The "We See Through It" Experience: Day 2

We See Through It and You In My Arms

The Sun King Warriors recognize that the connective power of music is a powerful point of commonality between people. Though our society is experiencing division, we know there is still common ground in music. Our aim to to provide a soundtrack that brings people together. Scroll down to read the song stories, watch the lyric vids and see us in action live. 

Today's songs are: We See Through It and You In My Arms. 

"We See Through It"

We See Through It Song Story

Propaganda and Psychological manipulation

This one has been incubating since mid-2016. Lyrically, the song reflects upon the intensity of our current environment in the US and the wonton use of propaganda and psychological manipulation on the part of so many – specifically those who manipulate others for their own gain. What particularly irks me is when someone uses disinformation to take advantage of someone who is in pain or vulunerable – like a telemarketers who prey on senior citizens. Business, politicians, teachers, preachers, me, you… we all have lied and manipulated in some form. It would be total b.s. for me to stand on my soapbox and piously point my finger at everyone else but myself.

The way I see it, if I am angry about how things are in the world, the first thing I should do is look at myself and what part I play in making the problems worse or better. Until I do that and begin taking consistent action for the betterment of the world, I’m fooling (lying to) myself.

We See Through It is a call to let go of ways of being that no longer work. That the old ways of doing things need to be re-examined. That the age old concept that "you get what you give" still applies.

We See Through It is a call out to us to do the right thing even when no one is looking.

And that when we don’t, it’s a reminder that there are others who either already do or eventually will see through you. The lyrics are an encouragement to find ways to let go of the fear of not having enough and the fear of not being good enough. “See through” the times when the actions do not align with the words. 

The goal in all of this is not perfection. It is to step out from behind the smokescreen of untruth, facing the challenges posed head-on and living from an authentic space the best we can.

As you might guess, I’m a pretty big bob Marley fan.

Like some of the other songs, We See Through It started out as a much slower song with a reggae feel. As you might guess, I’m a pretty big Bob Marley fan. The first attempts of this track had the whole tune set in a slow reggae in its entirety. While I liked the feel, it felt too sleepy. After experimenting with a few different feels we came up with a simple solid groove for the verses and then the sweet Dancehall beat for the outro.

Once those were in place, the contrasting bridge with the stack of soaring voices was written. The bridge was to serve as an "audio palate cleanser" to prepare the listener for the groove change in the outro. Once these structural pieces were in place, the band got around it and helped create a cool groove-elasticity. Having such a big band, we’re always looking to fit our parts together like a big puzzle so that instrument sounds and parts are always complimentary.

Once we had our initial build of the song, we played it live through 2016 so that by the time we hit the studio, we’d have a clearer idea of what needed to happen. Through the years, I’ve found the best testing ground for songs is the live show. I watch how people react, what they say about it and the energy in the room while we play. After all of that, we take it into the studio and work with our producer Sean McDonald (the 8th Warrior) who then helps us to put each of the parts under a microscope so we can further refine the essence of the songs sound and energy. I love listening back to the finished song and thinking about each player and what each of us had to do to refine our parts so that the whole song could emerge in such a beautiful form. 

Demos and In the Studio

In the Studio

Early Live Version

Here's the moment the initial song idea for "We See Through It" showed up..

Bassman Kent Tonkin works with producer Sean McDonald at Red Medicine Studio in Pittsburgh.

This is the first acoustic "living room" demo of We See Through It" It was originally called 'Follow the Breeze". Plus a great shot of the awful carpet that used to be in my office..

"You In My Arms" 

You In My Arms Song Story

Put it on the back burner

If you’ve been to a Sun King Warriors show, you might’ve heard me tell the story about how I had tried to record this song on the last record a few years ago.

During the recording of our first record between 2011-2015, we spent many studio hours creating the first version of the song and had it mostly complete. The hope was that it would appear on that album. Yet, even though there was much I loved about the track, it didn’t  feel quite right to me. I wasn’t crazy about how my voice sounded and I didn’t like that the end of the song had nothing special about it. Much to Sean’s (our producer) dismay, I put it on the back burner and just left it alone. I’ve learned that there is no shortage of songs and so I don’t have fear about putting them away for awhile.

Late in 2017, it started to hit me that my oldest daughter Tupelo would be leaving the safety of home for college. Even though I’ve known this moment would happen someday, I did my best to ignore how I felt about it.

Bittersweet surrender

Now with her departure imminent, I had to begin thinking about it and dealing with my emotions about. This has involved many crying fits and futile attempts to control her. Though I am delighted by the kind of person she has turned out to be, and I trust her, I still get afraid of her leaving the safety of the home nest.

As I began to let myself just sob the feelings out repeatedly, I resisted the urge to judge myself for it. Even though I know that the idea “real men don’t cry” is an outdated and untrue, years of machismo conditioning still creeps in and tries to block me from emoting fully. What was most interesting is that as I let my emotions out about Tupelo’s transition into adulthood, this song kept coming back into my mind. Slowly I realized that to finish the song, I had needed to go through this experience first because the song was about her and this bittersweetness.

When I decided to bring You In My Arms back into the mix for possible inclusion, I had to address the fact that I was struggling to hit certain notes cleanly through the song. After changing the key a few times, I settled on putting my capo on fret 2 of the guitar. Suddenly, all of the vocal issues evaporated. Next, I had to address how to end the song. Lyrically, I now had a target for the exact emotion I was feeling with Tupelo's pending departure. This feeling felt to me like a gradual build up of frustration, love, pain with shades of bittersweet and longing. The end needed to be the time where all of these emotions exploded into the highest truth of the situation – which was simply that I wanted Tupelo to stay in my arms where I could always hold and protect her. I had to reluctantly surrender to the fact that controlling her is not a helpful option. Many tears were shed trying to sing this final part of the song. 

To amp up the emotion for myself I had both Tupelo and her sister Ella sweetly sing in the bridge 'Love I Found You, In My Arms" over and over. Then during the last half of the tune, Tupelo's vocal harmony soars over mine. For moral support and their great voices, I asked my friend and former Rusted Root band mate Jenn Wertz to join in on the Lo-oh-oh-ove chant along with my dear friend Chuck Olson.

At the end of the day, it was most important to me that the song could serve as my own personal tool to spark my emotions. I know from experience that if I hold onto the sadness without letting it out, it makes me sick. Though I never enjoy expressing sadness, I always feel better afterwards. 

 

Tracking Drum kit

Jim Donovan tracking drums for You In My Arms

Acoustic Backstage

Living Room Demo

First Living Room Demo of You In My Arms

Initial Outro Idea

The moment that the initial Idea for the Lo-oh-oh-love chant and to have Tupelo sing on the track with me...