Singled Out: The Wanteds
After more than a year of struggling with a pretty serious drug addiction I finally managed to get sober again and about six weeks later "Ladysmith" arrived on the scene. I was in a very confused place emotionally and a lot of stuff from my childhood was bubbling up to the surface. When I first presented the song to the band it was a six minute angry epic with only a few lines of lyrics, directed at my oldest step-brother and centering around some sexual abuse that happened when I was in sixth grade. I named the song "Ladysmith" after a small town in Wisconsin where my step-brother had been ruined financially in a business deal and the "you lose, 'cause failure looks so good on you" line was originally directed right at him...a bit of a bitter take on the idea of karmic payback.
Right off the bat we could sense there was something special about the mood of the song. The way we all do our own thing in the verses, the bass and drums dancing around the guitar riff, only to come crashing together in the choruses perfectly matched what I was going through at the time as I was learning to confront these childhood issues and find my footing. Ryan's distorted bass line in the verses is pure genius and I ended up drawing most of the vocal melody from his bass, which happens more often than not in our songs. We got rid of some stuff, to maximize the impact of the song, so it ended up being quite a bit shorter than the original version.
When it came time to finish the lyrics, I hit a wall. As I was crafting them, I realized that I didn't have much to say about my step-brother or what happened. That's when the lyrics became deeply personal. I discovered that when it comes to abuse, the actual incidents don't matter that much. What was far more reaching in my life was how I had reacted to that childhood stuff. I grew up with a really confused sense of boundaries and deep-rooted fear of rejection. Anyone who loved me was a threat to my safety, and people who didn't care about me at all were the ones I would give everything to. As luck would have it, I also happened to be falling in love at the time I wrote "Ladysmith", so that's the story I ultimately told. It ended up being about me, finding the love of my life but realizing that the way I reacted to my past would not allow me to ever get truly close to her unless I was willing to realize my own worth and be willing to save myself. It's my finest example of turning a would-be negative into something powerful and positive.
"Ladysmith" was the last song we recorded and I think we did three takes to nail it. There isn't a single overdub on it. The whole song was just the three of us playing live in the studio. Vocals went very fast too. Just a few takes. I remember thinking that the guitar solo was a bit messy, but we left it that way because it really fit the mood...the big guitar bends and some of the melodies sound like the guitar is struggling for some sort of redemption only to keep falling back on itself again and again. When we first heard the final mix, I remember having hairs standing up all over the back of my neck!
I'm real proud of this song. It's a great example of The Wanteds, both sonically and emotionally, which is probably why Ryan came up with the idea of using the lyric as the album title. Some of my friends who heard it thought it was written about them. At first, I was astounded that something so personal could have that kind of effect. Then, I found it comforting. It made me feel like I wasn't alone.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!
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