Most of us music lovers can probably relate to a friend the first song we sought out our own copy of, the first album that we listened to in its entirety until our parents wished they had never heard the band, the first time we heard a lyric that related so completely to our own experience that we began to harbor the notion that the artist and we had an invisible bond over a shared experience. That rapture upon listening is what keeps us so enthralled (of course, a catchy beat and a repeatable chorus never hurts). Here at Black Horse Motel we can relate entirely to what you’re going through as a listener. We’ve been there too. But not many people get a behind the scenes look at where those songs actually come from. All that, loyal listener, changes today.
The Red Summer Spirit album represents our most complete work to date, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, get out from under that rock and check it out. But just because it’s awesome doesn’t mean we’ve stopped writing. I doubt we’d know how to stop even if we wanted to. On the contrary, we’ve been hard at work, huddled over our instruments, hiding from the world taking a new song from it’s genesis through to a stage ready piece that we feel really gives you, the listener, what you didn’t even know you were looking for.
The story of “Run, Rabbit, Run” starts over a year in the past. My usual songwriting pattern is to sit down with a guitar, claim myself some alone time, and get into a flow. I found myself playing this driving pattern off the D minor chord that just felt really fun to play. Next thing I knew I had a lyric. “Grandpa was a farmer, and my father was a farmer like his pa.” Short, but oddly compelling to me. What happened next? “Raised me to be a farmer, but I guess that I took off after my ma.” Ok, so mom’s out of the picture and this character left home. Why? “Going to down the highway, gonna see what my momma saw.” Neat. And there it sat. I loved playing it, but there just wasn’t anymore to say on the issue.
There are songs that almost fling themselves out into the world, and then there’s this one. I didn’t have any more lyrics, no chorus, no nothing, but I couldn’t stop dropping into that guitar pattern. Suddenly, “Run, rabbit, run. Run fast, rabbit, run. Run, little rabbit, or the crafty little rabbit’s gonna meet the sheriff’s gun.” This chorus certainly changed some things. Why is there a sheriff involved? Why is this character worried about the possibility of being gunned down? At the time I had been listening to Cry, Cry, Cry’s self titled album a lot. (Remember up above when I mentioned playing an album over and over? Yeah, just like that.) At any rate, I was really focusing in on Robert Earl Keen’s tune, Shades of Gray. I liked the cinematic quality of the lyrics, but I wanted mine to be sparser. “I made some friends of ill repute; I layed my reputation low. I’ve done some things I can’t take back, I guess I’ll have to fly to Mexico. Going down the highway, gonna learn what my momma knows.” And then, just as quickly as I was writing the song again, it all went stale. Stuck, blocked, terminal.
Fast forward through months of playing parts of the song in the hope that it would reignite (I still love that guitar pattern) and I’m playing with Black Horse Motel. We’re looking for a new song, something upbeat. Now one thing (among so many) that Black Horse Motel does better than I could do by myself is harmonize. The opportunity for full harmonies made me want a more open section in the song. Sticking with the imagery of the rabbit on the run I wrote in a bridge, “down to the ground, run little rabbit to the ground, down to the ground, run little rabbit, don’t be found.” And thus armed with two verses, a chorus, and a bridge I introduced the fun to play little diddy to the group.
Before I had even finished the first play-through, Des was adding an amazing bit of tension with the cello, Meg was forcing the song along with a train beat that reminds you the sheriff could be right behind you, and Dave had put his signature banjo down in favor of the spikey drive of the mandolin. I was hooked on the sound immediately. This song that I had been treating like a strange little orphan for months was now being accepted into a family that understood it. I feel it would be theatrically more interesting if I said there were long arguments over the arrangement, but that’s just not how it happened. Instead, we seemed to lock into a strange world in which we all remembered the song, and even if we couldn’t find the words to describe what someone was playing in our memory of it, they would find it themselves. We left rehearsal that night with a great beginning to harmonies and a structure nailed down.
The next rehearsal, and the next, we focused on getting those harmonies. (This is what a large portion of Black Horse Motel’s rehearsal time is spent on.) As a singer who sometimes has difficulty finding a changing harmony, I’ll admit I was thrilled to be on melody for this one. Each time those harmonies swell, I grin like an idiot. I just love that thick vocal presence Black Horse Motel is able to bring to bear. Between Meg and Des bringing the sweet and lonesome tones and Dave with his soulful growl on the bridge, I know you’re going to love this new song.
Come on out to the Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia on November 21st and you’ll be able to say you heard the very first live performance of “Run, Rabbit, Run”.
It’s a FREE show! Details here