I wrote this a couple of years ago in a Sarasota hotel room during a spring run of Florida concerts I was playing. A week or two before this particular tour, a Florida State University student, Patrick Gines, wrote me asking if I would consider writing a commissioned song for his final thesis undergraduate project, a short film he was directing. Patrick had heard me play years before, and, somehow, had remembered me and my music. Randomly, and unbeknownst to either of us at the time, I was scheduled to play at his home church in Tallahassee later that very same week. “Random” seems never an accurate enough word for these sorts of occurrences. We eventually put two and two together and realized that we would be able to actually talk face-to-face about the possibility.
The night of that show, he handed me a copy of his script. I took it with me to my next event in Sarasota, read through it a few times, and quickly honed in on an intentionally sarcastic line, “Don’t hold your breath.” Though sarcastic the character’s comment, I took it in a different direction, and later that evening in a Sarasota hotel room, I wrote the vast majority of “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” though it lacked a solid, well-defined chorus. The following morning in Sarasota, I was scheduled to play a couple of songs for the host church’s services. The pastor spoke of waters rising and falling, and, there in my seat, I scribbled out the final bit of the chorus.
(Apologies to that pastor if I seemed distracted. It was for a worthy cause.)
For a number of years, I have been involved with a high school outreach ministry called Young Life. For many summers I’ve had the great opportunity to spend a month sharing my music with the students who attend. Each night, the speaker and I share the story of God’s severe mercy for us, the speaker often using humor and stories to communicate, and I through the songs I’ve written over the years. But I’ve always felt that I lacked a certain topical song to play on the night that the cross is explained to campers, many of whom are hearing the very Good Story for the very first time in their lives. In talking with a dear friend of mine on the Young Life staff, I agreed that I needed, and wanted, to write a song to fill that particular gap in my repertoire. This song, I hope, is my way of telling that story.
This song began the writing process for Birds of Relocation. I wrote it, largely, in retaliation against the year 2009, a psychologically brutal season for me. I see this song as an “I’m staking my claim” pivotal core from which the rest of the album branches. Fear reduces us. To hell with fear; we should refuse to live there any longer, living instead like living souls.
“A story, some reminiscences… they are the yellow leaves that hang upon these boughs that are not so bare and ruined but that they still dream from time to time of the sweet birds’ return.” –from The Yellow Leaves by Frederick Buechner
I often provide food to wild birds in the form of sunflower seeds, suet, nyjer on occasion, peanut butter spread onto pine-cones, crumbled crackers and popped corn strewn about the yard. Birds seem to especially appreciate this in the winter months by congregating when naturally appearing food sources are more difficult to find. There are days I covet their freedom: flitting between branches, dangling here and there, pecking at the belly of leaves, frequenting feeders whose owners consistently keep them filled, a creature as free to fly across the open sky as it is to loiter its entire life within feet of its nest of birth. Then there are days — those gray, paperweight hours — bitterly cold, miserable by most standards, when I am especially thankful I am not a bird, much less any other wild creature: powerless to warm itself, forced to find shelter beneath just about anything, struggling to keep the heart beating amid numbing cold, breath-stealing wind, no moment free from the search for food. It’s no walk in the park for feathered creatures.
Surely one of the great wrongs in the entirety of the music industry is that Jill Phillips is not a household name. This is a heinous crime against the arts. It will not stand. It must be rectified. Together, my wife, Danielle, and I will inflict correction upon the world. Wonder Twin powers, activate!
Eric Peters: Jill, your new album, In This Hour, releases 11/8/11. This album’s initial recording and release were delayed by the May 2010 flooding in Nashville. Would you mind commenting on that, the damage to your home, and perhaps your emotional or psychological, even professional, reaction to that and to any ensuing events?
I recently wrote a piece for Art House America titled “Voices.” I hear voices. I suspect you do, too. With that sneaky suspicion in mind, I thought a handful of you Rabbit Roomers might care to read the essay. Here’s an excerpt:
I have listened to inner voices for as long as my brain has had the ability to remember, recall, and, unfortunately, deliver psychological sucker punches. That is to say, for most of my life. The voices are debilitating. Most often laced with venom, despicable and cruel in all manner of punishing remarks, the voices that speak to me are old demons to whom I willingly lend an ear over and over again. The monologue is destructive and poisonous. This admission should not strike you as odd or maniacal, for I am convinced they are present in each of us. We lean in and listen, believing the voices to be true.
They are with me from the moment I awake: as I brew a pot of coffee, each time I lose patience with my kids, when I see my stubbled face in the mirror, when I peek at my bank account balance, when I scrape my knuckle working on a project, when I am unable to make eye contact with another human in my perceived inferiority, until the moment I finally lay my head on the pillow at day’s end. Sadly, they are loudest when I write, when I seek to string together words and bring something beautiful into the world.
Read the entire essay here: Voices
[Only a few more days to sign up. Book Eric in your own home for just $150.]
I’m teaming up with the super-kind folks at Under the Radar (with whom I have done two previous smaller tours) for a house show tour anywhere within the continental USA. No joke. Anywhere.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Neat, that sounds fun, but I bet it’s expensive.” Be at peace, grasshopper. UTR is subsidizing the entire trip. Cost to each host is a mere $150 American dollars. That’s not a typo. UTR will fund the rest of the tour expenses (travel, lodging, meals, etc.).
Florida State University film student, Patrick Gines, approached me early in 2010 about writing a commissioned song for his film thesis project, When The Waters Rise. Randomly, I was scheduled to play a concert at his home church in Tallahassee just a few days after his initial email. (“Random” never seems quite an accurate enough […]
(1 Sam. 16:7, Rev. 21:1-7)
Lake City, MI is as fine a place as any to witness the kingdom come. Throughout the course of my thirty-days at a Young Life summer camp, the faint revelation occurs every Wednesday evening just as the night’s burger-themed dinner is winding down. Tangibly speaking, it has all the trappings of […]
Gus, a delicate yellow gosling, celebrated only a few waddling days on the Mississippi red-dirt farm where my mother grew up. Of the few sights the creature saw during its abbreviated life, the final was the inside of a German shepherd’s toothy mouth. As with King Charles I, heads rolled. Gus’s premature death caused great […]
Mid-February morning, silent house, a steaming cup of fresh brewed coffee, and a rare quiet moment to myself in the stillness of the early hours. I need this moment. Peering through the blurry condensation on the kitchen window overlooking my lumpy and weed-riddled Nashville backyard, it is evident that my labor yesterday pruning low-hanging walnut, […]
Normally, I – in this case, portraying a critic – would proceed to try and convince you to read this or that book by using my own words of approval. But I, already too crummy at convincing people to do this or that, choose instead to quote the author’s own characters – two stuffed animals […]
Soon after the release of my latest album, Chrome (2009), I had what business executives–and most normal people–would classify as a bizarre and terrible idea for an interview. Producer Ben Shive humored me, and together we (mostly Ben) pieced together this idea, a self-indulgent mollusk of aural awkwardness. If you […]
PREFACE: Chrome has been in the public eye for over a year, and though I am grateful for the positive feedback, I get the distinct impression that more than a few songs on the album are difficult to decipher. Though the following may, too, be abstract, it is my […]
Turns out there’s been an outbreak of psychosis at the North Pole, and a demented little elf mistook this year’s hot Christmas item for my latest album, Chrome. Santa and his minions – not to mention those nine poor, aging reindeer – are set to unload bargains upon the unsuspecting earth. WHO Director, Smithuel Sam, […]