Acclaimed Philadelphia songwriter Avi Wisnia just released his first new album in over a decade, "Catching Leaves", and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the song "Come Home To". Here is the story:
Over the past few years, I have been able to witness a lot of my childhood friends grow up to become parents for the first time. I get to see them transition into this totally new phase of life. I remember when the very first friend in our group had a kid, I went to visit him to meet his new baby boy. As his son was sleeping, we took a walk outside discussing what fatherhood had changed for him and how his priorities had changed since his son was born. A few years earlier, he had finally gotten his dream job, a job that fulfilled him, a job he loved. And then, once his child arrived, he found himself regretting leaving home every day. The career he had devoted himself to was now taking him away from his son, but that career was also making it possible to provide for him. It made me reflect on this time in our lives, when our priorities were shifting. How do you make time in your life for the things you love, for the people you love? What happens when things change?
I wanted to write a song from my friend's perspective, the perspective of a new parent trying to balance work and family, trying to sort out what your priorities are. There's also a moment in the bridge of the song that I thought was really important to include: "Everybody pretends, but we know not what we do." It is another layer of that dynamic, that speaks to the way we're all making our way blind in the world. We're all stumbling on, none of us knowing what the right answers are and which path is the best way forward, so we pretend we know what we're doing but none of us do.
Even though I was writing this song through the lens of parental love, I think the theme of finding something or someone to come home to is universal. We all have to figure out what our priorities are, and as we get older, we have to navigate the transitions as our lives and priorities change. And so even as there is a tension throughout the lyrics, it's a sweet song because ultimately the voice of the song is saying, "No matter what, I know where my heart is."
"Come Home To" is probably the most Americana-sounding track I've done. That has a lot to do with how I wrote it. While my main instrument is piano - it's what I've been playing and composing on since I was 5 - this song spoke to me on guitar, so that is what I used to write it. I think a few artists I listen to influenced the sound and direction of the song, like James Taylor, Brandi Carlile, Allison Krauss, Bela Fleck, Chris Thile and Nickel Creek. When we got in the studio to record, producer Ken Pendergast and I made sure to keep the sound very acoustic and organic. The song also features acoustic guitar by Erik Sayles, drums by Chuck Staab and these beautiful harmonies from vocalists Jeremy Grenhart and Alexandra Day. The added layer of playful mandolin by Nashville instrumentalist Tom Hampton makes the whole thing really sing. I'm really proud of what came out of our studio session.
When I listen back to the track now, I marvel each time at the start of the song and how much the opening piano reminds me of the theme of the song itself. I like to go into a recording session with a plan but in this instance, I had no idea how I would start the song until I sat down at the piano and we started to record. It can be a rare thing for me, but I trusted my instinct and just played what came to me in the moment. You can't always know what the right choice is, but you sit down and you make a choice, and you turn it into something beautiful.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself below and learn more about the album here