How a Hairy Prospector Gave Me New Album Gold

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 10:00 pm


DANIEL: “Ok, I have an idea. Give me a minute.”

Daniel then proceeded to type furiously on his Mac. I sat on my couch across from him, pondering the scribbles in my notepad.

It was summer. Nashville. 2011. We were spending the afternoon inside wrestling with the creation of my next album.

Where should I even begin? I had a pile of lyrics, bound up in bigger pile of notebooks. What songs did I already have? What kind of record did I want to make?

DANIEL: “Ok…ok. Get this; there are these things online…like random phrase generators. Let’s use one to get some random ideas going, to get us thinking creatively.”

My not-so-thrilled look did little to deter Daniel’s confidence.

ME: “Are we really going to write songs based on a random phrase generator? Dude, I have to consider my street cred.”

DANIEL: “Let’s see. [Daniel clicks mouse] Ha! Here’s one…Hairiest Prospector. That’s funny.”

ME: [Feign interest.]

DANIEL: “Lost Oar. Fork Jam. Angry Festival. Prohibited Hardback. Compact Opera…hey, wait a minute. Yeah, compact opera…that’s kind of cool. Now stick with me.”

His hands were moving quickly now, swirling indecipherable patterns in the air like a hyper geriatric Harry Potter playing with his new wand.

DANIEL: “What if you made an album like a sort of ‘compact opera’? You know, lots of characters all interacting with each other. Every song could be about each of them. Like Prohibited Hardback…that could be a character. Like a crazy bookseller.”

ME: “Hmm. Ok. Interesting.”

Slowly, these people began to take shape in my imagination; a little Italian village with all these odd little stories and personalities. A butcher, monk, fortune teller, store clerk, banker, an alchemist, ratcatcher, a gravedigger.

Each one with a story; a monk desiring to experience the world outside the monastery walls, a rough wool merchant falling in love with a beautiful weaver, a gravedigger struggling to save the dead?

By the end of the day, they were all there. Close to 30 characters in all.

And now, Daniel and I are out in New Mexico, giving flesh to these characters, lyrics to their thoughts, and melodies to their lives. In the other room Daniel is writing each character’s story. In this room, I’m turning his stories to lyric.

I want to share each of their stories with you.

Here is Daniel’s story of the Gravedigger:


You’re Not That Far 

I dreamed.

I looked up and saw you, slight and wisp among the clouds—high and framed against the setting sun. I longed to join you, but in trying to, I felt a sudden heaviness on my body. I looked down and saw the chains that encompassed me. They were thick and unbreakable. I looked back to the sky but you were nowhere to be seen (not knowing then as I know now that you had fallen to earth). I longed to find you.

I frantically searched the horizon, but you were not there. My chains felt so heavy. They were unbearable, suffocating me. I gripped them, pulling and tearing until my fingers and my soul were raw and bloody. Although the pressure of the chains against me made me feel like a drowning man, I still searched for you.

I longed for a single glimpse of you. Cognizant, somehow that you had slipped from the sky, I searched the shadows on the ground.

I smelled your fragrance close to the earth. Looking down at my feet the soft curve of your hand had broken the top of the dark, loose soil. You laid in complacency, though your fingers lingered on the surface. Kneeling, my hands plunged into the cold ground. Trying to uncover you, I dug furiously.

The darkness was coming fast now.

So deep you were in this grave. But not alone you lied. A shadowy and twisted figure clung close to your weakened frame. Lying half-exposed in dirt it curled around you, nestling jealously against you. You shied strangely from me, in this our twilight.

Your lips moved, saying nothing. Your eyes spoke to me in silence:

“Lay me down in the ground where you found me,
Your arms are too weak for my weight.
And this cold and earth that surround me,
Are more than enough for my grave.”

But reaching out and taking your hand in mine, I spoke:

“No matter how deep it is
In your end of the ocean,
I will dive forever,
Just to drown
In the shallows of your hands.”

Night fell.



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