Category Archives: Folk

Why Music?

Why music?

I’ve been considering an age-old topic, a cliche question that perhaps musicians dislike being asked:

Why do we play music?

The question of “why we play music” can be grouped amongst the other fathomless questions such as…

Why is the sky blue?

Why does everybody die?

What is the meaning of life?

To assume that we can do any justice to any of these topics by trying to answer the question, is to perhaps assume too much of ourselves. 😉

But then again, what is the point of being human if we don’t get to sit around sipping fermented beverages and discussing ponderous concepts?

So grab your beverage of choice and pull up a chair!plantation-banjo1

…and imagine a time before we had electricity and internet, before we could watch movies and stream music endlessly via Spotify and Pandora (for scandalously low prices I might add, considering that musicians such as us only receive something like 0.005 cents per song-play on a site like Spotify… but I digress ;-).

I imagine that back then, before we could listen to music without the musicians themselves being present, we must have placed tremendous value on the person who would come sit by our hearth and tell us stories from faraway lands, or play us songs about the human predicament: love, death, hope, fear, desire.

We could listen to them and enter a trancelike state, gazing into the fire, and be transported above everyday life–the rigors and the doldrums–to a place of the imagination, a mysterious realm that songs can take us to, where we find solace for our unspoken pain, inspiration to carry on, or simply a moment’s respite from our belabored thoughts.instruments-and-globe

We were able to travel, to go on adventures, right from our homes. And the wandering bard who showed up in our village was our traveling guide.

Even now, you know that you are witnessing a pure conduit of music when you sit down in front of a musician (or musicians) and forget who and where you are as the music pours over you. 

Even Pandora can’t always accomplish that.

And as musicians, this is what we aspire to… transporting our beloved audience into a timeless realm, holding space for them as they travel to a place where healing, joy and inspiration are all possible.

This is one of the best reasons I can give you for why we play music. 🙂

P.S. And if you’ve never had The Love Sprockets take you on a musical journey, it’s about time you experienced us firsthand:

http://thelovesprockets.bandcamp.com/track/by-the-pale-moonlight

(It’s a song based on the old french traditional ‘Au Claire de la Lune’ in which a young poet’s candle goes out and he goes late at night through the village to find a light and a pen to write with)

Click here to listen to By the Pale Moonlight

On the road again

The man looks to be in his 50s, with a tan face and well-groomed mustache. But at this moment his mustache seems to be coming undone.

“You rode your bicycle across Mexico??” He fidgets uncomfortably.

“Yeah, I got to Playa del Carmen and then realized I was pregnant and needed to come home.”

“Well….” he seems to be searching for words. “Well you know what I would say about it if you hadn’t gone already… you know I wouldn’t advise doing that! Alone… on a bicycle…” He trails off.

I smile and squeeze his arm. “No harm came to me!” I head into the kitchen to find the others.

Dick’s kitchen is brimming with chattering, smiling, laughing people, arms laden with potluck goodies… pasta dishes, giant chocolate cakes, guacamole dip that is “actually made out of asparagus!”, chips, loaves of bread, soup and numerous bottles of wine.

They’ve all come to see The Love Sprockets perform tonight, and to visit with old friends, break bread and drink wine… and whiskey… and banana daiquiris…

A lovely lady with long blonde hair and a wreath of green leaves and purple flowers on her head rushes to greet me. “Jahnavi! You made it!” Golden exclaims over my pregnant belly, and Lloyd looks at me in shock.

“I didn’t know you were pregnant!” he says, with what looks to be something like reproach on his face.

I’m wearing a slinky, form-fitting dress so that all of my old Baton Rouge friends can get a really good look at my big belly. I only see them once or twice a year, so this is their chance to see me in full baby-bloom.

“Well,” he concedes. “You make being pregnant look good!”

I sit down next to Golden to catch up.

“I was reading your blog the whole time,” she’s saying, “And I was scared for you when you were getting so tired, and than you found out you were pregnant, and…. oh…. But it was so funny when you did the whole pregnancy test in Mexico and your friend was there…” She laughs like tinkling bells.

I see Phil, our first Baton Rouge host from three years ago. He and his wife, Goldie, had taken Addison, Nic and I in on New Years Eve, on a cold, blustery day during our cross-country bicycle trip. We had been instructed to draw up a menu for that evening’s dinner and describe the dishes enticingly. He had taken close up shots of everyone’s mugs that night, even Zoso’s. We all look windburned, bedraggled, and Zoso’s mustache was the color of a hundred snacks, meals and drinks of water that had dried into it. But Phil loved Zoso. He fed him special, handcrafted meals alongside his own two dogs, and lovingly referred to him as ‘Yo-so.’

When I step in to give Phil a hug, his eyes widen with surprise. “I didn’t even recognize you!”

I eat spoonfuls of his spicy bok choy, ginger soup, while he tells me about his idea for the nights events.

“I would really like to hear the development of your music,” he tells me. “A song picked for each stage of your career together.”

“Like, a chronological set list!” I say.

“Yeah, okay, something like that.”

“That’s brilliant!”

After I’m done with my soup I find Addison unloading instruments from our car and tell him Phil’s idea.

“Cool,” he says, “That sounds like a good idea!”

And then he discovers the missing space that his set of 10 harmonicas, which he carries in a black case, should have been filling.

“Oh no….” he groans. “I think I left them in New Orleans!”

“Oh no….” I commiserate.

We had been on tour since Tuesday, and tonight it was Friday. Thursday we had driven to New Orleans and performed at a quaint, co-op of a cafe called The Neutral Ground. Perhaps because the venue is so covered in artifacts collected over the years, and only lit with soft, glowing lamps and christmas lights, it was hard to see that he had left his black case on the piano bench off in the corner.

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A picture of Mark, the artist who played before us, at The Neutral Ground

“Well at least I have one harmonica,” he whips one out from his pocket. “And it’s in the right key to play Wade in the Water and Soul of a Man.”

That night we all go on a journey together, sitting cozily in Dick’s living room, people cuddled together on couches, smiling and clapping from rocking chairs, or peering from the perch of a wooden kitchen chair to see over the heads of the others.

We tell the story of our meeting, starting the band, bicycling across the United States, and finally arriving in Austin. Each song we play fits into the story, and has its own story behind it. When we get to the part of the night’s journey where we talk about me leaving Addison and biking across Mexico, people sigh, laugh and make commiserating noises. We each play a couple of solo songs to show what music we were playing while we were apart.

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Me playing ‘A Moment’s Rest’ on the mandolin

Even though we let people get up and take a break halfway through, I am still so impressed and touched by how some of them sit and listen the entire time, following the story and the songs, with no complaint of boredom.

This is music as I feel it must have been in ‘the old days’, before TV, wifi and YouTube. The traveling musician arrives at your doorstep and the village gathers to feed them and gather stories from them about the lands they’ve visited, and to hear the songs they’ve carried with them from other places that perhaps the villagers will never see themselves.

It’s not about the musician, not about how they look or idolizing them as some kind of sex symbol. It’s about the music and the story and the community that’s come together to listen and discuss love, life and death with one another.

Here are some more pictures from our Houston, Baton Rouge and New Orleans tour:

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Packing up the car–no dog left behind!
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On our way to our live appearance on 90.1 KPFT Houston with Roark, one of the happiest DJs we know
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A Houston native
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Addison playing a solo song before our set at the Avant Garden open mic in Houston
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The Love Sprockets at The Neutral Ground
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Zoso getting comfy before our show at The Neutral Ground
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Me and the owl
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Packing up in Baton Rouge the morning after our house show at Dick’s
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Driving into the sunset, Austin on the horizon

Imagining my way in and out of imaginary disaster

All hail the unruly, wily mind that is comparable to a flame: never ceasing to move, always changing and transforming!

I am sitting in the Black Hole Cafe in Houston, TX right now, after a restless night of sleep in my aunt’s guest bed.

Last night Addison and I arrived in Houston and stayed up late with Aunt Michele, playing her songs with guitar and mandolin that made her weep.

And as we lay in bed last night, I shifted, tossed and turned, unable to drift into sleep. My mind just won’t STOP!

I lay awake thinking about Addison and how dear he is to me.

When we play music together, it’s as if the world around us falls away.

We sleep in the same bed at night, tangled together with arms and legs wrapped around one another, as have almost every night for the past three years.

What am I THINKING?? Why would I leave Addison for 6 months to a year?

My mind drifted to a few days earlier, when I had panicked and almost bought a ticket directly to Sao Paulo, Brazil. What if I spend all this time biking through Mexico and Central America and never actually make it to Brazil? I had thought. What if, when I arrive in Brazil via the Amazon river, the border patrol doesn’t let me into Brazil and I have to go all the way back the way I came, sweating and writhing around in a hammock on a slow moving boat in the sweltering heat?

I had considered just flying to Brazil and then biking back.

Then I did a yoga class with my favorite Black Swan yoga teacher, Dave, and I calmed down and felt resolved to leave from Los Angeles again.

Finally, after all that thinking, I drifted to sleep.

Only to awake again at 5 am, thinking about how I’ll need a 4 ft or longer cable to lock my bags together on my bicycle when I need to step into a convenience store to buy food during my trip. There won’t be anyone to stand outside and watch my stuff like when Addison and I biked from Vermont to Texas and had eachother’s backs. I’ll have my brand new gopro camera with me, and a world of supplies to get me through my long journey, all on my bicycle and easy for anyone to steal if they decide they want to.

Then my mind drifts to the mace I will carry with me. Should I hang it from my handlebars so it’s within easy reach at all times?

I imagine three men attacking me at once to steal my stuff. I see myself spraying one in the face with mace, and then quickly turning to spray the second one. But what about the third one that’s coming up behind me? And will they just writhe around once I spray them, or do I need to kick them in the nuts as well to keep them down? What if my stuff is all over the place when they approach, and I have to try to quickly pack it while they claw at their burning eyes, and then ride away? Or should I just run and leave the stuff?

When I finally got out of the bed this morning, I felt like I’d run a marathon.

Gosh, I am exhausted. 😀

Well, the fact of the matter is, none of that is happening right now.

What IS happening, is I need to pack my computer up and go play music live on KPFT Houston. The Love Sprockets are on at noon, central time.

Click here to tune in: http://kpft.org/listen/

And thanks for reading this post! Sorry it was a crazy one, but that’s how I’m feeling right now! 😀

Dark Dreams, a Bright Future

During the wee hours of Thursday, October 8th, 2015 I received a dream.

When I awoke later that morning to start my day, everything had changed.

How did I go to sleep thinking about band practice and how many classes per week of martial arts I needed to do in order to graduate and feel good about my skill level, and then wake up the next morning with my priorities completely shifted?

How is it that, now that I am established in Austin and thoroughly enjoying living here, I decide to walk away from it all overnight?

I will share the dream with you that I had, but let me give you a quick snapshot of my past for some backstory.

JA bicycles 2
Addison and I on our cross country bike trip

On January 16th, 2013, Addison (my fiance) and I arrived in Austin, TX on bicycles. We’d ridden all the way from Brattleboro, VT with musical instruments and our dog Zoso.

The emotional journey I embarked on in order to leave what I perceived to be my permanent home (Brattleboro), to ride my bicycle across the United States and move to a foreign country (Austin) was tumultuous. But it was something I had to do in order to be where I am now. Quite literally.

But during our cross-country bicycle trip, I had a feeling that I never wanted to stop. I wanted to keep going South until I reached Brasil, the mother-land of a martial arts I’ve practiced for over ten years (capoeira). I wanted to leave North America and learn Spanish and Portuguese and meet people who thought completely differently than I do and knew how to live in community in a way that many North Americans don’t understand anymore. I had been talking about visiting Brasil and going back to Mexico and Guatemala for years before my U.S. bicycle trip.

Somewhere in all of this, after living in Austin for a while and then going back to visit my beloved Vermont, I had a severe concussion. Throughout my healing process I dipped in and out of various levels of depression. Over the next two years, I would tell many people about how I was going to bike to Brasil once the time was right, come hell or high water.

LT finishline radha
A picture of Radha after finishing hiking the Long Trail

My sister, who is traveling through Western Europe and on to Thailand by bicycle with her husband, Erik, has been encouraging me from the start, and even sent me some travel supplies for my trip to Brasil (this included a pair of underwear that claims to be wearable for six weeks without washing–something I will probably not attempt to confirm). She has also hiked the Long Trail by herself, which was something she’d always talked about doing since we were teenagers.

Whenever we would talk on the phone I would tell her that I was working on making more money so I could save money faster and eventually embark on my Brasil trip with Addison.

Yes, Addison had to come with me of course! We’re The Love Sprockets (that’s the name of our band) and that’s what we do! We adventure by day on bicycle and play music for our hosts at night. Plus, I can’t travel through Central and South America by myself! That just wouldn’t be safe!

AAZ_6772
The Love Sprockets

Yes, that’s the name of our band: The Love Sprockets. We perform in Austin a few times a month with our drummer (Pete) and upright bass player (Watson).

That is… until Watson announced he was ‘goin’ to Mexico!’. It was always something Watson had threatened, but we didn’t pay it too much heed.

“F** this sh** guys,” he’d say, after taking a swig of the Thirsty Goat beer he brewed 60+ hours a week at Thirsty Planet brewery. “I’m goin’ to Mexico!”

photo 2 (2)
Me (left), Watson (center), Pete (right)

So now we’re scrambling to find a new bass player. But how do you replace Watson? He’s an ideal bass player in every way: hysterically apropos, high energy, fast talking, mustache-havin’ and a phenomenal musician. He’s also a cyclist.

Well, slap my ass and call me Sally.

Anyhow, let’s get back to my life altering dream, shall we?

So I was always telling people that I would go to Brasil ‘when the time is right’. But the time has not been right for Addison or I. We have our band, The Love Sprockets to play shows with and tour the country with. We have growing relationships with clients who want to pay us to do things that we’re really good at. I have my capoeira school where I get to train as often as I want and actually get good at this martial arts I’ve always loved.

On Wednesday October 7th, 2015, I went to sleep feeling completely satisfied and excited about my life in Austin.

Sometime in the early morning hours of October 8th I had this dream:

In my dream I was with my dad, my brother and sister. All of the people around us were getting randomly inflicted with a plague of some kind. They would see a black powder appear on their skin, and at that point it was too late–the black powder was a sign that the mysterious disease had already begun to set into their muscles and turn them grey and brittle. Soon after they would die a painful death.

We were sad for all of these people, but also feeling a surreal surrender to the unfathomable workings of Death and its suddenness at times.

That was when I noticed the black powder on my own skin.

The four of us took in this new information. I was going to die, and soon.

I sighed, and said, “You know what guys, I’m not scared of dying. But I am scared of being in terrible pain while I die.”

They nodded in agreement.

After this, I went into the bathroom by myself and began to wipe the black powder off of my skin with a warm, soapy wash cloth.

As I cleaned myself, I thought about all of the things I had wanted to do with my life, and the people I would miss. A vision of the little girl I was supposed to have with my fiance, Addison, flashed through my mind. I could hear my brother talking in the other room and I knew, somewhere in my waking mind, that he lives in India and I wouldn’t see him before I died. I would miss my friends and family.

I was sad about all of these things, but resigned to my fate.

That was when I remembered that I had not biked to Brasil yet.

In my dream, I fell to the ground, howling in anguish at this realization. I cried and cried and cried. 

I wanted to get on my bicycle right then, and cycle until I dropped dead. But I could feel the crunchiness of my muscles and tendons and knew the disease had compromised my ability to pedal a bicycle.

Eventually I cried myself awake, much to Addison’s surprise, who was asleep in my bed next to me.

He tried to comfort me as best as he could when I told him about the dream. “You’re okay baby,” he told me. “You’re not going to die of the plague. Nothing bad is happening.”

I lay next to him silently as he fell back asleep.

And I knew something then, that I hadn’t fully realized before.

I’m not afraid of dying, I thought to myself. I’m afraid of not fully living.

I eventually drifted off to sleep, and when I awoke in the morning, I knew things could not stay the same any longer.

During what was supposed to be our meditation session, I unfolded my deepest thoughts and feelings before Addison, and for the first time, we were able to agree on this one truth:

It’s time for me to ride my bicycle to Brasil.

Not next year, not after I have enough money saved.

Now.

I’ve given myself a month and a half to prepare.

And I leave at the end of November, 2015.

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Me, on a 75 mile ride in Texas–note the thick, dark glasses necessary for my concussed vision

I hope you will join me on this journey through my blog and Patreon (I will set up Patreon over the next couple of weeks and let you know when it’s launched).

Thank you for reading this. 🙂

By the Pale Moonlight–another look at characters

Hey, so last week I shared some thoughts about character perspectives in books vs. movies, and a funny story from Anne Lamott’s book, ‘Bird by Bird’.

A song I wrote recently (‘By the Pale Moonlight’) has an interesting character perspective switch half-way through that I wanted to share with you. I based the song on the well-known French song “Au Claire de la Lune”.

“Au Clair de la Lune” is a common French folk song that dates back to at least the mid-18th Century. In 2008, the earliest known recording of the human voice was digitized, and the unknown singer on the recording is singing a small snippet of “Au Clair de la Lune”.

In this song, the story begins from the perspective of a lonely poet/author, who is knocking on his friend’s door so he can borrow a pen and light his candle in the middle of the night.

Back in those days, if you wanted to stay up all night with creative ideas or wake up at 3 in the morning and write something down, you’d better hope you have ink for your pen and some coals left in the fireplace to light your candle with!

A couple verses in, the perspective changes.

Is it from his friend’s perspective as he watches from his window, or just an omnipotent perspective?

Here’s how my english version of the song goes:

At your door I’m knocking

By the pale moonlight

Lend a pen I beg you

I’ve a word to writecandle

Dark now is my candle

My fire burns no more

For the love of heaven

Open up your door

 

My friend cries in answer

By the pale moonlight

“In my bed I’m lying

Late and chill’s the night

Yonder at the neighbor’s

Someone is astir

Fire’s freshly kindled

Oh get a light from her.”

 

To the neighbor’s house then

By the pale moonlight

Goes our lonely author

To beg a pen to write

“Who knocks there so softly?”

Calls a voice above

“Open wide your door now

It is the God of Love.”

 

Seek they pen and candle

By the pale moonlight

They can see so little

Dark is now the night

What they find in seeking

That is not revealed

All behind her door 

Is carefully concealed

 

And in my version of this song, I finish up by singing the first line in French (what they are saying in French is a bit different from the English version):

Au clair de la lune
Mon ami Pierrot
Prete-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot

Ma chandelle est morte
Je n’ai plus de feu
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu

matthias_stom_young_man_reading_by_candlelight1

If you want to hear me play the full song, just click here! (the song starts at around 4:40 in the video)

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. 🙂

Please comment below to share your thoughts about writing, characters, or song-writing (or anything else this topic made you think of!)…

A look at song writing…

love

Have you ever “fallen in love”?

You know, when your hormones are so jacked you can’t see straight, and just the thought of the other person sends you into state of unencumbered bliss?

I’m guessing this has probably happened to you, even if you don’t want to admit it. 😉

What I always find interesting about falling in love and about human beings in general (‘interesting’ is a nice way of saying ‘really fucking annoying’) is that when something is happening to us that we perceive to be really good, we can’t help but dread the potential end of it.

As always, we fear death.

The death of relationships, the death of the life we know now.

Even when we can recognize how healthy and normal change is, we can’t help but fear it subconsciously.

Well, at least I do, anyways. 🙂

So during the last bout of falling in love I did (which was about three years ago, thank God), the song Dark Angel was born.

This song asks alot of questions…

But does not provide any answers.

Here’s how it goes:

Dark Angel

Dark Angel Of Death Wallpaper - wallpaperest.com.

“I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal

Yes, I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal

You’ve got everything it takes to drive this situation wild

I saw you first, I saw you first

I saw you first and now you are mine

But I’m losing control of this situation all of the time

And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Are you the one to make my blind eyes see?

Or are you my dark angel of death?

Are you my terminal breath?

I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering

Yes I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering

You’ve got everything it takes to make a murderer of me

And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Are you the one to make my blind eyes see?

Or are you my dark angel of death?

Are you my terminal breath?

Are you the end of my fears?

Or are you a hurricane of tears?

Are you a hurricane of tears?

Or are you a hurricane….

of tears?”

Listen to Dark Angel by clicking here

dark angel

Thanks for reading this blog!

I’ll be back next week… 😉

~Jahnavi

The story behind Dark Angel

love

Have you ever “fallen in love”?

You know, when your hormones are so jacked you can’t see straight, and just the thought of the other person sends you into state of unencumbered bliss?

I’m guessing this has probably happened to you, even if you don’t want to admit it. 😉

What I always find interesting about falling in love and about human beings in general (‘interesting’ is a nice way of saying ‘really fucking annoying’) is that when something is happening to us that we perceive to be really good, we can’t help but dread the potential end of it.

As always, we fear death.

The death of relationships, the death of the life we know now.

Even when we can recognize how healthy and normal change is, we can’t help but fear it subconsciously.

Well, at least I do, anyways. 🙂

So during the last bout of falling in love I did (which was about three years ago, thank God), the song Dark Angel was born.

This song asks alot of questions…

But does not provide any answers.

Here’s how it goes:

Dark Angel

“I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal

Yes, I’ll be your innocence if you’ll be my sex appeal

You’ve got everything it takes to drive this situation wild

I saw you first, I saw you first

I saw you first and now you are mine

But I’m losing control of this situation all of the time

And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Are you the one to make my blind eyes see?

Or are you my dark angel of death?

Are you my terminal breath?

I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering

Yes I’ll be your calling if you’ll be my answering

You’ve got everything it takes to make a murderer of me

And are you the best thing that’s ever happened to me?

Are you the one to make my blind eyes see?

Or are you my dark angel of death?

Are you my terminal breath?

Are you the end of my fears?

Or are you a hurricane of tears?

Are you a hurricane of tears?

Or are you a hurricane….

of tears?”

Listen to Dark Angel by clicking here

dark angel

Thanks for reading this blog!

I’ll be back next week… 😉

~Jahnavi

Nobody Wants to Die (what this song is ACTUALLY about ;)

This week I thought it would be fun to share the story around one of our most popular songs on the album, Nobody Wants to Die.

Nobody Wants to Die is the title track of our latest album, and set the tone for our album’s theme: death.

But when I think about what the song’s original roots are, I remember that the song arose into my consciousness from a very potent, and virile emotion: jealousy.

The way that I experience jealousy, at least these past 5 years or so, is pretty specific: I become extremely riled up, and talk about or imagine the offending party’s death at my hands.

I’m not proud of it, but the fact is it makes for good song-writing fodder. 🙂

So about three years ago, when I was afflicted with a case of such jealousy, I attempted to make Addison admit that he was madly in love with the offending party; but I could coerce no such confession from him.

As I sat down in front of the piano late that night, I decided that he wouldn’t outright lie to me, so in order for him to withhold the truth for me, he would first have to lie to HIMSELF.

So I sang:
“Well he lies to himself, so he can lie to me
Well he lies to himself, so I won’t really see.”

And I concluded that the reason he would decide to not admit to being madly in love with this other woman, was because he was afraid I might murder her if he did.

“Cause nobody wants to die, nobody wants to die
Well he tells me lies, ’cause nobody wants to die…no.”

And understandably, who really does want to die?

I did quote him in the song, when he tried to convince me against this jealous idea:

“‘Oh be reasonable, see this reason:
I want you more, I will always want you more’…”

But I concluded once again:

“He says this to me because…

Nobody wants to die, nobody wants to die
Well he tells me lies, ’cause nobody wants to die…no.”

Once I had completed the song and eventually performed it for Addison, it was pretty short, only 2 minutes at best.

Addison and I decided (once my jets had cooled a bit) that he should write his own part, and have the song be a conversation between the two of us.

He didn’t write what I expected him to, though his words were coming from a defensive place (understandably):

“How many times has she set her mind on some way she thinks things should be?
She tells me what she sees, and how she wants to meet me in her dreams.
So I accept what she suggests, ’cause I love her the best
But when those dreams turn into tests sometimes I got nothing left
Still I say ‘yes’ ’cause…”

And then he sings this part during the chorus:

“I don’t want to kill her love for me…
I would never lie, but I don’t want her love to die.”

So this song began as an unpleasant ordeal, but nowadays it has become a fun song to for us to play together, and I believe it will continue to be as the years roll on… 🙂

Click on the link below to listen to Nobody Wants to Die and/or purchase the song:
https://thelovesprockets.bandcamp.com/track/nobody-wants-to-die