“...I don’t wanna go screw it all up
Maybe we’re too close to get closer...”
In a city like Nashville it’s pretty normal to collaborate with people you barely even know. It’s not unusual to co-ordinate a session with someone you may have never met before or potentially may never meet again. Yet somehow you’re expected to get to know each other in an incredibly intimate way and finish creating something from nothing within that 3-4 hour window that you have together. Naturally the best way to develop comfortability with anyone is through a good old fashioned chit chat and just spending some time getting to know each other. That works great for me because I really, really love the sound of my own voice! In fact the two things I adore most in life are talking and eating - I love them so much that I’m convinced the greatest songs I’ve ever written have always started out with a great conversation and a full belly.
That’s exactly how my session began with Sean Swenson; an incredible pop-country songwriter who had only recently moved to Music City and someone who also happened to be one of the most chilled individuals I’ve ever met. He treated me to some biscuits and gravy in an old school dive diner; we discussed life and music for a while and then he took me to a writers room that he’d rented for the afternoon just off Music Row. One of the wonderful things about being a songwriter is that over time it teaches you to become ludicrously comfortable relatively quickly, sharing your innermost thoughts with people you’ve only just met. Some people might see this as a bad thing, but personally I think there’s no greater personality cocktail mix than to have two large shots of openness and honesty mixed with a fistful of empathy and a sweetener of compassion.
Throughout 2018 I felt like I was constantly in a state of mental warfare - struggling to comprehend my recently failed marriage, struggling to rediscover myself and who I now wanted to be, battling with the crippling fear of loneliness and how I was going to ever start making sense of how I really felt about anything or anyone again. I had met a girl a few months before and felt like our personalities had clicked almost immediately. I cared about her deeply as a person and always felt motivated being around her, ignited by her general drive and passion for life. Being fresh back into single life however, I quickly realized just how awful I was at reading the signs of mutual attraction, therefore finding one more thing to add to my already abundant worries. Should I tell this girl how I really felt about her and risk losing her friendship if she didn’t feel the same way...?
“...There’s a chemistry I’m feeling between you and I
Cause the balance of our elements is just right...”
Both Sean and I have a deeply ingrained appreciation for pop music, and so, after grooving to some Shawn Mendes and Charlie Puth on his car stereo we were both feeling in a pretty poppy mood. Arriving at the writer’s room Sean picked up a guitar and I sat down at the piano and together we started riffing on a simple minor chord progression. Continuing to talk through the situation we came to the realisation that what was really holding me back was the worry that ‘maybe we’re too close to get closer?’ (Not that I was holding myself back from Sean.. I mean he’s a handsome feller and all, but that’s not really my jam!)
A relatively simple outpouring of emotion, the chorus fell in place pretty quickly and before we knew it we were back in high school chemistry class. For a while we got fixated on trying to think of some chemical reaction buzz words that might perfectly describe that sense of personality fusion that happens when you connect with someone in really natural way. After spending some time getting the lyrics and melodic phrasing just right we realized that it would probably be worth our while to take some time over this and in hindsight I don’t think we were wrong.
I remember feeling a certain tension throughout the session, as though the music was perfectly capturing the struggle I had been going through at the time. In my opinion however, the best written tension songs will always provide some form of resolve, restoring a little hope into a seemingly hopeless situation. When the bridge finally started to take shape I distinctly remember feeling that sense of relief that I needed in that moment; a rush of peace in the way the melodies and chords began to move at just the right time, putting me at ease and feeling like I had begun to remove some of the weight off my shoulders.
I find it pretty normal to fall head over heels in love with a song when I’ve just finished writing it, but there have only ever been a handful of songs that I’ve never lost that honeymoon feeling about. Closer has proven to be one of those songs and the only thing that I can attribute it to is the feeling that somehow we found the perfect balance of great melodies, great hooks, great vibes and great lyrics that captured the emotion of the moment whilst leaving nothing to the imagination.
I try my best not to regret anything in life, but one thing I can’t help regretting is that I didn’t get the secret recipe for those biscuits and gravy that day...