A couple of years ago I was touring in Virginia and had the good fortune of sharing a stage with Jen and Scott Smith of Naked Blue. We made the obligatory promise to get together and write sometime and I thought it a nice gesture and one that would probably never happen simply because of logistics and geography. We can never know when, where or how the synchronicity and reason for any meeting of kindred spirits will eventually unfold.
Two months after I returned to Nashville I learned that my father had terminal cancer and I set off on a year long struggle learning about the disease, how to deal with the mortality of a parent and what life would be like without them. I learned that when you’re losing a parent you’re never prepared and yet it’s something you’ve prepared for all your life. And once again I learned a lot about dealing with life on life’s terms as I watched my father preparing to leave this world with all of the dignity and integrity he’d always exhibited. Needless to say I’ve spent my whole life learning from this man and still occasionally reach for the phone to call for his advice and then I remember he’s gone.
As a songwriter you would think that such a painful experience would be an obvious event to chronicle in a song, however, the idea of writing a piece worthy of either one of my parents was so daunting that I never seriously considered it. My son Adam asked me in passing one afternoon if I planned to write something about my father’s passing and I remember feeling almost indignant as I responded by saying “no, I don’t believe I’m interested in that assignment.” I had an inkling that my response was out of a feeling of inadequacy. How could you write something meaningful about someone that had had such an influence and impact on your life and not fall short of the mark or even worse fail miserably?
In the fall of 2011, and just before learning about Dad’s cancer, I had reached out to Jen and Scott hoping to collaborate on some songs and start stock- piling material for a new album. That whole fall is somewhat of a blur but at some point I recall that Jen and I both begged off starting anything because, as fate would have it, Jen was going through a similar ordeal with her mother. I spent that entire season walking around with an ever-widening hole in my heart while attempting to stay as brave and resolute as my father. I imagine Jen and Scott were going through the same motions. Jen lost her mom and I lost my dad that Christmas.
I think it was around April of 2012 that we started talking again about co-writing. I remember our early conversations were about the heaviness of losing a parent and how exhausting it was. We talked about the pain and the numbness, about the grief and loss and about the guilt of feeling relieved when it was finally over. Neither Jen nor I felt compelled to write about the experience for the same reasons I mention earlier: too heavy, too complicated, too depressing, too imposing and too revealing.
Writers need a challenge and a challenge is sometimes the best kick in the pants to get you going. The next time we talked we were resigned and ready to put into words what we’d experienced and for the next four months we hammered out the song that I’d like to share with you now. Oh, and I want to thank Scott and Jen for sticking it out. I’m very proud of our work.
Listen to it here