Hi! Because I’m really fond of all the songs on my new EP, Bar Paris Street, I’m writing overlong stories about how I came about writing each one. I know the majority of this is gonna come off as self-indulgent twaddle, but someone who might be interested in songwriting might actually find a couple insightful things here-and-there if they look hard enough. Enjoy.
I am struggling to come up with the best way to describe how this song came about. The main reason for this has to do with the other character in the song (the “you” to my “I”). The story that is told by the song’s lyrics is about 95% true (I’ll get to that other five percent in a sec). As such, the other character in the song is very much a real person, someone who remains a good friend of mine.
And I’m pretty certain that – due to the chemicals ingested that evening – she doesn’t remember too much of that night after the drugs kicked in. I’m sure she remembers going to a drag show with friends – and I’m certain she remembers taking ecstasy at the beginning of the evening – but I’m guessing that’s about it. Maybe not, though – we’ve never discussed the making-out-in-the-car-and-in-the-bar-and-pretty-much-everywhere-in-between portion of the evening before, but there’s really not much of a reason to. We just made out a bunch – no biggie. Maybe it’s not worth bringing up again, especially since we’ve made out a bunch in several other occasions that didn’t involve drugs, and those other occasions were no biggie either. Maybe it really wasn’t worth writing a song about.
(Ha! No, it was totally worth writing a song about, which – friend weirdness or not – I’m so glad I did, because this one is one of my absolute favorites.)
So let’s talk about a couple other things that either shaped the song or shaped the events that happened on the night in question.
– How do you write a song called “Drag”? By remembering the events of the night that inspired the song. That’s where the 5% of the song’s fiction comes in.
Despite what the first two lines of the song imply, I didn’t participate in the ecstasy-ing that night. I didn’t even get drunk – think I had a beer at the first bar, a rum and coke at the gay club, and two-or-three beers at the billiard/dancehall place. All that over the course of around five or six hours. With all the energy expended between making out and dancing (side note: I’m pretty sure this was the last time I’ve dance in public), I doubt I had much alcohol left in my system by the time I drove home and tiptoed into bed.
The moral, then, is that you can still have a wild, debaucherous time without drugs or too much alcohol, but – for the sake of a better song – its best if you just say you did. Take that to heart, kids!
– Why did I tiptoe into bed? Because my ex-girlfriend was sleeping in it, and had been since about 8 in the evening.
Everything that happened to me that night happened because she had a migraine earlier in the day (thanks, migraines!). We were living together – even after having (amicably) broken up two months prior (she would get her own place a couple weeks later) – in a very small, one-bedroom apartment over by the Belmont University campus. When the migraine hit, she took some pills to knock herself out, then turned out all the lights and got into bed. With the house all dark, and with me not wanting to bother her, I didn’t have many options. I could have just given up and gone to bed with her, but it was just too damn early for me to give up on the day.
I ended up walking over to the coffee place across the street from my house, then getting in my car and driving aimlessly around town for a half an hour, listening to music while drinking my coffee. Eventually, I decided to grab a drink. My default watering hole is a bar called The Gold Rush, which is usually a bit too crowded for my tastes on the weekend (this all took place on a Saturday during Labor Day weekend, which tends to crowd up the bars even more than usual). Since my aimless driving had me in the area of the bar, though, I quelled my distaste for crowded bars, found a parking spot, and headed inside, hoping that an empty barstool could be found.
The empty barstool that I found happened to be next to my friend and two other friends of hers. They had just taken some ecstasy (I believe this was the first time that I had heard it called ‘molly’), and were looking to have some fun. If you’ve listened to the song, then you know how things go from here.
– The Labor Day weekend in question was in 2010. A short while later, I wrote the lyrics for the first half of the song, then got stuck on the rest. Around the same time, I came up with the structure of the song. Played on the acoustic guitar, I swear that this thing originally sounded like a Bruce Springsteen song. The end result is as Springsteen-free as a pop song can be, and I’m totally fine with that.
A year or two later, I added another batch of lyrics – the first half of the second half of the song, if that makes sense – then got stuck again. I also recorded a very rough demo with acoustic guitar, a keyboard, and a click track. The bells in the instrumental parts between verses are all that remain in the song from that original demo track.
In November of 2013, I started messing with the song again. While futzing around with my electric guitar, I came up with a lot of the sounds that make up the song. Once I realized that – holy shit, this song is finally falling into place – it was time to finish up the last batch of lyrics. That was accomplished over the course of several walks, in which I would speak ideas for lyrics into my phone. Eventually, I had enough ideas to warrant a night spent hammering them out on the computer until I was finally happy with the result.
By this point, the music was done. With the lyrics finally done, I braced myself for a long night of singing the lyrics over and over again until I got all the phrasing and cadences right (there’s a ton of syllables crammed into these lines). Surprisingly, I ended up recording the vocals in one take – I smoothed out a couple lip smacks and pre-verse inhales afterward, but it was otherwise smooth. A short while later, “Drag” was done, and I was as ecstatic as I’ve ever been about a song.
– The video for this song was done while massively hung over on a Saturday morning in January of this year. From the start, I had an idea of representing this song through a bunch of flashing colors set to the rhythm of the song. The problem was that the thought of arranging hundreds of different colors (it doesn’t look that way, but only a handful of the 250-or-so colors in the video are repeated) while also figuring out the timing of their placement just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. The monotony of arranging the whole thing, though, proved to be the only thing that I could productively do without feeling the need to throw up. So the credit for the video belongs to my friend Chris, who showed up to The Gold Rush late on Friday night and proceeded to buy me many shots of tequila over the course of an hour, after I was already fairly tipsy from drinking at least a half-dozen beers.
– Not to keep piling on the narcissism, but this really is one of the songs I’m most happy about, both lyrically and musically (I really dig the video, too, which is even better if you watch it in full screen mode on a large TV with all the lights turned off). I sincerely hope you end up digging it, too.