When I was in High School, I dated a girl who introduced me to her friend Fred. Fred and I hit it off nicely and eventually started writing music together, both heavier rock and metal styles, as well as some acoustic-based compositions. We shared a very similar approach as far as how we wrote melodies and put chords together, but it was not yet as refined as it would end up being years later; we were younger then. In 2006, we began to go our separate ways in life, me with finishing my Bachelor’s in Music Education, Fred with his career and a new relationship.
Let’s now fast-forward to the beginning of 2015. We re-connected by meeting up for the first time in nearly ten years. We shared stories about our marriages that ended poorly. We talked about life, its struggles, and our desires to move forward and conquer the world. We set a day to get together to try writing and recording some new music.
Now it’s 2018.
45 songs later, with intertwining lyrical pieces of the much larger puzzle that is my life, and after four self-recorded albums, we haven’t stopped since.
If you follow my posts over the next 45 days, as I post one “song story” and its corresponding music link each day.
So let’s begin…
…and thank you for reading…
1. Felt Such Life Again
Throughout the years leading up to Fred and I reconnecting through music, I had gone through many struggles. These included issues with prescription drug abuse, mental abuse in my relationships, and many other life-changing events and moments that would shape the person, as well as the songwriter, I would eventually become.
Fred had gone through many of these moments himself. In his songwriting on the guitar, years later now, I could hear these moments re-shaped into some of the most beautiful and expressive passages I’d ever heard. Such simplicity and raw emotion cut through as he would play for me the parts he had written. I added lyrics. His guitar playing was the perfect spark to ignite my songwriting, with which I had been at a standstill for a number of months. After hearing one of the first pieces Fred played for me on acoustic guitar, I wrote “Felt Such Life Again”.
This song, as nearly all 45 of them would end up being treated, was written at the same time it was recorded. I first recorded Fred’s guitar parts in my house in Baltimore. You can hear the sound of the acoustic guitar echoing off the walls at times. You can even hear a faint beeping at times; the sound of my smoke detector telling me it was low on batteries. I was still at a point in my life where I was re-assembling the pieces.
We crafted his guitar parts as he played and recorded, and then we did the same with the recording of my vocals. Writing, recording, producing, and sculpting the songs all at once. I was not the best “sound engineer” at this point, but as this turned into our method of songwriting, I began to improve.
This song was written about how my life changed as soon as I swallowed the last of about 40 pills on the morning of December 2nd, 2013. I was living with a friend after leaving my house to initiate my separation and eventual divorce. I was living there with my girlfriend at the time. She was an alcoholic and abuser of many drugs. She was doing her best to overcome it all, and she knew I was a positive force in her life to help her do so. However, she descended into a worse place, and took me there with her. Our relationship became co-dependent and toxic for each of us. She had become pregnant, I was stretched to my limit both emotionally and financially, and I was still only separated, not yet divorced. I knew my choices had brought me to a point in my life I could not handle. One morning, I woke up to my girlfriend drinking wine and verbally abusing me; she had used the word “worthless” to describe me while doing so. This particular morning I was affected heavily by this. She left for work, while I stayed in bed and called out from mine. I then proceeded to take an entire bottle of pills and wash it down with alcohol. After swallowing the last pill, I felt a sense of clarity- I knew that what I had done was a terrible mistake. I ended up being found a few hours later by my roommate and stepdad, and I was taken to stay at the psychiatric ward of a Baltimore hospital for few days while being treated for my overdose. During that time, my head cleared. I felt so much life again. A few months later, I wrote about my feelings from that morning in more detail. Those lyrics became this song, and allowed me to start writing about the darkest points of my life, without fear; only as catharsis, and as a way to make my life better.
When people first hear our music, I imagine that they first wonder if I “am ok”. The hardest thing to explain about Spies Ascend is that Fred and I have an amazingly fun time creating this music. It is a way to be fully happy in life, keeping the pain within the song. It lives there, inside the art, so we can live happily in the everyday world around us.
“The day after I left my wife, I told myself I was going to start playing the guitar again. I remember coming up with the finger-picked intro and staying up until 3am working on riffs for the song. I too “felt such life again”, like Nenner. I had practically given up guitar for about 8 years, and now all of these riffs started pouring out of me. I had no idea when we recorded this song that we would write 44 more together. I remember this song originally had a “dubstep” part because Nenner and I had discussed our love for dubstep. However, we ended up deciding that it wasn’t the musical direction in which we wanted to go. Nenner’s lyrics and vocals to this song are soooooooo powerful. I remember my jaw dropping when I first listened. I knew right then that we had something special.”