Every song I have ever written has started as words. In most cases these words manifest as a free kind of prose before the faintest idea of a melody begins to take shape. More times than not, the writing never becomes a song, just a purging of my own insignificant episodes as I try and find my place in our shared human experience.
I started writing the songs for what would become this album in June of 2016. My wife and I were expecting our first child, and I was preparing to release my first album in 7 years, The Piasa Bird, that August. On a perfect, summer Sunday afternoon, as I returned home from getting press photographs taken for the upcoming release, I found my partner sitting upright on our living room couch in an almost trance-like stillness, taking calm, deliberate breaths. When I approached her she opened her eyes, and with an unforgettably troubled look said “something’s wrong.”
When she was in the hospital and there was still hope that I would soon meet our child, I began to write, in many ways to him, about things he might expect living in a complicated, beautiful, and harrowing world. I wrote about my excitement, and my fear, for the rapturous joy and the woeful suffering that comes with living a life.
After 4 days in the hospital, my wife gave birth to a boy that left the world as he came into it. This experience was unexpected, devastating, and we were not prepared.
The days and weeks after his death were the hardest of my life. I began to have severe panic attacks and fell into a deeper depression than I’d ever experienced, though both had been a constant shadow over my teenage years and adulthood. I ended up in the hospital on more than one occasion, and my wife, who was mourning a loss far greater than my own, was then set to the maddening task of having to look after me before she herself had time to heal. Somehow, I continued to write, not out of desire or the pursuance of creativity, but out of sheer necessity. It became a survival instinct. I navigated through the darker corners of myself that were previously off limits for fear of not finding my way back. I began to ask and explore the absurdly impossible questions we all have about existence, life, death, beauty, sorrow, love, desolation, and whatever meaning there is to be found in any of it.
What came of all of this was a great many pages of rambling nonsense, and a handful of songs that would be the catalyst not just for healing, but also a greater sense of self discovery. When I began, I thought I was writing for, or to, the baby. When I was in the throes of it all, I thought that I was writing for my own therapy, survival, and a search for my own truths. Once the record was finished, I was able to look at them all collectively in a way that I couldn’t before. While there is no doubt in my mind that I did it as a way to communicate with a child I would never know, and while it remains absolutely, and necessarily self serving, it is clear now that all of it is an expression of love, awe, and reverence for my partner, a monument to the experience we shared, and the unshakeable bond born of it.
This is anything but a sad record. It is visceral, and perhaps cuts a little deep, but there is no sadness or sorrow when I hear, play, or think about these songs. It is a hopeful record with love as its point of conception, and my hope is that it finds a way to touch on the most human emotions and experiences we all have.