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. “Forever Young” is the fourth track from my latest release, The Fine Print. For convenience, the lyrics and YouTube & Spotify streams are at the bottom of this post.
Along with “The Bench at the Top of the World,” “Forever Young” was one of the first songs of this batch that I instantly enjoyed playing, so I’ve been playing it all year long.
But unlike “Bench,” this was the type of song that needed time to marinate before I could finish it. I remember when I first had the idea to write a song called “Forever Young” about the trade-off between financial independence and the freedom to do what I love. What an original idea, right? But if songwriters are still allowed to write love songs, then lord knows I should be allowed to do this.
At the beginning, I (ironically) struggled with a lack of emotion and passion for this song. I finished the lyrics pretty easily because I had a lot of experiences and emotions to draw from as well as specific verbal ideas I wrote down in preparation. But the lyric just made me feel nothing, and that wasn’t right. Interestingly, the final lyrics aren’t that different from the first draft. But when I’d first finished it, I just couldn’t come up with a melody that wasn’t boring because frankly, the lyric bored me. Maybe it was a self-consciousness that the topic was unoriginal, or maybe I had just spent too much time working on it. But I actually set it aside for a while, as in a few months.
Then later during 50/90, when I was desperate for finished songs to keep inching my count towards 50, I forced myself to look at it again. I was like, okay, I basically have a finished lyric, it cannot be this hard to come up with a melody, just come up with anything so you can call it finished, and then do what you want with it later — refine it or throw it away. But luckily, I’m a perfectionist, and that part of my brain refused to let me come up with just anything. In fact, because I was having trouble coming up with a good melody, I spent more time than usual refining it as I wrote. For example, I wrote a handful of different melodies for the main hook (“rather be forever young than prematurely dead inside”) before I settled on one, and I think it’s a lot better for that.
When I recorded it, I think this was probably the arrangement I did the best job on. I wrote some really nice electric guitar and bass hooks (again, contrary to popular belief, there are no keyboards in this song, it’s just guitar!) and then I pieced some drum loops into a pretty neat track. I don’t hear any glaring flaws in levels or timing like I do in other tracks. Judging by conversations I’ve had, the arrangement was the main asset of the song. It doesn’t seem to be a fan favorite or really hook people in by itself.
But I personally have a soft spot for this song, for some reason. It’s still my second favorite song to play on the album, largely because it’s easy and fun to sing and play. There’s a sweetness to the lyrics and the melody that resonates with me, even though I feel somewhat detached from it. Like, I wrote it about myself, but I feel like I’ve been growing out of it all along; it’s just something I felt like I needed to express regardless. It’s almost like an ideal philosophy for me, my version of Frank Turner’s “Photosynthesis” (a formative song for me). I’m particularly proud of the bridge section (“I used to hate songs like this too when I was afraid”), partly because it was a cool way to change up the song’s dynamics, but for me that’s also the most personally expressive part of the song. By the way, that was a little reference to my surprising dislike of “Photosynthesis” when I first heard it… which is a long story that’s somewhere in my past blogs if you are interested enough to find it.
Overall, I like this song because it was one of those times when I set out to express something and did so perfectly. I don’t mean that the song is musically or lyrically perfect, only perfectly mine. Every songwriter has different goals they try to achieve with their songs. For me, that one is paramount, so I will remain proud of this song regardless of what anyone else thinks of it.
When I was five I used to think
I would be settled in some pastel yellow house by now
On a pretty little row of pastel colored houses
With a hardworking husband, who looks like a prince
And a couple of funny, precocious little kids
I might be a pantsuit professional
Or a working writer, or a teacher
At any rate, a stable job, not still just a dreamer
But I think I’d rather be forever young
Than prematurely dead inside
To wake up every day and work on a dream
Is a blessing I’d never take lightly
It’s not a failing
These days, I wake up every morning, just after eleven
Spend most of my days reading and writing in bed
Still living with my mom, like when I was seven
But there’s meaning and method, I’ve got a direction
And the biggest surprise
Is I never dreamed this life could make me so happy
And stoically settling for plan B
When you never even took plan A all the way
Just because time marched on and you got afraid
That isn’t success
I used to hate songs like this too when I was afraid
So if you hate this song, it’s not too late
I used to hate songs like this too when I was afraid
So if you hate what I’m saying, it’s not too late