Welcome to blog #4 of 7 in my track by track guide to my new DIY album, Millennials Are Going Gray. Track #4 is called “Brianna,” it’s my first finger picked song and it’s actually a true story dating all the way back to my preschool years!
This actually tells the story of quite possibly my earliest real memory (i.e. one that I can be sure didn’t come from seeing a photo or from an older person telling me about it later).
In my preschool class, the first girl to turn 5 (in early October, if I remember correctly) was Brianna. It was a tight-knit class, so we all started chatting. For some reason, one of the other kids became really interested in whether she had magically developed the ability to tie her shoes now that she was 5. We all thought about it and it kind of made sense: None of us 4-year-olds knew how to tie our shoes, but the 5-year-olds in kindergarten usually seemed to know how — there must be a reason for that. Even Brianna got hopeful. She fumbled with the laces, but sadly shook her head after a few moments, almost ashamed, when she realized she still had no idea how to tie them. We were all pretty disappointed, to be honest.
I think we were close enough friends at the time, but I haven’t seen her since preschool ended. So, much like the friend from “We Were Pioneers,” this memory (which I’ve thought about quite a bit actually, and had wanted to write a song about for years) made me think about how my life has developed. And, again like “We Were Pioneers,” it lent itself well to a philosophical analogy.
Obviously, as an adult, it seems ludicrous (though sweet and endearing) to think that someone could magically develop a new practical skill just by having a birthday, without any training or practice. However, people of all ages still seem prone to thinking that life’s lessons and milestones are meant to come to us effortlessly when we reach certain points in our lives. We think we’ll find the perfect jobs or partners on our first tries, for example, without ever experiencing the embarrassment of failing at getting what we want or the pain and suffering of dealing with a bad choice.
I’m sure that new versions of this fallacy come with age, but I can only say from experience that by the time I hit my mid to late 20s, I thought I would have just magically settled into a successful and fulfilling life. And while I’m not unhappy or unfulfilled, I’m far from successful or settled. This is a theme that comes up throughout the album, but juxtaposing it with this concrete story of 4-year-olds, I think, lends it a new angle.
I had been meaning to write a finger picked song for a while, something new to me even though I’ve been able to finger pick passably since taking classical guitar lessons 10 years ago (!!). Guitar techniques are like vocabulary words: your vocabulary is usually much bigger than the words you actually use, because most people are just going to stick to what they’re comfortable with most of the time.
This particular style, I picked up from Frank Turner’s “Be More Kind,” which he apparently stole in turn from his idol, John K. Samson, who apparently stole it from someone else (I’ll have more to say on this in my next post). I learned to cover “Be More Kind” and enjoyed playing that style so much that I started practicing it all the time, and it ended up naturally completing this song that I’d been stuck on. I love it when things work out.
Remember the day you turned five?
The rest of us thought you were the oldest girl alive
We asked if you could tie your shoes now
You fumbled with the laces, then you bowed your head down
Oh Brianna, are you looking out your window like I’m looking out mine?
Just like that our faces age
Sitting here waiting out the rainy days
Oh Brianna, are we ever going to be okay?
Now that we’re old or so it seems
Isn’t it time we should’ve captured all our dreams?
All we wanted when we were young
I almost can’t remember, it’s been so long
And I know the truth
We’re never, ever, ever going to catch up over tea
And I know that’s youth
There’s no more hand to hold, but we’re free
Brianna, are you looking out your window like I’m looking out mine?
Time has passed but we’re the same
Lost and unskilled, and waiting to be trained
Oh Brianna, but it’ll be okay