Early October. We are in Franklin, TN in the final stages of recording the album, which releases March 18th (hint, hint). We are tired, a bit homesick, and we are at the end of summer camps and two months of recording. That makes for five long months, almost 150 days with the same people day in, day out, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. More time than human beings should be together for, that’s why we created work and school, there is a clear 8-5 break from the same faces you eat your meals with and go to bed with.
So towards the end of this process we all needed some alone time and we got in the habit of disbanding and doing our own thing as much as possible, being normal people as much as possible. Let’s be honest, if I know what guy has gotten a new pair of boxers when he leans over or who hasn’t showered in three days or who has a bodily function that is not functioning right, then we have been together way too long; that is not normal! We work together while we are on the road and then we go home together. It’s basically 24 hours together minus sleeping, showering, being in the recording booth alone, and sneak aways. That’s what I call them. Sneak aways.
This story happens when one such band member has gone on a sneak away. Location: McDonalds. Breakfast of champions. He pulls in ready to have a few minutes of silence and solitude before we start recording for the day. He is wearing old jeans, a beat up shirt, sporting a scruffy beard, and he is ordering a biscuit and coffee. Simple order, simple mission. Breakfast. No talking. Some good old fashioned alone time. Side note: People who want alone time, want alone time. Most people do not particularly delight in starting random conversations with people during their alone time, especially not with weird people. If ever there is a guy who is not terribly good at or happy about having to make awkward small talk with weird people, this is your guy.
The girl behind the counter, in his words, is odd. Frizzy, long hair, big glasses, lots of earrings, short, and barely peering over the cash register, she stares at him. He walks up to place his order… “Hey, I’d like...”
Her big eyes beam behind her wiry glasses, she gets a satisfied, all knowing smile on her face and before he can say a word she says, “It saved mine too.”
What saved her too? What is she talking about? He was lost. He had no idea what had saved her and what had saved him too for that matter. Looking up at his shirt she said, “Music. It saved my life too.”
His t-shirt. Sometimes we get well meaning youth ministers and other critics who want to talk to us about the theological inadequacy of this shirt. To which we reply. It is just a shirt. And lets be honest again, it has saved my life. I’m in the stinkin’ van with these guys all the time. Thank God for I-pods. Mp3 players. Noise cancelling ear buds. And new CD releases every Tuesday at Best Buy. I would go insane without music when driving from Dallas to California. The guys would drive me insane. They would talk. Then they would start pulling out the jokes. The really, really not funny dad jokes that they think are the funniest things in the world. Then they would laugh at each others jokes forever.
Music has saved my life. When I’m traveling in a car full of boys, when I am getting my teeth drilled into at the dentist office and clinging for dear life to whatever Michael Bolton song is playing in the background, or when I just need a guilty pleasure to make me smile again after crying and I secretly listen to M-Bop by the Hansen brothers…music has saved me a time or two.
“What music saved your life?” she studied him and asked him intensely.
It was a serious question. She looked moved and inquisitive, like they were members of a secret club or cult and had been saved by its majestic leaders of soul and guitar. He tried not to laugh or to look weirded out by her intensity. He half expected there was a secret hand shake and a wink he should know as a member of the “music saved my life club.” He actually didn’t have an answer for her, he just wanted a biscuit. 7:30 am, yep, a little too early for this conversation.
She answered Elliot Smith before he could get anything out. A brilliant songwriter with an incredible voice and so much talent who became successful and then committed suicide. Call me crazy, but if this guy saved your life and lost his…I might be a little concerned.
My friend just said that he loved Elliot Smith too. He does. He smiled an awkward smile, took his biscuit to eat in the quiet of his car, and vowed to never, ever wear the shirt again.
Music saved her life...mine too.