Singled Out: Alex Dezen's When You Give Up

Alex Dezen

The Damnwells' Alex Dezen just released his brand new album "II" and to celebrate we asked him to tell us the story behind the song "When You Give Up". Here is the story:

Sometimes I'll find a phrase out there in the world, something usually pretty harmless, and feel like it's itching to be a song. "When You Give Up" is a play on the phrase "when you grow up" that I found in The New Yorker. It was from a comic by Joe Dator of these two kids playing together, and the phrase "what do you want to be when you give up?" written underneath them. It just seemed so poignantly simple and dark and all the things I love about art. It had a witty sadness that I just couldn't stop thinking about. The phrase became the conceptual center around which I wrote the song, creating stories and scenarios that are basically about broken dreams and all the lofty places from which we can fall.

On the arrangement side, I really wanted this song to be a kind of jam, but a tight jam. A jam with the bones of a song. And because I played everything, that was fairly easy to do. It's a long tune. A lot of the songs on this record are long. I'm not trying to write modern, cookie-cutter pop songs. But pop has been lots of things before the anemic, house of mirrors it has become today. Pop used to be sprawling and messy and jammy, full of convulsions and swing. Like Bowie and Prince. That's the stuff I grew up listening to. I like my pop a little dirty.

This was actually the first song I completed for this album, so in a lot of ways it was kind of the jumping off point for the whole album. I felt like being able to stretch out both lyrically and musically on the first song gave me permission to explore more of the "other" on this album, more of the things I never got to do when I was making records with The Damnwells. It was the linchpin to the whole thing for me.

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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