I Ain’t Leavin’ You
I Ain’t Leavin’ You
This is my most recent audio recording (released January 2016), and one that marked a departure from the debut album, “Thief & Love.” The latter was recorded as a band, while this single was more of a solo venture. Not by choice. I love bands and always want perform and record in that context, but life has a way of shaking things up, so the fall of 2015 found me striking out on my own. You can find all the credits here, and I’m so very thankful to Brian, Sarah, Josh, Rev, Landon, and Stephen for helping me bring this to life!
Given the nature of the lyrics, it probably comes as no surprise to learn that the story behind the song is a darker one, but it is not without redemption. By the time I wrote these lines I was finally beginning to emerge from a long stretch (12-18 months?) of anxiety and depression, neither of which had ever presented themselves in my life before, at least not in such a way that I could acknowledge. I started having panic attacks, first only in a single isolated circumstance, then propagating into unpredictable settings like a sickly mold. As I’m sure anyone who’s ever experienced this, you’ll understand when I say that it was awful. Awful. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I was so very afraid of who I was becoming.
At the height (or depth) of this period, I was extremely emotional. There was a stretch of a few weeks where it was relatively common between of hours of 4pm – 7pm for me to experience deep sadness and eventually give in to weeping, right there on the kitchen floor trying to make dinner, or sitting on our front porch trying to make sense this mess. My wife is a living beacon of hope and joy; she was and is remarkably patient and loving, and she’s probably the only reason I came out the other side. But even in saying that, it doesn’t mean that anxiety and depression are behind me; I think they’ll forevermore be a small part of my psyche. The experience changed me, and I’m banking on that not being an altogether bad thing.
But as for the song! I hadn’t written much in many months, and one day I picked up the electric and started strumming through a simple C chord progression, and this first line came out, “All these tubes connected to you, an orchestra of monitoring sounds.” It was heavy, but that’s what was in my heart. The chorus, which had popped into my mind weeks ahead of trying to find a verse, is written from the perspective of my wife saying it to me, her undying devotion to live with me in the darkness, to help me emerge or die trying. The third verse (“She’s at a stoplight search…”) is a good example of my sensitivity to sorrow during that time. I would often be in traffic at a stoplight and look at other people in their cars and wonder what was going on in their lives, and one more than one occasion find someone crying. What kind of situation were they going home to? What decisions or circumstances had led them to this place? I’d never know, and they’d never know what was going on inside my head.
But the bridge of this song is what I’m especially proud of lyrically (“I can see your breath…“). I initially had a different set of lyrics but I knew I wasn’t happy with them. Urgency breeds innovation, right? We tracked the vocals and I sang the bridge that I had at the time. Listening back only confirmed that I absolutely had to write something else. Anything else:) So I spent at least a week wrestling this emotion that I wanted to capture out of the reaches of my mind and onto a page. I was constantly writing and arranging words anywhere I could: scraps of paper, notes on my phone. Essentially, I knew I wanted to paint a picture of the emotion rather than explicitly describe what I was feeling. For example, I didn’t want to write something like (from the perspective of my wife), “I know you feel alone but I’m here for you and always will be.” Nothing wrong with that, but I wanted something more descriptive and vibrant.
Finally, the right collection and arrangement of lyrics came presented themselves, very much like pulling puzzle pieces together: “I can see your breath from the interstate, It’s way too cold to be out this late. I’m pulling up slow on the passenger door; You can walk this road but you’ll never walk alone.” Someone has come looking for someone else, and is inviting them in out of the cold. Someone is willing to pursue someone else, despite the undesirable elements of their situation. That’s what I wanted to capture. It may not seem like much, but for me it was a proud moment as a songwriter.
As a last point of interest, this song required more vocal takes than I had ever given on anything from Thief & Love, and that took me by surprise. But when we started tracking I realized that there was so much nuance and emotion that I wanted to capture just right. Many thanks to Brian for your endless patience:)
The tone of the song is maybe darker than most, but for me the intended theme is hope. Everyone goes through heavy times, and everyone needs someone to walk beside them.
I Ain’t Leavin’ You
© Wes Gow
All these tubes connected to you
An orchestra of monitoring sounds
Everyone and no one else around
Funny how a day can change
Sixteen hours ago you knew my name
Now I lean in close can you hear me say…
You’re a long way down and I can’t even see the bottom
But I’m well into this darkness after you
I’m punchin’ holes into the midnight and the blackness
I’m comin’ up for air or I’m drowning too
I ain’t leavin’ you
She’s at a stoplight search for a tissue box
Catching the eye of a stranger walkin’ by
What if that’s all it took for you to see her life
Would you stop would you take a breath
Would you feel the weight of the universe on your neck
As she driveS away would she hear me say…
I can see your breath from the interstate
It’s way too cold to be out this late
I’m pulling up slow on the passenger door
You can walk this road but you’ll never walk alone