The walls break, the night wakes
Calling your name
With all aches the fire takes
Deep beneath the earth
Whoa - slow the rhythm goes
The chemic’s code, the chosen road
Deep beneath the dirt
Buried in the earth
"Turning" began at a coffeeshop in Shoreview, MN. A Caribou Coffee in the suburbs (of all places) - a reminder that creativity can happen anywhere. My wife Bekah was taking a personal day from work and we chilled at a coffeeshop before brunch and a movie. I was using FORM by Native Instruments to mess around with a sample of my song "Worldspin" and eventually ended up with this eerie sounding drum beat:
I thought, "cool" and then we packed up and I didn't do anything with it for months. Eventually it came back into my mind while I was going through my ideas list. I remember being conflicted about it, thinking it was way too weird to put on my next album. Here is something I learned: DON'T EDIT WHILE YOU CREATE. Just create whatever is inspiring you and you can make sense of it later.
I rolled with it. The more I listened to it, the more I felt like I could actually hear a bass line in the beat (I feel like it created itself). I pulled out my hilariously cheap Squier P-Bass and ended up with this:
The lyrics began as an effort to mirror the lyrics of another song on the album (the last song of the album, which you won't hear for awhile). "The walls break / the night wakes / calling your name" is directly pulled from that song (and it references a different song as well, Night Wakes). There is a TON of cross-referencing songs in this album, everything is connected in some way.
The broader picture of what I was trying to say is based on the concept of generational and seasonal turnings. Consider checking out Strauss and Howe's generational theory ... I found it very inspiring. The short of it is that each generation fits an archetype and is a reaction to the generation before it; as a new generation moves into prominence, this slow shift is called a turning. There are 4 archetypes that move in a cycle; you'll hear later in the song a repeated vocal line of "everything is a cycle of everything is a cycle of..." etc.
The other main source of inspiration for the lyrics was Khaled Housseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. All of the characters deal with trauma that has been passed down to them; it is up to them to figure out how to move on from it. One character, Aziza, develops a stutter as a result of continued trauma from living in war-torn Afghanistan in an orphanage. Housseini describes Aziza's stutter as developing from unresolved traumas that move deep within her psyche, writing: "They're fractures along the earth's crust....sometimes, the shifting of rocks is deep, deep below, and it's powerful and scary down there, but that all we feel on the surface is a slight tremor. Only a slight tremor".
I felt that the drum groove at the beginning sounded like it was coming from "deep beneath the earth". I picture it as a sound being made in the Mines of Moria (Lord of the Rings).
The name of the album is Where The Light Comes In, based off of the Rumi quote "The wound is where the light enters you". It wrestles with the concept of unresolved trauma being passed from parent to child, over and over in an unending cycle. As Richard Rohr writes: "If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it—usually to those closest to us".
Back to the music: I wanted this to be an absolute banger (especially toward the end). Most of the synth sounds were from my recently acquired Prophet 08. I mention this because I've learned that sometimes you need to make a somewhat crazy purchase to break yourself out of your old habits. I bought this as I was starting to write this album and it had a monumental impact on the overall sound of the album. Here is one instance of the Prophet:
I finished most of the recording at my friend's cabin last fall. I was recording really wacky vocal loop sounds and once I got to the end I let the loops go for an extra 2-3 minutes. It might have been the cabin seclusion or the Leinenkugel's Grapefruit Shandy, but I just rolled with it. In the full version of this song, there is 2 minutes of noise/nonsense at the end (this doesn't occur on the version I released as a single). The lyrics that repeat are: "everything is a cycle of everything..." "can it change the chemicals..." "can it dream another road..." I love stuffing lyrical themes everywhere.
This song was helped out tremendously by some serious dudes. Cooper Doten, my longtime bass buddy, came in to track and told me the bass part I recorded was totally killer so I should just go with it. That's what I call musical maturity. He did lay down the sick bass part at the "turning" lyric:
Awhile back, Hank Donato came over and laid down some serious nonsense that I ended up using at the end of the track:
Reese Kling played the drums (and absolutely crushed it). Here is a video of us recording drums:
Matt Patrick, of the Library Studio in Mpls, sent me the first mix of this and I ended up on the floor. He took this song to the next level and then some. Usually songs take 3-5 mix revisions before they are good to go. I listened to this song over and over for weeks and realized we shouldn't mess with it. What you hear is the first mix. Way to go Matt.
Huntley Miller (the rising star who mastered albums from legends such as Bon Iver, S. Carey, Ben Howard, Tallest Man On Earth, and many more) mastered this. He did a fabulous job.
Laura Vail took the picture that I used for album art. She is amazing.
Hopefully this sheds some light on what this song means to me and how I created it! Here is the full version of Turning.