Songs For and About You
There's an old songwriting paradigm that says "you write what you know," and I believe it. As I look at the 12 tracks on the "Half a Lifetime" album, it still fascinates me that every one of them was inspired by the real lives of real people. If you have an extra minute or two, I've written the backstory to each song from the album below--I hope you enjoy learning a little bit about the folks that inspired each of these tunes. Maybe you'll find them (and the songs they inspired) interesting! JC
Run Back to You
In our 15 years of marriage, I'd never been away from my wife for longer than a week. Last year I was selected for a training opportunity that took me away from her for a month. When you get so used to being around someone you love, you run the risk of taking that person for granted. After a month away, I can promise you don't don't take her for granted anymore. You miss her so much you ache for her. I took all those feelings of longing, imagined what it must be like for those whose obligations take them away from their loved ones for months and years, and tried to weave in a couple of little personal details about the love of my life. She's a runner...so "Run Back to You" just kind of evolved from that.
Worth Countin' On
This song is about coming home and remembering who you were raised to be...it's about the one place you should always be able to just be yourself. Worth County is the smallest county in the state of Missouri, but it will always hold big memories for me. Biscuits and gravy at the Corner Cafe. Four dollar haircuts at Rowen's Barber Shop. Basketball games at Worth County R-3 High School (home of the Tigers). Demolition derbies at the county fair (with my classmates driving the cars). Growing up simple, but growing up with purpose, family, and the right kind of values. When I wrote "Worth Countin' On," I was feeling a little overmatched by all the challenges adult life can bring. All it took was one trip home to remember where I came from and who I was. You ought to always be able to go home...and now each time I sing this one, I hope I can bring a little bit of that kind of home to you.
As an aside, I was home a while back and saw that they've actually taken down the flashing yellow light over Highway 169. Tragic. Hope you don't mind if I leave it in the song, because that dimly glowing light was a beacon to me back then, and remains so in my mind.
On the Back 40
I didn't have to look far for the inspiration for this one. Every word of this song is about my parents, Eddie and Nancy...and every word is true. They met on a blind date, fell in love, got married, and then Dad shipped out to Viet Nam. When he came back, they had a couple of sons and moved north to his childhood home, where they ran the general store until the farm crisis of the '80s took all the family farms and our store along with it. We had our challenges growing up in the middle of nowhere, but looking back, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wrote this song to honor them on their 40th wedding anniversary, and I hope it honors them for 40 more.
Half a Lifetime's Time
This was a tough song to write. The words came easily, but the emotions that came with them were hard to take. This song is about Brian Akabane, a friend and fraternity brother of mine who died suddenly and without any readily apparent cause last year. His death came without reason, and slammed home the fact that we're all in this race just one time, and we finish just the same...so we'd better make the most of our time here. Brian's time with us was all too short, but in the precious time he was given on this earth he did more, loved more, and gave more than most of us will in our entire lifetimes. From his life and his example came "Half a Lifetime's Time". I hope you find this song to be a respectful tribute to a tremendous young man, but also a call to live your life to its very fullest. I challenge you to live a life as meaningful as Brian's in the time you're given.
Wife for the Night
Ahh yes..."Wife for the Night." Yes, this one's loosely based on real events as well (yikes). You may have seen this guy before: You're at a bar, it's almost last call, and there he is, using every cheesy pickup line in the book, trying desperately to score. This guy is a field manual for how not to pick up girls, and there's a far better chance he gets punched rather than kissed by night's end. That perfectly describes one of my pals in college...we'll just call him Steve (which is NOT his real name...I'm many things, but not a rat!). Anyway, this one was written with tongue firmly in cheek, and goes out to all those clowns like Steve trolling the nightclubs at 1 am. Way to go there, Panther.
Again with the funny stuff, eh? Yeah, what can I say...girls, you probably won't get the joke or enjoy this one, but in fairness, it wasn't written for you. If you do get it, it's because you've personally witnessed the carefully choreographed, skillfully executed "divide and conquer" maneuver that left one of you hanging with Goose while Maverick swooped in to scoop up a friend of yours (Google "Top Gun" for the reference, youngsters). The Wingman: A treasured member of any 18 to 22 year-old squadron of dudes, and while the person fulfilling his responsibilities changes nightly, the duties remain the same. Guys, I hope you chuckle. Girls, just hit "skip," listen to "I Take You" and forgive me for this one.
I Take You
I wrote this one for my nephew and his bride to be and played it for them at their wedding. It's based on their story--how they met, became friends, fell in love, and ultimately found their way down the aisle--but I hope it resonates with anybody who remembers the joy that comes with finding their partner for life. Listen to this one, go give your loved one a hug, and remember what it means to take them today, tomorrow, and forever.
What Kind Will You Be
Thirty years' worth of my dad's advice and counsel squeezed into four minutes and 38 seconds. My dad is the kind of guy who won't lecture or browbeat you...he'll just go on living the way you know you ought to, and ask you questions from time to time that remind you where your priorities ought to be. He also has precious little patience for folks that get "too big for their britches"--which has helped generate a healthy dose of humility in me whenever I start thinking I'm "all that." No matter your title, net worth, or background, it really is true--at the end of the day, you're just a man...so what kind will you be? Your choice...so choose wisely.
This is for Family
I wrote this song for...wait for it...my extended family (I know...really subtle, right?) Specifically, the Weddle family, as represented by the John R. Weddle Family Reunion, Inc., one of the longest-running and biggest family reunions in the country. That reunion was the greatest thing to hit my tiny town each and every August. Folks would bring their campers and tents to a little one-room schoolhouse in north Missouri for close to a week, and just enjoy the simple pleasures of conversation, country music, and communing with family. As a kid, it was the greatest time of the year. Now these days, we've gotten a little fancier--shoot, we even have our own campground, complete with a stage, running water, an ice machine, and (coming soon) flush toilets. The things that made the reunion special back then haven't changed, though...it's still a great place to take our kids to teach them about the value of family. If you're a Weddle, if you've married a Weddle, or if you associate with Weddles, this song's for you. If you're not family, I hope you still find something valuable in it...maybe you'll reminisce about your own family gatherings? Enjoy.
Northern Irish Sunshine
I wrote this one about a friend of mine named Kathryn, who hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland (which, by the way, is NOT IRELAND...they're kind of picky about that). Kathryn spent a month in America touring the east coast, learning about our American system of government, but also experiencing our American-style fun and hospitality. Whether she was in class, at the pool, or working out to try to keep those U.S. cheeseburgers off her hips, she always kept a sense of adventure and openness that was refreshing and inspiring. Out of the funny little things that "a U2 girl in a Springsteen world" encountered, "Northern Irish Sunshine" was conceived. So..."go raibh maith agat!"
So Help Me God
When I say the words "public servant," I'm betting you think "police officer," "fireman," "soldier"...people like that, right? The folks who serve us in these very public roles are important, but there are also a lot of other hard-working American citizens toiling behind the scenes every day to ensure we maintain our uniquely American quality of life. I wrote "So Help Me God" for and about Alan Nelson, a gentleman who spent 44 years in service to our country as a civilian Federal employee, making sure the good people got hired and the bad ones got fired. The song starts out with the Oath of Office. Fitting, because whether you're the President, an Army captain, or a Social Security file clerk, when you sign on to be a public servant, you take that very same oath. These folks swear to God that they'll "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic"...and whether they give their lives or four decades of their time and talent, they give us something worth celebrating. Now let me be clear...I'm not saying government is inherently good or bad, and I'm sure not trying to tell anybody it should be bigger or smaller. I'm just pointing out that there are some folks who work inside that system who consistently do their best to do right by you. Alan's one of those guys.
After we lost our general store (see "On the Back 40" above) my mom went back to the career she left when we moved north to the country: Education. She was tough but fair, with an unwavering commitment to growing young minds for the better. Over the years became a respected teacher and ultimately the superintendent of the school where I spent my youth. She retired recently, and I took the opportunity to write "Nice Job" for her...but it really goes out to all the educators who work every day to give our kids the right kind of start to their lives. Teachers and school administrators are underpaid and underappreciated, if you ask me (I know...nobody actually asked me), so I recorded this on behalf of all us former kids just to say thanks. This is a pretty sparse version--just me and my old Guild guitar--but it seemed to fit, so I left it alone. If you have kids in school, the next time you go to a parent-teacher meeting, think about ending the conversation with a "thank you" (or, how about a "nice job"). They'll appreciate it, I promise.
For You, About You
Well, there you have it. Twelve songs written by me, but ultimately all about everybody else. Maybe one day I'll try using my imagination or having an original thought...but as long as I have the privilege of associating with such a great bunch of folks, I'm not sure I'll need to. My thanks goes out to all those who've inspired me to put pen to paper so I could bring these stories to you. Without you, this record never gets made. God bless you all.