As a songwriter I’m prone to journeys of investigation to the Galapagos Islands of my evolving mind, and the songs I find there sometimes determine a future path which has unexpected returns.
I met Mark Crook when I was 11 years old, and I met Andy Carroll when I was 21, and I have written with both of these talented musicians many times, but this song was the first time I managed to combine both forces. It was very simple. I visited Andy in his studio, he gave me three loops and phrases. I brought them back to the writing studio I shared with Mark and he played some country-tinged acoustic guitar over the groove we constructed. I had free rein to improvise the melody and lyrics.
The music seemed relaxed and open, warm and welcoming, so I provided an appropriate scenario. I pictured a traveling salesman who misses his wife and yearns to return to the comfort of her arms, making a relationship work in the day to day struggle of life. A song of love and marital fidelity could be a bit of a cliché if approached in the wrong manner, and since crass sentiment is something I tend to avoid like the plague (a serious challenge when you’re writing pop songs) I needed to be sincere and write from my own experience of playing gigs, living on the road and missing my partner.
I tried not to make it too gender-specific, and I included some thoughts I was having from reading Eckhart Tolle.
My lover caught the oblique references to our relationship and this became a favourite. She loves the line “As the evening sunlight softens…” and repeats it with a soft look in her eyes. The power of songwriting to seduce will be another post… Another friend of mine who fell in love with this song is Kate, and I was very touched when she asked to use the song in a photo DVD she made for her son’s wedding. That’s when music is at its best, embedded in real, life-defining moments.
But you have to be careful. When the people around you are aware that at any time they might become the subject of your work, it can make things uncomfortable for them, so I try not to analyse or discuss lyrics with friends – I don’t want my normal human relationships to become stilted. You can usually find a way to say things indirectly most of the time, in any case, which is usually better for poetry.
This song is deliberately long, like the landscape through which our protagonist is traveling to return to his love. I do have a shorter edit, but it doesn’t work. I like the big space in the verses, the pauses which allow the words to sink in, which are great to sing, and between you and me, I think the chorus is one of my finest, because everyone can sing along.
And even though this road goes on and on
Cold mornings, nights are weary, days are long
And though I travel far, we stay so strong
This road leads back to you, where I belong
If you want to use this song or any you find here in your music podcast, blog or broadcast, you probably can, but please ask me first.