This song is a send-up of my life for creative purposes, but there is some truth in the lie. The bridge (that April Grosse sings so lovely) was the first part I wrote. Born out of the longing to finally have the courage, money, ability and wheels to move away from Montana. I had spent half of my life on the road at the time I wrote those lines and I could see no future-soon escape. What came so easy for our family, thanks to the US Navy, was proving much harder for a single waiter with no government body backing my relocation.
( My family the night before we left Okinawa to move back to the US. April Grosse far left. James R Waddell far right.)
I lived in Tennessee when I was ten. We had just returned to the US from a few years in Okinawa, Japan. I first heard Amy Grant that year. I developed a love for Lassie and The Brady Bunch that year too. I think I just needed to see real American TV instead of Japanese cartoons. Memphis marks the end of a certain type of innocence for me too. I was no longer a child. I knew things…
(April and I in the back yard of our house in Memphis.)
From Memphis we moved to Oklahoma and our almost 3 years there was an exercise in patience. Waiting patiently to leave that place. My apologies to anyone who has found their home to be Oklahoma, I wish you the best and am happy for you. I have very few good memories of Oklahoma.
( Me and my brothers and sisters in our house in Oklahoma. I am the one sitting on the floor.)
From Oklahoma we settled very briefly, maybe a year, in Oak Harbor, Washington. From Washington to Philadelphia. From Philadelphia to Spokane, Washington. From Spokane to Illinois. There would be two more moves after Illinois until we settled in Great Falls, Montana.
(The family in California at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. James R Waddell far left. April Grosse front row right.)
I have never lived in California, though I have been several times during our moves and on church youth group trips. Moving to Montana with my family was supposed to just be a stop along the way on my journey to California. Alas, I still live in Montana.
( Our “Very Brady” inspired photo. From Top James, Scott, Joseph, April, Autumn and Stanley. Photo taken at the Milwaukee Station in Great Falls, Montana.)
I don’t hate Montana. I want to leave Montana. I do all right here. I think I could thrive somewhere else. This song is really just me romanticizing the idea of a life lived on the road. The truth is moving is difficult, expensive and risky. Towards the end of the song I have resigned myself to return home because I just missed Tennessee. Oh, to have the luxury of that kind of whim and desire…Bags are packed, it’s rubber to tar, and you lay there sleeping, in the back of my car, let’s go to Memphis after all…
Over the last two weeks my studio sessions were all about the drums. Thanks to a few of my friends we’ve added live drums to a few more songs. There are several more drum sessions, a harmonica session, and maybe a few more bass and guitar sessions, and a vocal session or two.
Several years ago my friend moved to Phoenix, Arizona. He was not impressed. Not amused. Not a fan. You get the picture. Living in Montana, I was of little help other than the occasional phone call or text. I had his situation on my mind and really wished I could bring him some peace, and that’s how this song, “Arizona”, came to be.
I have been to Phoenix twice to visit my friend and found Arizona to be absolutely charming and breath-taking. My friend has made his peace with Arizona and has even come to like living there…mostly. On the two occasions that I was on holiday in Arizona the majority of the time spent in the car we listened to electronic music. So for me the soundtrack to the beauty that is Arizona is electronic music. I had a lot of fun recording this song…I hope you enjoy it…and if you are currently living in your “Arizona”, I hope this song brings you some peace…
My Mother’s Dad’s people came from what used to be known as Czechoslovakia, and that is all that I know about them. They have been gone for a long time now. My mom has tried in vain to gather information about them. I had all but given up on finding out anything about them. Enter “Who Do You Think You Are?”.
NBC and executive producer Lisa Kudrow brought this show to America a few years ago and after one episode I was hooked. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith and Tim McGraw are taken to the very place where their ancestors stood, lived, worked, died, etc. and they get to immerse themselves in the process of tracing their roots. Some like, Rosie O’Donnell for instance, go overseas to places like Ireland to be in the very building that her indentured servant ancestors lived. Surprisingly, I was most inspired by Emmitt Smith’s episode.
Emmitt was looking to fill in a branch of his family tree that had long been empty, much like mine, and what he discovered was amazing. One of Emmitt’s ancestors was a slave woman named Mariah. Mariah was a wise woman. Mariah named her children after her master’s family members. After all, Mariah’s kids were part of her master’s family. Mariah’s children were the children of her master’s, a common practice of raping and sexualizing the slaves led to many African Americans who are actually related to their ancestor’s masters. In Mariah’s master’s will she and her children were left to the master’s family members, instead of being split up and sold as the property they were held as. Naming them after the master and his family served as a constant reminder that they are part of you. Mariah’s wisdom inspired me.
I bought a membership to ancestry.com and began to search for my Mother’s Dad’s people. I, too, had no luck. I was able to fill in the other branches of my family tree but there is still one branch that remains empty. My interest in “Who Do You Think You Are?” led me to another show on PBS called “Finding Your Roots”. Both “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots” focused on the ancestry and stories of famous people. Actors, singers, politicians, newsmakers, etc…. Maybe one day I will have enough cache to garner a spot on such a show…or have the money to fly to Prague and do the research myself. Either way I am a full-blown genealogy junkie now.
“All This Rain” is about my feelings regarding my own family tree. Discoveries like being related to Knights are thrilling. Discovering that most of my people come from either Wales, Ireland, England or Scotland on both my Mom and Dad’s sides, makes me hope that the missing tree has a little world flavor to it. Reading the Last Will And Testament of ancestors that read, “To my daughter I leave one negro named Tom.”, made my flesh crawl. “All This Rain” was born out of depression meeting inspiration and the realization that the family tree is what it is. I can’t change anything that has been, but I can and will prune, water and cultivate my branch the way I see fit.
Went looking for a little inspiration A shot in the dark, or go down in flames Went looking for the light within me To see the beauty that still remains The still remains…
Found myself a little off the reservation In unfamiliar territory Stranded here with no one to defend me Without a shelter from all this rain All this rain All this rain After all the rain
Started out to define a generation And what this time line means to me Face to face with the fight within me A daily struggle, every step I take Every step I take…
Added up every piece of information Traced my roots to the tallest tree The seed that grew from the light within me Will touch the sky after all this rain After all this rain After all this rain After all the rain
Went looking for a little inspiration A shot in the dark, or go down in flames Went looking for the light within me To see the beauty that still remains After all this rain After all this rain After all the rain
The sky after the rain…I can see my way home The sky after the rain…I can see my way home The sky after the rain…I can see my way home
“These Days” was written on Sally Jo’s old piano…well the first verse and part of the chorus. I can not recall who or what I was writing about or singing to at the time. My sister, April, really loved the melody and words and over the years has brought this song up to me as one I should record, even though I had never finished it. She envisioned Tim McGraw recording it, I had a very different vision. What I had was an incomplete vision because the song was not finished and I hadn’t played it in so long it was ripe for reinvention.
When I started the recording sessions that will become “Wanderlust & Godspeed” I approached the songs from the rhythm up. Using the drum machine in my keyboard I shape the beats to the songs and/or bend the songs to the beats. When I began playing this song to this beat my vision became complete along with a 2nd verse and a new arrangement. I was hearing “Piano In The Dark” by Brenda Russell and shaped the performance around that idea.
One thing that April and I always agreed upon was that it should be a duet. We didn’t agree on who should sing the “girl” part though. April, having always loved this song, really wanted to sing it with me. I, having never cared for Donnie and Marie, didn’t like that idea at all. Brittney Warlick shared her gift with me on my last album on the song “Company” and I really wanted to work with her again. I thought our voices would blend well and contrast enough to work as a duet.
I may not have made “Piano In The Dark” part 2, but I think we made a beautiful, soulful and heartfelt song that Brenda Russell, herself, would appreciate. April sang some lovely harmonies and Matt Johnson, producer extraordinaire, made sure my vision was brought to life.
I told Matt Johnson, my engineer, co-producer and friend, that I wanted “Flirt And Flattered” to have a very specific sound. I told him, “I want it to sound like I am playing in a big empty room.” To me this song is a bit of a prayer, a private moment full of introspection with a dash of angst.
Written at a time in my life when I often felt I was not quite…enough. I remember playing this song in an effort to self-soothe. This song occupies the space where the dreamer and the failure commiserate. The Gemini writes a song. Internal struggle plagues all of us from time to time, merely hearing myself vocalize my frustration often times allows me the choice of who to listen to. Which inner voice is speaking the sound of my soul and which voice is just fear.
There is no need to chose between being great and being a great person. Many people are one or the other and live amazing lives. I would love to be both, or so sings my soul…
I graduated High School in June of 1992 and said goodbye to friends and city life to move from Chicago, Illinois to Kenly, North Carolina. Moving was not a new thing to our family and I settled in to a North Carolina life. I tried to stay in touch with friends from school but in the days before text messages and Facebook staying in touch required much more concentrated effort. Letter writing and phone calls proved a difficult way to keep in touch with one friend in particular. His Dad would always tell me he was busy when I would call, and signing a letter to me as “Luka” just caused me to worry and from so far away I couldn’t just pop in and check for bruises. I guess because I was too young to handle this properly or fear of seeing my own truth in his truth I chose to not remain in contact with my friend. I was a coward.
Luckily he got away and through the magic of email and text messages we were able to reconnect years later. I learned that he too had moved to North Carolina. Naturally, the vagabond gypsy Waddell Clan had long since moved to Montana. I decided that life has a sick sense of humor since my friend and I could have really used each other to lean on during our early 20’s and here we were just barely “missing” each other.
The idea of “missing” each other was so powerful I just had to write about it. “Holy Ground” is dedicated to my friend. Although the song is a fictional telling of a romance put on hold by miles between, I will forever think of my friend whenever I sing it.