Lyrics:

I’ve mounted strategic offensive 
On your heart 
Even now, cluster bombs guided by satellites 
Are falling down rom the upper atmosphere 

I will break down your walls 
I will break down your walls 

Oh, don’t be afraid 
We all just need a little help sometimes 
And that’s ok 
Sometimes crossing the cornfield feels like running away 
But I assure you, that’s not the case 
That’s not the case at all, little one 

I will break down your walls 
I will break down your walls 

I will break down your walls 
I will break down your walls 
I will break down your walls 
I will break down your walls

 

This song started with an idea about using military metaphors to convey the very personal subject of vulnerability. I was playing in a band with a bass player who had done multiple tours in Iraq and he had some really crazy stories from his time in military. War is insane and scary and awful. In many ways, it’s the opposite of love. That disparity got me thinking about how I could integrate the two in an interesting and compelling way.

Walls are a familiar concept in psychology. When people get hurt, it’s natural to want to protect yourself against being hurt again. We put up barriers. We don’t let anyone in. We can’t let anyone close, otherwise there’s a risk of that same hurt again.

Arguably the most common example of this is in romantic relationships. I think most people have been through a heartbreak of some sort. The most common reaction is to shut yourself off from the risk of feeling that devastating feeling again, and that can come in a variety of forms. Maybe you close yourself off from everyone and become solitary. Maybe you begin to disparage all relationships just because yours didn’t work out. Maybe you even engage in physical relationships but keep a lid on your emotional attachment. It’s natural to want to protect yourself. If you touch a hot stove, you learn never to touch a hot stove again.

But that’s an insidious lie that people use as a coping mechanism. Let me just go ahead and blow holes in it.

The truth is that those walls might keep pain out, but they also (more importantly) keep you in. It’s a self made prison. If you don’t lower those defenses, you can’t ever hope to reach the heights that a new relationship could bring. It’s a risk, for sure. It’s a risk every time. But there’s a lot of world out there. There are new achievements to unlock. Even though living inside those walls is a form of self induced torture, it can become a comfort zone.

I hate comfort zones. Maybe that’s why I want to destroy them so badly.

The point of view in the lyrics implies that I’m speaking to someone else who has put up these walls, but I’m not so sure. I might be talking to myself. I’ve been kicked around some. I’ve definitely felt some heartbreaks, and logically I know that I need to just keep getting back out there and being vulnerable, but emotions are a tough nut to crack. We’re emotional creatures.

The second verse shifts a little bit, as I believe second verses should. It tackles that concept of vulnerability and addresses that even though I’m using war and bombs in the first verse to break down the barriers, it’s ultimately all based in emotions and psychology.

I touch on a metaphor that I keep coming back to about a cornfield. I explained a bit about it in another recent, non-music related post. Basically, nothing changes instantly. You’ve got to keep working at it little by little in order to create a new default mental state. To me, this line acknowledges that change won’t come just by blasting away and exploding something that’s holding you back. It will take a sustained effort.

Thinking of that cornfield metaphor as “running away” is my way of addressing an all too common viewpoint of someone that’s hurting. A lot of times, it’s easy to think that your negative stance on an issue is you being practical. To someone hurting or grieving, that’s just how it is and everyone else is delusional.

Fuck that. Even the guise of practicality or realism is also an emotional response. In order to get to a better place and a more positive viewpoint, it’s necessary to confront those fears. A fear based mindset will get you nowhere.

One little line that I’m not very happy with, but managed to stay in is the little tag at the end of the second verse where I use the phrase “little one.” It’s kind of demeaning. It’s like I’m talking down to the subject of the song. If it truly is a reminder to myself, then that’s not such a big deal. If it’s directed at someone else, then it’s as if I know so much better than that person that I hold myself above them, which goes against the spirit of the song a bit. Breaking down walls is about creating an unconditional connection, not about looking down on anyone. Somehow, the line stayed in. So that goes to show you that I don’t always have the level of detail and nuance that I like to think I do. I make mistakes, and I’m my own harshest judge.

A little detail worth mentioning: This is the only song on the record that features anyone but me singing. I sang all the other backup vocals in a very minimal bit of overdubs, but this song I invited the producer, Tor Caspersen, to jump in. I thought a different voice would help make that final chorus sound more full. We wrote the backup parts right in studio right before recording them, and I think they do a good job.

That final chorus is important. My main guitar and vocals stay the course. I do the same things I do on the other choruses, but the other parts change around me. Most notably, the drums are pretty repetitive through most of the song, and then they open up during the last few times through. This was Nathan’s idea. He wanted to musically signify a moment when the walls come down. It’s like a musical prosody for the intent of the song, and I’m glad I work with musicians who can lock into that.

Well, that’s it folks. That’s the last song of the EP. I’ll continue to post blogs on Fridays, but I don’t have any more songs to debut, so the content will continue to vary.

Thoughts on the record? Thoughts about what you’d like to see me write about? Let me know!