From the recording Tell Me
Tell Me – I wrote earlier about how songs were sometimes like children. You give birth to them, but they don’t always grow up the way you intended. This song is another great example of that. In fact, I never had much intention for this one to grow up at all. If “Tell Me” is my child, I was an abusive parent. I wrote it specifically to be the first song in my live set. I noticed at many gigs it took a song or two for people to turn around and listen. I tried front loading my set with my best songs, but they just got lost while the audience slowly made their way to the stage. It broke my heart and crushed my performing spirit to throw these favored songs out while the crowd slowly woke up. So I wrote this song as my sacrificial lamb.
Of all my songs, this one was the most consciously contrived. I wanted something upbeat that would grab people’s attention right away. Something light sounding and not too challenging. Frankly, something that might make people turn around, but a song I wouldn’t be too sad about if nobody listened to that closely. I saw it as a throw-away attention grabber, and a place-holder for another day when I’d established a solid enough fan-base that I could build more challenging and ambitious sets.
But this feisty little bastard wouldn’t quit. As I built up my crowd following, it continued to earn its opening position. It stood up proudly and said, “I’ll show you, you neglectful little prick!”
When I shared this song with Christopher in the studio, I wasn’t sure it would make the cut on the album. But Christopher got it immediately. He added this fantastic pop hook on the keyboard, and from that point forward, every time I heard it, I’d grin ear to ear. I never thought I’d write such unabashed pop music, but here it was, dancing its way into my heart. Pretty soon, I heard this high-harmony in my head that sent it straight into sugar-pop territory. “Let this kid be what it wants to be”, I thought. So we laid it down. It wasn’t long before “Tell Me” not only earned its place on the record, it pushed out another song I’ve always preferred, knocking out a favored child, if you will. But in the middle of all the heaviness on the record, I think we all needed a break. Besides, the lyrics still undermined the upbeat exterior, so it managed to sneak in with a clove cigarette and hang out with the greeper kids cloaked in their jet-black hair and over-the-top smeared eyeliner. They pretended not to notice the day-glo neon green shirt that “Tell Me” was wearing and patted themselves on the back for being so accepting. For me, the sly juxtaposition of the music and lyrics was part of what made me smile whenever I heard it. There was more depth to this song than I’d given it credit for. Since releasing the record, more than one person has told me it is one of their favorites.
Good for you, little song. I guess you told me.