#3 Have You Ever Slept with the Lights on? (“The Fine Print” track by track)

For the third album in a row, I’ve decided to showcase each track in a “behind the song” blog series. I hope some listeners find it interesting or helpful. “Have You Ever Slept with the Lights on?” is the third track from my latest release, The Fine Print. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.

***

Out of 50+ songs that I wrote in the latter half of 2020, this one almost didn’t make it onto my 8-track album. I wondered if it was too cheesy or childish. After all, it’s basically an unapologetic proclamation of fear and vulnerability.

I didn’t write it thinking I would share it. One of the main effects of doing 50/90 (50 songs in 90 days) and other intensive songwriting is that I don’t feel any pressure for everything to be good or shareable. I feel free to write exactly what I’m feeling and what I want to express — or alternatively, something completely silly and pointless (but in this case it was the former). Then when the songs are finished and I’m preparing for a release, I feel free to polish and share only what I still want to express and what I’m musically proud of.

I didn’t set the goal of releasing eight songs, I just planned to release however many songs I really felt like putting out there. There were some songs that I went back and forth on, and this was one of them. Musically, I did feel like this was one of the catchier songs, and that was confirmed when I shared the songs with other people. On the other hand, I knew the sentiments were not necessarily cool or socially desirable. But it was definitely one of the most genuine and honest songs in the batch, and that’s much more important to me in my music.

So, with two marks in its favor and only superficial negatives, it made the cut. And after asking about 10 different people to listen to the batch and tell me their favorite(s), this one handily got more votes than any other song. It seemed like that was mostly because of the melody, but I think the lyrics played a role too.

So in the spirit of being vulnerable and not caring if I seem cool or appropriate, let’s get super real. I was thinking about people I admire, like Frank Turner, when I started writing this, but it did become much more than that as I wrote.

I don’t know if everyone does this, but for most of my life (childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, which is only just coming to an end), as I’ve searched for an identity and tried to find my footing in the world, I’ve felt such an irresistible impulse to connect with people who seem to have it together and who represent who and what I want to be in the future. I know that’s probably just a part of being human, but I always felt weirdly ashamed and uncomfortable with that part of myself. I was always trying to find an explanation: why am I so obsessed with connecting with these people? What do I truly want from them — what do I want them to tell me or give me? And probably most importantly: how do I stop, and just become comfortable in my own skin and trust myself without regard to anyone else?

I think I only recently started to come up with a satisfying answer (and that’s only because I’m slowly overcoming this need and actually becoming completely self-reliant). It’s pretty stupidly obvious and simple: I only ever wanted them to tell me with absolute certainty that I would be okay. And of course, no one could possibly do that. But what this song is about is that if I could only tell them how I was really feeling with no “coolness” filter — that sometimes I’m really scared and I have no idea what to do — and if they could tell me that they 100% remember feeling the exact same way, and that they might even still feel that way a little bit now, albeit happy and fulfilled and successful and experienced, then maybe I could keep that knowledge in my pocket and touch my fingers to it when I need some strength and self-belief.

I say that the song became more than this because when I really get into a flow with a song and it becomes something worthwhile, it always takes on a life of its own. So I wasn’t just thinking about the people I admire. I was also thinking about my strengths and my perseverance in spite of every fear. I was thinking about how I felt as a child. I was thinking about young girls and kids right now who might be feeling that same way now. And that’s why I think I ultimately did want to release this song, because it really ended up meaning quite a lot to me by the time I was finished.

I did add more instruments to this one: electric guitar, some drum loops, and virtual bass (that I wrote myself). I would say I did a pretty good job; it was one of my favorite arrangements from the album. I’m probably proudest of the simple little electric guitar hooks on here, which I actually wrote pretty quickly, but they add so much. (Almost every single listener seems to hear them as keys, but they are definitely guitar!)

So basically, a deeply personally meaningful song combined with one of my first full arrangements that I did myself. I’m proud of this one, my friends and family like it, and I hope other people did too!

***

LYRICS

I’ve always wished I could ask you
If you were ever afraid
And how old were you when the fear finally went away
It’s been my steadiest friend
And though I try to defeat it every day
It’s so hard for me to fall asleep
So afraid of what could go wrong tomorrow

Have you ever slept with the lights on?
Do you get scared when you’re all alone
Do you ever worry that something’s wrong
And your safety net’s gonna break soon
Have you ever slept with the lights on, lights on, lights on?

But I get up every morning
And I force myself to follow a dream
My stomach never settles and my heart struggles to break free
But with every word from my mouth
And with every face I meet
I know these nerves are just excitement
A sign that shows just how much this all really means to me

Someday I’ll do my best to help
The next generation like you help me
And maybe I’ll never get my answer till one day
My most promising protege asks me the same thing

Have you ever slept with the lights on?
Do you get scared when you’re all alone
Do you ever worry that something’s wrong
And your safety net’s gonna break soon
Have you ever slept with the lights on, lights on, lights on?

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