Storytown are gearing up to release their new album "Welcome to Storytown" and to celebrate we asked frontman Guy Story to tell us about the song "I Am More Than This". Here is the story:
"You can't love what you can't measure" - This lyric really seems to speak to folks who've been in relationships where they felt they didn't measure up, felt invisible, felt judged, needed OUT.
As is typical with my "process", this song started as a guitar riff, a primordial version of the offbeat rhythm of the verses that on the recording is shared by guitar, organ, and synth. I played this riff on acoustic guitar one evening while I sat in near darkness in a "comfy" chair in our bedroom. Usually my songs start with a guitar riff, powered more or less by some kind of rhythmic groove. The melody comes next, followed - usually much later - by lyrics.
So that I don't forget any ideas that in the moment seem "worthy", I record various bits of riff, melody, etc., as I come up with them, on the Voice Memos app of my iPhone. For this song I recorded and gradually pieced together the various parts of this song until I had basically the whole thing, chords and melody, but no lyrics. I named the first full voice recording of the full song "I Know I Know", a lyric I was using as a placeholder
for what became the "Oh no" part of the song.
The chorus melody just kind of came out all at once, and I remember thinking it was so simple (just descending notes of the scale, in order, and repeated) that it was too simple, possibly just junk. It turned out to be the song's compelling, anthem-like cry to be acknowledged, to be valued -- "I am more than this!". I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be, and I'm very glad that this time I stayed with the "too obvious" melody. That said, I wish I could remember where the lyrics came from. I mean, I know what they are about, but I have no idea how they emerged for this song - I hadn't been intending to write about this subject.
In my Storytown blog I have written about how lyrics are the hardest for me and about how mysterious lyric writing is. (Actually all of music creation is pretty mysterious, which is one reason I love it.) Here's what I said in the blog:
David Byrne, in his very excellent book "How Music Works", talks about how oftentimes music magically attracts the lyrics that are "meant" to be there. He says "... solving the puzzle of making words and phrases fit existing structures often resulted, somewhat surprisingly, in words that have an emotional consistency and sometimes even a narrative thread, even though those aspects of the texts weren't planned ahead of time".
This song is about a relationship, of course, but inspired by a relationship between me and a job. In every job I have ever had (save a very early one I guess, long long ago), I loved what I did; I loved what I and other folks in the organization were trying to accomplish together, what we were trying to build together. TOGETHER. Each job was a relationship built on trust, mutual appreciation, a special kind of contract between me and the organization. I learned early on in my career that I don't ever want a job that's not like that. So this song is about a job that ended up NOT like that, one where neither of us was satisfied, where I felt that I was supposed to fit a kind of template that didn't reflect my individuality, what made me unique, all that stuff that should have been valued by the other "party". We each disappointed the other mightily. ("Ask yourself if this is how you think a partnership is meant to be…") It sucked.
It is famously hard to get out of bad relationships. (Why oh why can't I just leave you?") In the song's bridge I try to get at the quandary of having to choose between the relative "comfort" of an unhealthy but familiar relationship and the disorienting, lost, sometimes despairing feelings that can overwhelm you when you become unmoored ("Freedom shouldn't mean I've got no place to go.") What to do?
I've got no answer other than that we all need to thrive, to be happy, to be ourselves fully, even if it's not always easy. And so, whenever you feel you're not able to flourish just by being who you are, in whatever context and in whatever relationship, deep inside you will know, without a doubt, that you are "MORE THAN THIS!"
Well, in the meantime, I think the song has a pretty great groove, so maybe moving to beat will make you feel better while you're trying to decide what to do next.
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