How long does it take to write a 3-minute song? In the movies they dash them off in a couple of hours or during a long night with a bottle of scotch. And it’s true, sometimes they come quickly. This one did not. We spent hours and hours, days and days spread over months and months trying to coax a good song out of hiding. We got pretty close in the end, but it finally took our co-producer and mixer a little bit more deft knife work to turn it into the finished product that appears on our debut album The Weight of the World.
Listen to the song while reading the text.
Where did this song come from? Looking back, it definitely started with the music. In fact, I clearly remember playing a short riff to Sandi on the guitar, which she took over and developed into a full blown song. The lyrics came a lot later. And with each iteration of the song, adapting its structure to new instruments, changing its structure, adding and eliminating elements, the lyrics had to transform too. The whole process has been one of reduction and concentration, like a good sauce! However, one thing has remained constant, the inspiration behind the lyrics.
I wanted to write a song about emigration and immigration. My great, great grandfather had the most incredible journey. As a child he emigrated from Ireland to the USA. Not an uncommon thing back then, even before the Famine. What is extraordinary is that, for reasons unknown, he emigrated back to Ireland during the Famine. That must have been a lonely journey on an almost empty boat with words of dire warning from people who’d just done the exact reverse voyage ringing in his ears. Once back in Ireland, he joined the army and ended up in the light cavalry, a Hussar, so the family tale goes. He was shipped out to the Crimea where he saw action at Inkerman and Sevastopol (maybe he was in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade) and for his troubles he was shot and wounded four times by Russian musket balls. They invalided him out but he was not eligible for his pension, again for reasons unknown. He started work on the railways, a job he held until he died. But he didn’t die easy in his bed. Oh no! He was killed by a runaway train. An amazing story. But what struck me most was the migrations, that constant search for something more, something better.
While we were working on the song, people were streaming across Europe from Syria. People were fleeing violence in Myanmar. People were fleeing poverty in sub-saharan Africa. I guess they still are and I guess they always will, just as they always have done. My great, great grandfather and myself included, both migrants, looking for the sweet life – “across the sea they came”.