This is blog #2 of 7 in my track by track guide to my new DIY album, Millennials Are Going Gray. Track #2 is “Empty,” a song about the positive side of physical, emotional, and philosophical “emptiness” — that it gives you the space to fill up with something good.
“Empty” was one of those ideas kicking around in my head (and ideas folder) for years and years. The basic idea behind it, partly inspired by a Bouncing Souls lyric (“Destruction leaves an empty space/ In emptiness again, I begin to create/ Feeling good again now, in some new kind of way/ Feeling good again now” –Apartment 5F), is that emptiness can’t be all bad because it creates space for new, positive things. From the first time I jotted it down, I always had the idea of one verse being more about an emotional emptiness or hopelessness and another verse being more about spiritual emptiness, of not believing in anything outside the natural, observable world.
I never got further than an outline because every time I came across the idea, it just didn’t inspire me. The only reason I finished it when I did is that it was one of my simpler ideas (if you know me at all, you know I’m not the best at keeping things simple — and no, that’s not a humblebrag, it’s absolutely a hindrance to everything I do). From time to time when I’m feeling uninspired and need a quick songwriting victory, I try to finish one or more of my simplest ideas that has been hanging around for a while and never inspired me. When it comes to ideas I LOVE, they tend to take forever because I’m more prone to overthinking and coming up with way too many ideas, whereas if I’m not as into it, I always know I can cobble together a lyric and melody fairly quickly. What’s interesting is that while sometimes they do come out mediocre as expected, many times they surprise me and become fan favorites, or even more surprising, I actually grow to love them.
I wrote the chorus first, standard for me since catchier and lyrically abstract lines come easier to me than more detailed/descriptive ones, which I’ve always found weird. Then it really started to come together when I started playing the strumming pattern over it. I’m not sure how to describe it music theory wise and I’m sure it’s fairly common, but I’m happy to admit that I stole it from Frank Turner’s “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous.”
The chords and the rest of the melody came to me fairly logically (I won’t claim it’s a musically imaginative or innovative song in any way), and there you have it, I got a pretty catchy song out of an idea I only felt so-so about. Many people have told me it’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve written. My dad compared it to Taylor Swift, ha! (I’m not quite sure why since my style sounds nothing like hers in any way, but I’ll take it.)
P.S. The eagle-eyed (and those who watched my Facebook Live listening party) might catch my lowkey Marie Kondo reference. I got a bit swept up in that craze with everyone else… for about a day before I lost interest, though I did adopt some of her principles and, well, it made it into my song.
If you ever feel lost in your life when you think that you’ve failed
And it’s one thing after another like you’re sitting on a train that’s derailed
You can always escape with mindless TV and sweatshop sweeps
But what if you took the challenge to do something of value, to keep dreaming?
This is not a dark abyss, it’s a big empty pickup truck
And not every space needs some junk just to say it’s filled up
But if you’re gonna fill it up, if you’re gonna fill it up…
If it’s empty, then fill it with the things that you love
If you’re empty, give your best, don’t you know you’re enough?
Know you’re enough
What lies beyond this planet and this life is still mostly unknown
And it’s something that we all must come to terms with all on our own
And I know you’ll be tempted with tales of better places and higher plans
But sometimes the greatest beauty is to design it yourself
And live it out as best as you can
You can fill it up with trash someone told you you needed to have
Or you can fill it up with magical things that spark joy that will last