When I’m really lucky, a whole verse or chorus will unfold in front of me. And I’ll grab my iPhone and press that big red record button.
Such was the case on October 4, 2020, when the following fell from my lips onto my phone:
“And I don’t know what you think that you heard, but you’re the only one awake in the world.”
At the time, I was so wracked with anxiety that I was barely sleeping. The pandemic was still on blast, and I was knee deep in worry. Worry for my family, our safety, my job, our home, our nation – everything. I dutifully logged onto work by day, attended to my family in the evening, then checked out with a few beers every night. Rinse, repeat.
I wrangled the melody into a chord progression, and stumbled upon a percussive intro pattern. Here, you can hear me find my way to the bridge – and register relief that I’d captured it on tape.
I leaned into the verses, and began to put it all together into a song.
Amidst the nonsense and placeholder words, a few keeper phrases emerged; you know em when you hear em: “last best chance,” and “emptiest part of the day.” The song was starting to tell me a story.
Our protagonist was hanging on by his fingernails, too old to be out all night, too young to give up – and smart enough to know better.
I’ve written in metaphor, esoterica, and obfuscation since I wrote my first song as a sixteen-year-old. (It was called “Alone Again A,” and it wasn’t great – but that didn’t stop me from performing it at the Conestoga High School Variety Show.)
But “Wide Awake” is (as it should be) warts and all. “Wide Awake” is straight bio.
That mixed up summer mixtape? My brother gave it to me in August of 1986, complete with songs by REM, The Cure, YAZ and David & David.
And it changed my life.
And so I knew “Wide Awake” was the first single on my forthcoming Constellations album (due October 14t), not just because it embarrasses and surprises me, but because it’s a proclamation, an announcement, an intention – a starting point for the entire album. And, perhaps, my whole life.
For more on the story behind the song, check out this week’s Friends & Neighbors podcast.