Weeping willow, holy meadow
Only the dead know where the river goes
Wind will come through, currents pull you
Beauty of the earth
Maybe mid-day, through the doorway
Taking off my shoes, you run to me, there
I'll hold you, all you will do
Accidents will come, and though
The wind will come through, currents pull you
Beauty of the earth
When my night comes, when my fight is lost
Taking off my shoes, you lay me in the ground
"Weeping Willow" is another song that began in the least likely of places. I was at the Ridgedale Mall in Minnetonka, MN with my daughter at the Disney Store, when all of a sudden I saw this trailer come up on the projector screen:
I don't know if I've ever actually watched the original Dumbo; it was one of the rare Disney movies that I somehow missed as a kid. I was absolutely mesmerized by the trailer; mesmerized to the extent that I wrote myself five separate notes to go home and watch it. Looking more into it, the song playing is "Baby Mine" from the original movie (which came out in 1941) and it is by the artist Aurora. There was something so eerie and beautiful about it and it stuck with me for the rest of the day. I kept humming the melody over and over all day and I knew I had to do something with it.
I came across the words and concept of a weeping willow from a really old Evernote entry I made (I use Evernote for all my writing and anytime I need inspiration I go diving back through unused ideas). We used to live at a house with willow trees in our front yard. One day Bekah and I were driving late at night through a crazy windstorm only to find that half of one of our willow trees had snapped and was laying across our driveway. It was very sad looking at it the next morning. I remember writing down the phrase "weeping willow" because that tree must have actually been really sad.
Expanding on that theme, I came up with the image of a peaceful place, much like this one in my "Daughter" video:
A "holy meadow ... steady simple". This song is an expansion of Daughter, ("lead me by your still waters, save a place for my daughter"). From there it morphed into wondering about what happens when we die. Imagining death as a river peacefully taking us somewhere ("only the dead know where the river goes"). The chorus is an attempt to accept that there are always other forces at work, currents pulling us different ways ("wind will come through, currents pull you, beauty of the earth"). Verse 2 is a picture of one of my favorite moments: coming home to my kids and watching them smile or run to give me a hug. It is also an act of realizing that I am powerless against the currents of the world, "accidents will come" no matter what I do. I need to hold on to the current moment and not spend it afraid of what may come. Verse 3 is envisioning the moment of my own passing, "when my fight is lost".
Producing this song required a much different mindset: make an ambient song with vocals that is simple but not boring. I tried to slowly evolve textures from one section to another. It was in producing this song that I found one of my favorite new tricks / plugins: PrimalTap by Soundtoys. While at first it seems like just another delay plugin, I stumbled across the "freeze" button. Here is a quick video of how I use it:
Instantly cool, glitchy, non-boring pad sounds. I ended up using this same concept on a number of other songs on this album. Other sounds were created by my wondrous Prophet 08 synth and guitar loops from the Lo-Fi setting of my Strymon Timeline. You'll also hear the words "beautiful blinding..." softly after chorus 2. This alludes to the last song of the album, "My Beautiful Blinding Light". I connect almost every song to the last one in some way. Everything is connected!
Matt Patrick, of the Library Studio in Mpls, sent me the first mix of this and my first thought was "what the literal F man??" He put a morphy vocal effect on the entire song. Originally there was a pure, nice-sounding main vocal and it was so nice to listen to and then all of a sudden it sounded super wonky. After 3-4 listens though, I was sold on it. He then told me that he got the idea from "Summer Please" by Polica and "Sound" by Sylvan Esso . Here is what this taught me: SURROUND YOURSELF BY PEOPLE WHO KNOW MORE THAN YOU (and give them the space to be creative). Matt brought so much to this album; he changed a lot of things that caught me off guard at first but pretty much every time I came around to it and realized it was brilliant.
Huntley Miller mastered this. He did a fabulous job.
Laura Vail took the picture that I used for the artwork. I have been playing around with photoshop because it is non-music-related hobby that brings me life.
Hopefully this sheds some light on what this song means to me and how I created it! Here is the full version of Weeping Willow.