This blog concludes the 3 part series on the writing of the lyrics for Whiskey Road.
First, I will say that I am quite happy with how this song turned out. The musicians were great and really nailed it. They are all studio musicians out of Nashville, and I wish I had all of their names so I could credit them properly. Adam Cunningham sang it. Look him up on the web. He is amazing, and brought a lot to this performance.
I love listening in on the sessions. Mark produces them and the musicians are so incredible it is hard to believe. They typically do a single take with a punch-in or two for anything they didn’t like. It is rare that they need a second take, and I don’t recall ever hearing a third. And they are coming in cold to the song. They get a chart, listen to the work tape, discuss the arrangement with Mark for a minute or two and then play it like they have known it all their lives. Truly humbling.
After the song is mixed I can’t help but listen to it a few time – who wouldn’t, it’s my baby! But after that I try to put the song away for a few days so that I can listen to it with fresh ears. The musicians and singer have quite a bit of freedom, and I often react on the first hearing by thinking anything that is different from what was in my head is ‘wrong’. But that isn’t true. If I let it sit a few days I can come back and hear it like someone else would, and most of the time I find I like how they interpreted it. Other times when I hear it fresh something sticks out as ‘ooh, I wish I’d done that differently’ – usually a lyric or part of the melody that just didn’t quite work.
That brings up a good point about the difference between being a song writer and an artist. As a writer, I have had to learn to let go of the performance. After all, my ultimate goal is to have other people record my songs – I am just making demo tapes. That has been difficult at times, because I grew up performing my own music. But I am not anywhere near the level that the musicians on this recording are, and so I am extremely grateful for what they do.
OK, back to talking about Whiskey Road. In this case I loved the performance the first time I heard it, and I still do after a couple of weeks. I have been surprised at some of the responses i have gotten from other people. For example, one person’s first reaction was that the music sounded ‘happy’ considering the subject matter. That isn’t what I intended, but each person is going to hear and interpret each song based on their experiences, and that is fine. When I hear this song, I feel it is what we used to call our ‘1 am song’ when I was playing clubs. That is the moody song we would play around 1 am when everyone in the bar was a little drunk, and starting to feel moody. It’s also the type of song people might wave their lighter to in a large venue, or someone might do an acoustic version of to really focus on the feeling in the vocals. But, however you hear it is up to you; I just hope it makes you feel something. As one of my professors once said – “I’d rather someone get up and walk out of a performance than sit there indifferently.” I feel that way too.
So without further ado – and whether you love it or hate it – here is Whiskey Road with the lyrics so you can follow along.
I’ve been living in hell for a year or so Ever since I watched my baby go But I found a new home On Whiskey Road Now I don’t feel no pain, I don’t feel a thing And when I get to remembering I can always go home To Whiskey Road It’s my own damned fault, that’s for sure I drink to forget about her But the alcohol ain’t strong enough to make her memory go So one day soon I’ll drown on Whiskey road You know they write the blues for fools like me Who let their love turn to misery And wander alone Down this lonesome road [Solo] I’m in too deep, I’m over my head I can’t forget the last words she said Before she slipped away she whispered I love you so [chorus] Ya the alcohol ain’t strong enough, to make her memory go So why do I keep walkin’ down Whiskey road Someday I'll down on Whiskey road