Monthly Archives: October 2013

If I Had Never

This time we slow things down with a ballad. Here’s If I Had Never.

Nevertheless and the truck driver’s gear change

The song, Nevertheless, is a prime example of taking some everyday inspiration and ramping up the drama through extrapolation and imagination.

The phrase, nevertheless she turns and walks away, was something I once said under my breath when my wife, who was no doubt distracted at the time, totally ignored me while I was trying to engage her in conversation and left the room. As soon as I said it I saw the possibilities and wrote it down. It sets up a great opportunity to juxtapose opposites. Basically, despite what I do, what we had, etc, etc, you turn and walk away.

So the song is mostly made up, but even in a made up song, one can draw from one’s own life experience to ground the song. While I have had a few break ups of my own to draw upon, this song is not based upon any one of them in particular. Remembering back to those feelings is what inspires. My wife and I did once lose each other at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and although I can’t recall dancing in the rain with her, I do remember a wonderful rainy day that we shared at an amusement park (Canada’s Wonderland) early in our marriage. Those memories found their way into the choruses of Nevertheless.

When you do any kind of writing you are going to find that Oscar Wilde was right about life imitating art. This song was already completed, or nearly complete, when I learned of the end of my sister’s marriage and I think that my reaction to the news was tempered by my experience writing this song. Some of the re-writing was informed by this event and the civility that I witnessed in the midst of life-changing turmoil.

The song is presented as direct address with the phrase nevertheless you turn and walk away saved  for the choruses. The verses progress through the story of a break up. Each verse focuses on the questions being asked by the singer and ends with a “nevertheless” phrase.

  • Nevertheless, the whole world sees you’re blue.
  • Nevertheless, I’m right here by your side.
  • Nevertheless, the question still gets asked.
  • Nevertheless, I’ll help you pack your things.
  • Nevertheless you might come back some day.

I’ve always loved the word nevertheless and its cousin nonetheless, because of their total disregard for spaces, or hyphens.

Despite the up tempo musical feel, the lyrics are quite melancholy. She’s leaving and nothing he can say or do is going to stop her, but he recognizes this. He doesn’t understand why she’s leaving, but he’s resigned to letting her go, even helping her, while still holding out hope that someday she’ll come back.

The song is punctuated by a guitar riff with a slap-back reverb on it at the end of the first two lines of the verses (the voicing on the riff is varied slightly for use in verse two) and then switches to a simple interval drop, reminiscent of a doorbell punctuating the questions. The slap-back reverb imparts a retro feel that I felt suited the song.

The bridge offers the possible explanation for her leaving, but the explanation seems to come from elsewhere, maybe the singer’s subconscious. The style in the bridge is driven by a synth pad that gives it a more ethereal feel than the verses or choruses.

Here’s a previous incarnation of the bridge:

Find your neutral corner,
Although it’s filled with doubt,
But you can’t stay there forever,
You’re gonna have to punch it out.

It is often said that writing is re-writing, and I’m learning that lyric writing is no different. I’m sure the lyrics above would not have ended up with the same melody. Luckily I came up with a better pass at the bridge and it came at time when I was away from the house, which I know because it’s separate from all the other lyrics in one of my trusty Moleskins. I think you will agree that despite how far we’ve come, the starlet/stage/spotlight metaphor in the final song is much more suitably feminine than the boxer/corner/punching metaphor.

The new bridge also has more truth in it. My wife is amazing and in many ways I do feel like she gave up the spotlight (and many other things) to raise our children and take care of almost all the household duties. She is a busy, hard-working person and to bring us back full circle, I will tell you that she has every right to turn and walk away when I’m blathering on about something inconsequential.

The truck driver’s gear change

Coming out of the bridge we have what is sometimes referred to as the truck driver’s gear change. The key goes up one tone, from A to B. I’m rather proud that this is done in what I consider, an unobtrusive manner. Did you even notice that it went up?

This is a tool often used to introduce a change in energy as the song repeats a chorus. Barry Manilow was a master of this modulation, or a master perpetrator (depending on how you look at it). But in the case of Nevertheless, the modulation occurs as we go from the bridge to the final verse, so we are coming out of new lyrics and melody, into new lyrics, and although the song likely benefits from a little artificial increase in energy, the more objectionable observations made about such modulations are masked.  Nevertheless, you might want to check out The Truck Driver’s Gear Change Hall of Shame for more information.