Lyrics:

You’ve got an ache in the pit of your belly

And it won’t seem to go away

The gift you want to give so badly

You know nobody reciprocates

Your heart is flooding and you can’t find the door

 

It’s not such a sad thing

To be a broken hearted youth

How else are you gonna learn?

 

You’ve got to pull yourself together

This world won’t have pity on you

That’s the glory and the terror

Of deciding what kind of human are you

Your heart is flooding and you can’t find the door

 

It’s not such a sad thing

To be a broken hearted youth

How else are you gonna learn?

(instrumental break)

It’s not such a sad thing

To be a broken hearted youth

How else are you gonna learn?

It’s not such a sad thing

To wear your heart out on your sleeve

How else, how else can you hope to learn?

 

Ah, youth. Stupid, stupid, painful youth. A time when hormones were raging and I hadn’t quite learned how to cope with the emotions that drive me.

This song is a tribute to the series of hapless devotions and unrequited loves I had in my teens and early twenties. It’s a simple and straightforward message. Even though those were painful emotional experiences, they led me to where I am. I wrote this song while I was still in a long term relationship (the same one I talked about in Molecular Clocks). It’s not a song about being heartbroken in the current moment. It’s a nod to the heartbreaks of the past that were learning experiences and allowed me to get to a point where I was generally pretty happy. It’s almost like a nostalgia for all the sad songs I wrote as a teen.

To showcase this simple concept, I knew I would have to keep it musically simple. And I knew it wouldn’t be an actual sad song. Even though it’s slow and melodic, it’s still in a major key. I was learning some great modern folk songs at the time and I was amazed at how simple the chords and melody are sometimes. I have a tendency to want to overcomplicate things in an attempt to be musically original and sometimes it’s best to just keep things straight up and let the songwriting speak for itself.

At least that’s what I thought when I was writing it. After the shiny new honeymoon phase with this song, I actually ended up getting a little bored with it. The chords change very slowly, the tempo is down, and there’s not much to it. Then I tried playing it with Joe on keys. He took it to a whole new level. In this type of song where I’m really just vamping on big, open chords, the other instruments become that much more important to keeping the song interesting, and his decision to switch to an organ sound in the middle of the song really changes the feel of the final choruses in a good way.

The bridge, which is the instrumental break after the second chorus, would not have worked if Joe wasn’t just a monster on them keys. I generally don’t usually like dedicated solo sections, but in this case the slightly jazzy keys tie this song to some of my other influences, like Van Morrison and even some super old school R&B.

And again, when Nathan’s drum parts got added in, it took another big jump. I’m particularly fond of the drums during the second verse. Listen close, that part is awesome. (It’s the section that starts “You’ve got to pull yourself together…”)

One little interesting tidbit about the word “reciprocates” is that I read a book about writing lyrics a few years ago that had a section about the use of big words. It said that words with four or more syllables don’t really belong in popular lyrics because they don’t tend to line up and they’re hard to fit into the melody. So I like to try and fit in big words where I can because I’m a rebel. 🙂

There’s a common question when thinking about personal goals and priorities. I’ve heard it from multiple places. I think there’s even a Buzzfeed article about it or something. The question is “If you could go back in time ten years and tell yourself something, what would it be?” That’s what I had in mind writing this song. But these lyrics are not what I would say. I’ve thought a lot about how to answer, and there’s no advice or wisdom that I’d give to try to change the course of my life, for better or for worse. I’ve had ups and downs and they made me who I am. I would say to myself more simply, “I love you. I love everything you are and everything you’re going to become. I’m actually jealous of what you get to experience for the first time. Some of it will be hard, but all of it will be worth every second. The next ten years are a wonderful gift. Savor every minute.”

And I know the future me would say the same thing.

Next Friday’s song is called “Heart & Gumption”. It features Tor Caspersen on violin and a lot more fingerpicking. Stay tuned!