
Maybe we can even help a little along the way. Plant trees, or stop and think before we throw a punch, or something big or small. And when we die, we can die knowing we tried the best we can and were honest with our lives.
Meanwhile, we’ll drink our coffee, plant our feet, laugh at ourselves, and lean into the cold, dark wind as we forge our way onward.
I am so pleased and excited to present to you my latest album, “Meanwhile, Back on Earth…” Enjoy!