Lights On – A Songwriter’s Commentary

Lights On ArtWhen I wrote this song, I wrote it as a kind of letter to myself. I wrote it for my old band Frequency Theater, as an attempt to take the band in a more positive direction. I had been doing some soul searching, because the days were evil, and I wasn’t bringing any light to them.

I grew up listening to music in church first, then going to see Christian music concerts. As I began to buy music (yes, on cassettes) I poured over the liner notes, since this was the only way for someone like myself to get information about the bands and what they were about. One of the interesting things about Christian music at the time was that most of it was on trial, many of the people who were making the music were defending themselves against other “Christians” who were certain that they were secretly working for the devil. As such, they often included notes in defense of the opinions expressed in the songs, as well as scripture references from the Protestant Bible, sometimes multiple references per line.

While I find it disturbing that almost all of the artists on the “major” Christian labels at the time were required to adopt this defensive posture, I also found it helpful while attempting to analyze the songwriting – although to be honest the weight of this exercise often got in the way of writing songs that were actually good, in favor of songs that were defensible.

All that said, while you are watching our new video I thought it might be helpful to some of you to read the lyrics to the song, along with my “Songwriter’s Commentary.”

If on the journey home

Yep, it’s a broad, nebulous metaphor. It could mean you are leaving the concert. It could mean you are on your journey through life, or revisiting your past. It could even mean you are passing into eternity.

you find yourself alone

We’ve all been there…

with nothing but stones to throw

I often struggle not to be angry about my childhood – the people who I grew up around, the idiots I’m surrounded by now. I can see them all very clearly from my glass house.

swallow the lump in your throat

Hey, being isolated, alone, abused, misunderstood can be an emotional thing.

If the bow should break

more than your heart can take

I always wondered if I should use the word “bow” or “bough”. “Bow” like a ships bow, going under the high waves. “Bough” like the supports that hold you up in life – according to the Webster’s Dictionary: : a branch of a tree; especially : a main branch. As in “Rock-a-bye baby”. Both words give the right meaning, but are obscure enough to require a vocabulary lesson, which I can see many of you need, from my glass house.

the path that you are on

is covered up with thorns

Bible time! Jesus told a parable that apparently made a big splash, big enough that it is repeated in all of the Gospels.

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

Basically, my life felt pretty dissonant with a lot of my professed views. I was pretty frustrated with how profoundly “out of tune” my life was. I was angry, frustrated, and knew that trying to keep my own mind at peace with what others thought of me had led me down a road to where I was trying to run several businesses I had little interest in, and trying to keep newer vehicles and pay for my house. None of these things are bad – unless they are keeping you from your true passion/calling.

fill your heart with hope!

I still absolutely believe that any person and/or situation, (and in some areas of the USA, every empty pop can) can be redeemed. Even when empty and crushed, there is real, tangible, honest value.

I’ll leave the light on.

Tom Bodett loves you.

If darkness falls on you

A reference to the last song from the first Frequency Theater record. And how I felt most days.

If you’ve got nothing left to lose

A reference to the third track on the first Frequency Theater record. People who literally have nothing left to lose are crazy. And damn near unstoppable.

no one to fill your shoes

no one to sing your blues

These lines were partly inspired by a couple of lines from U2’s POP record. I really was wrestling with the idea that a.) I had failed so badly at my life’s message that no one would carry it on, b.) a feeling that what responsibilities I had were so heavy, and that I felt really helpless to fulfill my “tall order”, and c.) that my failure would render my life meaningless, ie. not having a story that others would tell. I really strongly want my life to be an example to encourage people – and a heritage to my children.

If your mind will ache

more than your heart can take

and you fall down on your face

These lines are pretty self-explanatory…

I will not forsake you!

Another Bible verse…

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

(Hebrews 13:5-6)

I’ll leave the light on.

Yeah, there’s a verse for this one too… I’ll leave you with this story:

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

(Luke 15: 22 – 24)

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Posted in Art, Motivation, Spirituality, Stories, thoughts about music
One comment on “Lights On – A Songwriter’s Commentary
  1. Karen says:

    This is rich, Nate! I hear your heart and I see your story. I get it. And it is powerful.

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