At the time, I wasn’t much of a conceptual writer... My songs would always appear through life experiences and it almost seemed like I would have to snatch the song out of the air before they drifted passed me.
This song wasn’t much of a snatch. It seemed almost like a weight that pressed into me in the moment I opened up the Logic session and began demoing the acoustic guitars.
I had written the word Illuminated in my notes app on my iPhone about 4 months prior to writing this song. Only one word. No other notes to it, no concept to it... it was just a word that projected a mental image to me that brought an idea of exploding lights and opened up skies. I like the idea of darkness interupted. It held zero personal significance.. That is until that coming December.
I remember stepping into the kitchen of a house my family had just rented out after being forced to sell the home we grew up in. My fathers company had just took a massive financial hit due to the housing market crash and I was in the midst of watching everything we’d ever had dissapear including my families collective sense of security. My grandmother was lying on what would be the bed she passed in and my father was on the phone with his sister. I already had assumed what news she was bringing to my dad. As soon as my father set down the phone, I watched the man who raised me straight backed and errorless falter into vulnerability as anyone would upon hearing this news. My grandmother had passed just a little after midnight during that December evening.
I had never seen my father wounded before. I had pissed him off plenty of times. I knew exactly what him mad looked like. Hell, I was a once his teenager. I made the guy rip his own hair out I’m sure. But this was different. It was strange. My father collapsed into me for support and as he broke apart on my shoulder and as I looked over his, I looked out our living room window to catch a soft burst of Christmas colors and warm lights shifting through the window shade.
Through seeming chaos and storm, there is always an end and the sun eventually rises. And in the often cliche’d concept of darkness and light; even in darkness there can always be light, whether it’s a rising sun or not. We ultimately have to choose how much of that light we want to let it in. I learned through these experiences that more then often, that responsibility is on you... sometimes you can’t wait until that sun rises. You have to flip a switch or admire the small patches of illumination that are around you. Ulimtately, that’s what Illumiated is about. Despite the seeming chaos, the obvious curveballs of life, you have to make your own hope sometimes. Sometimes thats simply changing your mind set. For me, it’s writing a song that audibly lifts my spirit.
I wrote the song starting with what would be the rythym section. The drums played the main role in the development as I wanted the song to drive hard and be on a constant push from beginning to end. I wanted loud and major while keeping the song dynamically rollercoaster esque. Drawing a lot of ideas from music I had played in church, I followed the “small verse, big chorus, quiet bridge” formula. Bringing the song into the studio, Dustin, the producer on the project, suggested I take the bridge and keep the drums driving and the guitars big. This would throw out my original dynamic rollercoaster idea and put the song on a constant climb from start to finish. At first, I was annoyed. I liked my sentimental, reflective bridge the way it was. You will not often hear me admit to this, but sometimes (often...) the producer is right. We went completely against my demo, drove the drums and guitars through the bridge and landed into a quiet half chorus. This was where I could place my sentiment and what we call in the studio “compromising.” Another thing I learned Dustin was tyring to do is keep my length of time on the song under control. I like dropping out and building right back up so much so that this songs first cut was around five minutes long. Shaving off the fat of these quiet, only personally poignant quiet parts, we were able to shave off almost a minutes worth of what turned out to be uneffective material. We picked it right back up after that half chours and drove the song right through the ending.
Illuminated was the first song we tracked in our current project and it ultimately layed the groundwork for the five other songs that would follow. Reflecting on the completion of this track, I can revel in how much you can learn from simply recording a song. In the end, we are all artists. Whether your an engineer or an intern, the entirety of the process has it’s part in every section of a completed work. If a song that’s supposed to punch doesn’t punch in playback, it won’t be effective. If a part in a song is quiet and contrived when it should be loud and in your face, it’s meaning will be useless. These are things I now keep in mind after making this song. In all honesty, Illuminated showed me that I hate to love the whole recording process. It’s definitely the favorite and something I look back on proudly.