I wrote this song four years ago when I was at a study program in Nashville called the Contemporary Music Center. It is one of my favorite songs to play solo as well as with a band. It is not very musically complicated but I feel that it can translate well in different contexts.
The main inspiration for this song is a movie called The Mission, starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons. The story takes place in 18th century South America and focuses on the efforts of a Jesuit priest trying to convert the local population. It brings to light issues such as colonialism and the nasty part that religion plays in conquest.
In the opening scene, a priest is shown floating down a river tied to a cross. The river eventually flows to a massive waterfall and the priest falls down to his death.
For whatever reason, the imagery of a massive waterfall really stuck with me. It got me thinking about death. I am afraid of death (who isn’t?) I would give anything to postpone it. I pictured myself on a rock, near the falls.
I find myself on a rock’s cold face Where a current’s waves do me in All by myself at the water’s end Where the clouds descend
The sheer power of millions of gallons of water flowing freely down a massive drop is both terrifying and beautiful. I feel that way about death too. The imagery then evoked a sense of wonder - what is on the other side of the fall. Sure, death awaits, but what will it be like there? I am tired of holding on to this rock in the middle of a pounding river.
I pictured someone or something calling me to let go of the rock and trust.
You beckon me I fear, I’ll fall
The more I think about it, the more it terrifies me.
Nowhere to go, soulless waves on all sides The darkness yearns to be alive, I see his face
I’m terrified, yet conflicted. I’m not supposed to be here - living a life using all my energy to hold on to a rock. I wasn’t made to fight the relentless stream of time that will eventually take me to my death, but I don't want to go.
Please take me home, this heart was not meant for these bones But I don’t want to die here alone, I’ll fight or I’ll face the unknown The fear that I’ll fall
The bridge is a realization that there is nothing I can do about it.
It’s not my choice anymore I hear the creaking of death’s door Singing out above the water’s roar
Ultimately, death will win, but that is not the point. A life spent fighting death is one that will not truly be lived. I was made for something more than what I can see.
This is one of the few songs that I have seen go through the writing, pre-production, and production processes, changing a little bit each step.
The first idea that came to my mind was the chorus. I was messing around in open D and could not get this idea out of my head.
I thought it would be cool to mess with the timing of it and keep listeners on their toes. That idea was shot down the following day by a friend (and I’m very glad it was!)
Just for fun, here is a demo for some sort of instrumental thing I thought was cool. It didn’t make the cut for the final song. If you want to take it and make something beautiful with it, go for it. Gotta love the harmonies towards the end there…yikes.
I eventually brought lyrics into the picture to round things out.
I originally played drums for the final recording. I did probably 15-20 takes but it wasn’t sounding right. My friend Nate Netti eventually came in and knocked it out of the park in just a few takes. Nate is a real drummer.
Others in the mix: Andrew Harper - bass, Alex Littleford - mixing, Ausdin Lemmons - Electric, Bethany Fonda - angel harmony vocal.