What If You Knew: Backstories
“What If You Knew” (track 1 of the What If You Knew EP) backstory by Maria:
Last fall while reading the Kathleen Weaver Kurtz‘s memoir The Blistering Morning Mist, a story of lifelong growth and personal discovery, Christopher was struck by a quote that Kathie included from Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself by Judith Duerk (1938-2021).
“You should write a song about that,” he said.
At first I brushed off the idea, hearing a familiar little voice telling me, “You’re not a REAL songwriter,” but the next day my wheels started turning. In March we took the song to the Over the Rhine Nowhere Else songwriting workshop, and I was astonished by the hunger expressed by both women and men for the potentially shared wisdom to which Kathie and Judith had pointed.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the words ‘elder women’ in a song,” one listener said. “By the end of the song they had become normalized.”
Another said, “It makes me proud to be a woman and to become an elder one day.”
“Hear It Sing” (track 2) backstory by Maria:
Jogging along country roads just about sunrise is a great time to think…and to listen to the birds. Fourteen years of living in the same rural spot have inscribed certain bird songs in my brain like a soundtrack, and one morning I started wondering: Could I use a bird’s melody to write a song of my own?
I played around with a few of the most familiar and strung them together into a chorus. Then I wove the feelings they elicited into scenes from each of the four seasons, building on Emily Dickinson’s feathered “hope” and drawing on biblical imagery of flowers, wind – and of course birds.
“Fly on the Wall” (track 3) backstory by Christopher:
One of the most powerful moments of the Nowhere Else songwriting workshop for me was listening as people responded after Maria and I shared my song, “Nothing You Can Do” (now the final track on What If You Knew). Thankfully Maria took notes as people talked, because what they were saying touched me deeply and then flowed out of me in a flood of tears and otherwise I would have forgotten everything.
It had felt like a long dry spell on the music affirmation front, and here, all at once, a whole group of people (including Over the Rhine’s Linford and Karin!) not only had listened deeply but also had been emotionally drawn into the sparse lines of text and melody that we had crafted with heart.
That felt incredible, and I realized that as a singer-songwriter I had been longing to be heard and seen. “Fly on the Wall” is what I did with that realization.
“Nothing You Can Do” (track 4) backstory by Christopher:
I woke up one morning with a simple lyric running through my head: “There’s nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.” I scrawled it on a scrap of paper from my bed stand, later using it for a to-do list before tossing it in the wood stove for thermal recycling. (Now I kind of wish I hadn’t done that.)
Although this song could be heard as an extension of the songs we have written about our children – Little (“like a hurricane”) and Guardian Angel (“I don’t want you to see anything scary”) on Arms Uncrossed and Little Boy Gone (“Hills need climbing, little boy”) on Clymer & Kurtz, and now “There’s nothing you can do to make me stop loving you” – it’s more encompassing, expressing a message that forms the bedrock of any enduring relationship.
After we shared “Nothing You Can Do” at the Nowhere Else songwriting workshop, fellow participant Josh Lindsey suggested swapping in the word “be” in the final chorus. Thank you, Josh.