The "We See Through It" Experience: Day 3


We Have Arrived and Ahh, Can You Feel It?

Our mission is to harness the energy and attention generated by our music and direct it toward organizations who are helping to raise consciousness and who provide service to the greater good.

We do this by: 

  • Providing unforgettable live music experiences & recordings that people want to be a part of
  • Connecting people throughout our systems and encouraging interaction and action around local causes
  • Mobilizing fans to take specific action such as bringing food for local food pantries to our shows

Today's songs are: We Have Arrived and Ahh Can You Feel It 


"We Have Arrived"

We Have Arrived Song Story

The Nuns

I began working on this song in 2013. It was another tune I'd tried recording on the first album, but never felt quite like it hit the mark. I knew the song was special from the first demos of it yet, and like You In My Arms, the first incarnation wasn't  fully revealed. 

I went to a Catholic elementary school called St. Peter in Somerset PA. There were some wonderful people there and some who should have not been in a classroom. Though my experience there was challenging at times, there was one nun on one day who changed my life- Sister Cleophane. She would substitute for the other nuns when they were sick. She was the one nun who felt the most full of love. I remember wishing that we could have her as a teacher everyday and was always excited to see her during her rare appearances. Just being around her made me feel happy.

I have a memory seared into my brain of being in second grade in my little blue shirt and tie and her bringing us to the carpet to sit and hear a story. In it she described a person who was walking through life and who one day while walking came to a fork in the road. There the person had a choice to make. The road on the left was beautiful and paved and that it was the quickest route to the next destination. The road to the right was rough dirt road littered with thorns. It was the road most people did not take and thus, it was overgrown with brush and nearly impassable. Then she said something that surprised me – that one day we would come to this exact fork in the road… for real. And that when we did, she wanted us to remember to take the road on the right. Though the smooth road would be tempting, there was nothing at the end of that road. She said the good stuff was all at the end of the thorny road. 

At age 7, though I didn’t comprehend the metaphor, I distinctly remember feeling like she was telling me the most important thing I’d ever heard and that I should remember this information forever. I did.

Ignoring the voice

The character in “We Have Arrived” has all of the help the universe can provide. He knows exactly how to live in the world and yet, for some reason can’t quite stay on track. As a result, the character suffers continuous irritation and frustration and strives to get to the destination. He tells himself, “Go faster”, “Work harder or you’ll never make it there”.

But there’s another voice, one who has always been there. This voice keeps returning to gently remind the character to stay on the road less traveled even though it’s hard. The character repeatedly ignores the voice, and gets pissed off at it even though he’s knows the voice is right. The voice stays patient with the character until the point where the character surrenders and, in doing so, has an epiphany…. The destination is where we are NOW – the present moment. The thorns are the distractions littering our daily life that take us away from the moment we’re in. His recognition of the sacredness of that moment is when he discovers that the “destination” is not anywhere outside of himself. It’s in him. It is him. It’s how he lives his life, treats himself and others, stays focused, overcomes fear and doubt and lives his mission. In this discovery, he shouts from the mountain-top to anyone who will listen,"We have Arrived!" "We've been free all along!"

The hook

In late 2016 the whoa-oh-oh hook dropped in to my mind on another long drive. As soon as I heard it in my mind, I recall thinking oh this is going to be very good. When I got back home to integrate this new melody into the song, I shifted the key, as I had done with “You In My Arms” and suddenly, four years after the song’s initial inception its full form was complete.

To round out the energy of the song, I called my former bandmates Liz Berlin and Jenn Wertz along with my daughters and my friend Chuck Olson to join the band singing that chant. 

Acoustic Backstage

We Have Arrived outro hook idea + cameo of leg

This was a rehearsal video to teach the other guys the melody parts.

Tupelo Donovan recording the outro of We Have Arrived 

Jim Donovan outro vocals for "We Have Arrived"

Kent Tonkin recording bass on "We Have Arrived".

Liz Berlin tracking vocals for "We Have Arrived"

"Ahh, Can You Feel It?"

Ahh, Can You Feel It? : Song Story

Drum machines have no soul

Back when I was still in Rusted Root circa 1999, I had began experimenting with drum machines and sequencers much to my wife’s chagrin. She much prefers a physical drummer to someone pushing buttons which I suppose is understandable. She hated the idea of me creating “fake” (her words) drum beats and even went so far as to purchase a bumper sticker that says “Drum machines have no soul” in protest. She stuck it on the wall it in the laundry room at our house where it still hangs to this day.

During my experiments with electronic music, I came up with a bass line that was very attractive to me which ended up becoming the guitar chords you here at the beginning and through the verses of Ahh, Can You Feel It. The B to A chord progression and the lyrics "Ahh can you feel it?" was all I had at the time. From 1999 through 2004 I made several demos of this raw idea, but none of them had much juice. At the end of 2004 I left Rusted Root and stopped recording and performing. At the time I thought that maybe my time making records was over and forgot all about this little melody. Then came 11 years away from recording. (A story for anther time.)

Fast forward to 2015 to when I started what eventually became Sun King Warriors. This melody and groove was still rolling around in the back of my mind and thought perhaps SKW could do something with it. I decide to re-approach the song and added verse lyrics to it. The guys and I played some very rough arrangements of it in our earliest shows every so often, but it never felt quite complete. The verses and choruses we’re good, and we even had a powerful ending but the song still needed something special that I didn’t know how to make.

Coffee and a drive

On yet another long drive with strong cup of coffee, an idea popped into my mind that there should be an extended bridge that was completely instrumental. Something that still had melody and yet felt more improvisational. I wanted it to feel like a jam without being needlessly complex. 

Through 2017, the band played the tune live and experimented with this section and found some good ideas, but not much that was solid. To get this section to have better flow, I decided to send each guy into the studio with our producer Sean McDonald and without me. The only direction and I offered was go in there and just play what you think should be there.

With Sean's guidance, Kent, and Kevin created this powerful section which has become one of my favorite moments on the album. 

Ooh now can you feel it?”

“I can’t see even though it’s all around me… Ahh can you feel it? Ooh now can you feel it?”
The “it” being referred to is one's true life purpose.
The full meaning is song is challenging to fully describe in words, which is why I chose to communicate it using music. The song speaks to the idea of intrinsically sensing one’s purpose in life, being given strong “clues” as to what this purpose is and still not grasping how to pull it off. The character is consistently getting these “messages” about purpose through intuition, “chance” occurrences and even dreams. The problem is that his/her life is organized in a way that makes it appear to be impossible for this purpose to happen– and yet he/she knows that the purpose is critical. The character stumbles over and over and asks the universe for help “Just bring the might of your waves lifting from under me”.

It’s not till the time in reflection (the instrumental) where the character is able to shed parts of him/herself that are outdated. To aid this the character meditates using a subtle chant you hear in the background “Om droom soha, om amri de, ayer dade so hum” which is a Tibetan mantra of purification. By the end of the instrumental, the character’s energy rises and explodes into a re-birth into the next best version of him/herself. Free of obstacles, which were all based in the character’s old ways of thinking and perceiving, he/she had new energy to deliberately bring forth and live the purpose.

Ahh Can You Feel It, 2016 Living Room demo

The SKW Shouting Ensemble Session.. Ahh Can You Feel It starts @ 6:07