I came to know Wendell Berry at the wrong time in my life. My husband and I, with three children in tow, had just barely ... Read More
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
Ben 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.
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.