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Deconstructing “This Hometown”

January 13, 2013

Dublin%20Airport%20-%20T1%20Departures,%20Dublin%20Airport%20car%20hireI’m going to write a series of blog posts which will try to give some insight into what I was thinking when writing the songs on my album “Other People’s Hats“.

The opening track “This Hometown” attempts to give a different perspective on emigration.

Ireland has a history of emigration. For many the reason cited is economic. I argue that this is not entirely accurate. This is a small island and cannot sustain the ambition of so many. I believe many emigrate because the world offers so much opportunity. For recent generations the stifling control of religion and civil war politics was reason enough to leave.

I emigrated in 1990 and lived in New York for a while. I left a job, family and friends because I wanted to see what the world had to offer and I didn’t want to reach 40 years of age and say “I wish I had…”. New York offered so much opportunity on a plate for me and I wouldn’t have changed that experience for the world. I did return to Ireland and have met many others who travelled and came home. Part of me still has that wanderlust so who knows what might happen when the kids leave college?

“This Hometown” started one evening when I was in my music room goofing around with some cover versions messing around with the chords and went off on a tangent. On capo 2 I was playing Dmajor to Eminor and started to tell my story.

I’m leaving town tomorrow getting out for good
Sick of all this fighting and dying neighbourhoods
I’ve had enough of crying and I’m tired of all the rain
Now it’s time to put up or shut up so I’m gonna take the plane

I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a couple who were emigrating.

You and me we’re alright
I will never let you down
Let’s run away together
It’s time to leave this hometown
So long

As I worked on the song I struggled with some of the lyrics and mailed them to my friend Dan Prendiville who helped me knock them into shape and he contributed lines to the song which I wouldn’t have thought of.

I’m gonna buy me a one way ticket and fly from this despair
Cos for years I have been drowning now I’m coming up for air

Now that we’ve heard from both sides we know that neither of them was willing to go alone.

If I go will you go? I can’t do this alone.
I’m leaving here with you babe I can’t do this alone.
I can’t stand it anymore, can’t stay here anymore, can’t live here anymore

I wanted to get across the belief that many emigrants leave to escape the parochial, one-horse-town suffocation that still exists on this island.

I’m not going for the money or leaving here in shame
My empty soul is tired so tired
Too tired to play this game

When working on the song arrangement with Tim (Drums) and Mark (Bass) I saw the benefit of bringing in real musicians. They helped with the punctuation of “This Home Town” which helped put a hook under the song title. On the recording I played around with a lapsteel guitar which sounded more like a regular bottleneck guitar and was a happy accident.
In the back of my mind the dual male female vocal interchange wouldn’t go away. A couple of people who heard the song demo remarked that I should get a girl in to sing some of the lines with me. This is how Suzanne Bushnell ended up on the track and made all the difference. Another good lesson was to trust my original instinct just as I had with the pedal steel on “Elvis…”

I had never entered a song contest in the past but for some reason I decided to try the 2012 Christie Hennessy song contest. Imagine the jaw drop look on my face when I was told the song had made the final. It was a great excuse to head to Tralee for a weekend and hang out with some professional songwriters. Even getting featured on the IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organization) website was a bonus.

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