We smoked, talked and drank coffee. I was not suprised to learn that behind his tough front Dustin was artistic, intelligent and unpredictable. We slowly talked ourselves closer to what is was all about: Songwriting. As I watched intrigued, Dustin picked up the guitar and began slowly and meticulously to put on 3 metal finger picks. This only added to the whole cow punk mystery of the man, and somehow reminded me of Edward scissor hand: The hyper sensitive with the tough looking front.
I made a few attempts. Stopped. Considered. Analyzed. The fear started creeping in……. could I ever come up with something that could match or live up to this amazing piece of music ? I started thinking, instead of just feeling, reacting and trying…..-which really is what songwriting is all about. If you start holding back and doubting yourself -then you are about to lose it.
I knew that I had to play to my strengths: Melody, emotion, development, hook and arrangement, But the fear that whatever little I would be able come up with would never be able to match this amazing song idea, had planted it’s seed in the back of my mind…. I fought and I fought….. I refused to let it happen ! - I hadn’t written for a while and had had very little sleep and lot’s on my mind as I left the UK the day before. But already on the plane from Heathrow, London to the Chicago transfer had I taken a decision: That whatever happened and however stressed out I might be at this particular moment, I was NOT going to let it bug me down on this trip. I was gonna write, I was gonna open up, I was gonna shine ! -Back in the room we worked on the song for a few hours, and we arranged to meet up a few days later to finish it off.
When I later left the bar again I was all fired up, invigorated and inspired. In the cab back to The House Of Songs I started thinking about ideas for Dustin's song. I was imagining an anthem of some sort. Like a Bryan Adams/ Bruce Springsteen song but with more grit, something you could imagine a stadium singing along to. BOOOORN IN THE USA or THOSE WHERE THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE, the American equivalent to a big U2 song: An Anthem ! I imagined people waiving banners like a mix of a big Demo and a arena concert.
As soon as I staggered in to the front room of The House Of Songs I grabbed the guitar and I bashed a few chords out. A-D-G. Big open chords….BA-BA-DAM and the chorus seemed to just form it self, it just came out of my mouth though the words at the time went: “Oh Oh Oh with a banner in the air Oh Oh Oh I see you everywhere”. I wasn't sure what it meant or what the connection was with the rest of the song, but I liked it. It had that anthemic thing going on and it worked well with that verse idea Dustin had come with.
I went out on the porch, fired up a Marlboro, took a sip of a can of Texas Lone Star, and felt very cowboy as I looked into the clear cold night. It felt like there was frost in the air. Like frost had had arrived coinciding with me flying in to town. “The colder northern spirit to the hot blooded rootsy, vibe of the south” perhaps….I thought full of self importance…… I wondered how cold it could get down here and thought about the hundreds of cowboy movies I watched growing up, where the lone gunman wakes up by the fire at 6am freezing to the bone. I figured it probably could go near 4-5 degrees Celsius, but probably not much lower, as we weren't in the mountains…… I looked up again and the sky was covered in little yellow stars like the Texas lone star had been multiplied by what seemed like thousands.
I caught only the last half of a song of Dustin's band as they finished their regular gig that night. However, I showed up and he liked that. He introduced me to his magic guitar player sideman Jeremy Nail who I later got to know very well and have since written several songs with. I also got introduced to Dustin's girlfriend/future wife Kayla plus a couple of her friends, who seemed to be up for a party. So later we hit The Continental -a classic Austin venue.
-That’s at least what it feels like, thinking back…..
We where downing bottles of Lone Star, laughing and swaying to the blues rock band that was playing. I tried to get to talk to Dustin, but he seemed busy networking, walking from table to table, saying hi to some, getting introduced to others. Kayla caught my eye, laughed and shrugged, as if to say “That's just how he is....”, but I felt a hint of sadness from her. And I felt like we somehow where in the same situation. Waiting for Dustin’s attention. I wanted to know more about this guy, about Texas and all. We had a party going on but he didn’t seem to join in, just doing his own thing,and I was kind of in a funny situation with his girlfriend…..
The next band of the night came on, it was a 4 band night. A steel guitar was brought out, two Telecasters, drums, bass and a fiddle. Minutes later country music filled the room, the kind of country music you haven't heard if you have never been to Texas or traveled in the South.
A handsome looking cowboy came up and asked one of the girls we where partying with if she wanted to dance. The next girl got asked out and Kayla turned around and smiled at me with a cocky look. “I bet you’ve never danced two-step”, she drawled and continued: “Come on here, lemme teach you”.
And as if I had had a chance she swiftly reached out, grabbed my hand and pulled me out on the dance floor. I was quickly being showed a couple of basic steps and then whirled into this full-on country music barn dance. It was so much fun. I was obviously ridiculous at it and was very self aware, partly also because of the fact that I was dancing with my new friends girlfriend and I really didn’t completely understand the dynamic between them.
I looked around, couldn't see Dustin but I felt his eyes at the back of my neck. When I finally saw him I knew I probably had gone too far. He looked like he felt threatened, and the last thing I ever wanted was to ruin this great new songwriting relationship we where developing. I was torn in two; I was on the other side of the world and having a great time with new friends. There was nothing sexual in the dancing or in our interaction and there was no intent from me to take it any further, and we where a part of a whole group of people having a drink and a laugh. However, that's easy to say when you are the “intruder” with nothing to lose, and not the one who’s in a (perhaps unstable) relationship feeling threatened. I backed off. Said my goodbyes and stumbled up the backstreets of downtown Austin. Back to The House Of Songs.
That night, as snow started falling over Austin for the first time in 20 years, I wrote the middle 8 part of our song in one go.