I Had To Tell You

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I’m dragging today, and am fighting my daily bout with the post-lunch lethargy (a good reason my friends call me “Pappy”) as Ben and I are up at the studio adding touches to a song called “I Had To Tell You”. The A/C is on today, and we give thanks. I’m struggling to stay focused and to engage myself in the process of listening closely and contributing ideas. I’ve avoided the computer until now so as to force myself to actively participate. It’s not that I’m disinterested, but that these hot summer afternoons absolutely zap what little energy I already possess. Must. Keep. Eyes. Open

images-1Ben added a keys pad (i.e., a layering, bedrock, sonic glue) to the first verse of this song. Something resonant and binding has been missing here and we’re trying to uncover what it is by experimenting with sounds. Also, he and I have both realized that my lead vocal on this song is not very good. It is too dark, it tries way too hard (who me?), and is not at all that convincing. I will re-sing it. The more times I’ve listened to it today, the grumpier I’ve grown. Must re-do. Take that, communism. The pad Ben is adding is helping set the tone of the song a lot more than my stunningly smooth 12-string guitar playing could ever do.

Ben is overdubbing more hammer dulcimer over a piano part he played a few moments ago. We’re going for a Raggedy-Andy sort of sad to prop up the lyrics that include these lines:

I’ve had chains wrapped around me for the last seven years
I crowned myself Messiah since Messiah was not near
I shook my fist at heaven, I told God to go to hell
There was so much that I had to say, but had kept it to myself

These are potentially expensive words.
I see how they could easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context without knowing the story’s backdrop. Hence, they may be expensive in that customers might want their money back after purchasing a “Christian” album expressing such sentiments. I have no idea how the song will be received, as it is hopefully as honest in its narration as the true story on which it is based. The reality of humanity is that we owe to grace as great debtors. In our worst moments, we curse the blessing of our own skin, our own breathing in and out, the universe and Maker alike. In our best moments, we remain desperately in need of that which is beyond our frailty or capacity to bring anything good to the Mercy Table.

I struggled for weeks (and still do, to an extent), in the process of writing it, to allow the main character the red-blooded freedom to tell God, “I hated you that day.” That is not the sort of cheap, plastic, pre-fab line that floats easily upon the waters of this industry. I am trying to be as honest as I can, since I so personally and closely related to the story of my friend’s losing and losing, while in the midst of such tremendous anger, hostility towards God, loss of income and business, found himself spewing those very words with all the venom and bile his hard, tired heart could muster. And in the process, God still showed up with all the mercy and hope He ever possessed. And redemption occurs like fire through the open windows of a dry and brittle house. So it is with beggars and new beginnings. The story of any one of us is, in some measure, the story of us all.

These are the stories I hope to tell you.

Profile photo of Eric Peters

Eric Peters, affectionately called "Pappy" by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He's a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he's not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he's touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


18 Comments

  1. Eric (not EP)

    I for one can attest that these thoughts have crossed my mind. It is likely that you will see that many others can relate to exactly what has been expressed in this honest lyric.

    Thanks for putting it out there.

  2. Sharon

    Somehow it’s freeing to realize that we aren’t the only ones who experience the depths of fear, doubt, and anger. I’ll be waiting to hear it and be encouraged by its truth and hope.

  3. Chris Slaten

    If you are anything like me you are also probably going back and forth between trusting Him to bring it all together and blaming yourself for not working hard enough. He always does it though. By the end you two will be able to point to Him rather than yourselves, not just for the songs but even for the production. I am eager to hear what you two come up with. I know you guys have and will give this work all the time it needs. I’ll say a prayer for a breakthrough or at least some satisfying progress.

  4. Matt Conner

    Yeah man, that lyric is not only raw and tender, but beautiful in its honesty and describes me in a hundred moments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  5. Bill Knipe

    It’s encouraging to know that I am not alone in blaming God for my not getting what I think I deserve. It is also a relief to find that others have a hard time finding the “sonic glue”, both in the creative process, and the Creator’s process in us.

  6. Margret

    Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful; and stunning; and awesome.

    While not having heard the rest of the song or its context (the songs which surround it), nor being privy to your friend’s circumstances, may I tell you it reminds me of what I recently learned from the story of Job?

    Six weeks ago I read that Bible book again, this time reveling in the word choices provided by Eugene Peterson in The Message. When I read it as a story, thinking of it as a good book I just couldn’t put down until I knew the ending, I found myself mesmerized and able to understand so much more of my own relationship with the Lord. These few things were the most powerful to me:

    (1) Sometimes your spouse seems diametrically opposed to everything you stand for.

    (2) Sometimes your friends, those who’ve experienced so much with you and seem to understand you, really don’t have a clue. And they may verbally fight you to insist you don’t know yourself.

    (3) God is big enough, and secure enough in Himself, not to be offended by questions or anger. And when we lash out at Him, it’s okay, as long as we don’t try putting ourselves on the same level as He is.

    (4) Through it all, no matter what our personal hell might be, He publicly defends us to others (even when we’ve been nasty and vituperative to Him), telling others that we are the only ones who can do one particular thing for Him. It is yet another way He demonstrates His love for us.

    I will pray for your friend’s complete peace in his circumstances and I will pray for honest presentation of that which is in your heart and in the hearts of those with whom you make music. Such honesty is what ministers so powerfully to your listeners. I also look forward to purchasing your music and being absolutely blessed by it.

    all of Heaven’s best to you and yours,
    Margret

  7. Eric (not EP)

    Did you use vituperative in a sentence here on RR?

    Ok…I had to look it up. The root definition is below.
    from dictionary.com

    to use or address with harsh or abusive language; revile.

    Thanks for the education Margaret

  8. Margret

    Yes, Eric (not EP), I did.

    I’ve loved words all my life, sometimes just the way they taste when they roll off my tongue. Couple that with the near-insistence at my previous position that I must simplify everything because people (supposedly) no longer understand anything above a fourth grade level. Yergh! Are we not here, I insisted, to elevate the understanding of our readers? My reaction to such constraints often occurred in other settings when I would use larger words than necessary just because I could, and wasn’t censured. Thus, words like vituperative.

    To continue the thought from this morning, when we find ourselves in a place where we’re so hurt that we’ve lashed out at God we must, as Job did, repent for our words. Thank goodness our wonderful God accepts these apologies and allows our precious relationship with Him to continue. All the more reason to love Him and praise Him, yes?

    all of Heaven’s best to you and yours,
    Margret

  9. Daniel

    The last bit of 2 Samuel seems to indicate God’s not that interested in freebies. I like the words. Especially the second line. They’re very transparent. God’s grace is quite literally priceless, and I can’t imagine standing before him trying to explain why I gutted the depth of it to keep an industry happy.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about anything floating on the industry’s waters. This industry already has enough floaters. (Yes, that was a poo reference.)

  10. LauraP

    Struggle if that is required, but DO NOT stop telling these stories in all their truth and complexity. There are so many of us who need to hear them. Be encouraged and know your work is appreciated!

  11. Adam Bennett

    I say… “Song of the Day”! 🙂

    Very beautiful Eric. I agree with whipple, I’d buy those expensive words.

  12. becky

    Yes, Adam! I have been missing the “Song of the Day”, even though it was more like a “Song of the Week”.

  13. Peter B

    Echo what just about everyone else has already said. I will add that in the circumstances of the last year or so, people may be more receptive to words like these than they would have been otherwise. As with Job, God uses our suffering to clear the debris from our lens.

  14. Profile photo of Eric Peters

    Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Wow, I’m deeply glad for these thoughtful comments. I might be the least intentionally divisive person on the planet, so stating the things I say in this song, though I KNOW they need to be spoken, were/are a bit frightful to me. The song would have lost its value to me had I opted for less raging – yes, vituperative – words. Hopefully I can gather clearer thoughts and bring a better explanation of this song to the table soon enough. Please forgive me for my esoteric, unsatisfactory reply. My wife laughs at me whenever she asks me to explain this or that line in one of the songs, and my answer is, “I’m not really sure yet.”

    I can’t wait for you folks to hear “Chrome”.

  15. sd smith

    I can’t wait for Chrome. I appreciate that you said you are not intentionally divisive. I think that “edgy, rebellious” artist crap is so tired and so not edgy. Rebellion is our staple food in this culture, so it is so worn out (as well as evil).

    I am for your honesty, and look for a connection there with you. I think we can linger on Doubt too long, or adhere to Doubt as a creed and that is dangerous (and popular). But sincere angst, despair, fear, agony, etc. turned toward the infinite-knowable God is answerable, and answered. Like David in the Psalms. Like everyman. I love what you said about mercy. Beautifultrue.

    One of my favorite EP songs is “Mary,” and I’m not sure why. Except that I feel like that guy who needs mercy so bad.

    May the glory of God and his gospel overwhelm our hearts. We need it.

    Yay, EP. I’m on board for the journey.

  16. E

    You’re in good company, the Psalmist did this kind of thing quite a bit.

    Also Habbakuk, Job, Jeremiah and many of our fathers who have gone before us.

    SD nailed it. All of the above asked hard questions, but they also received answers. Not pat ones, or the ones they might have expected, often not the one they wanted, but Good ones nonetheless.

    I think you’re right to worry about it a bit, that’s probably healthy. But I also think you’re right to go ahead and do it.

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