Nostalgia-tinged Rock n Roll

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Cleverly Titled: A Deep Dive Into The Lyrics of "Holy Ghost"

A quick foreword:

I feel like it’s important for me to say, before I dive right in to bearing what is essentially my soul to the internet, that I’ve never really believed in telling friends/family/listeners what a song is about. Everyone experiences lyrics at different times in their life and I don’t want to rob someone of a truly unique interpretation of what I’m saying. I think partly because sometimes I don’t even know what I’m saying until I take a step back and look at what’s happened. The creative process is like that for me. All consuming. It is like a fever dream that you wake up from and suddenly there’s art where before there was not. I dunno. It’s all a little pompous (and slightly egotistical), but that’s what art is. All that to say, this record is different and because of its difference, I feel like it can help do the songs more justice to give some context to each. That and, I suppose, I have had a LOT of people ask me about song meanings, lyrics, etc… So ego be damned. Let’s dive in. 

Holy // Ghost

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been preparing, at least subconsciously, for the breakdown of these lyrics. Ever since the words bled out onto the page I knew there was a story here. An innocence lost. A belief system abandoned. That’s why it became the cornerstone for this record. There is so much to unpack about the words here that it’s going to be hard to avoid spelling it all out, line by line. Since the internet isn’t SUPER keen on reading a short novel about one song (that wasn’t written by Taylor Swift I guess…) I’ll spare you the gory details. Not all the gory details though… you’ll get some of those.

If it doesn’t matter, Tina, then why even hold my hand?”

I’ve had a lot of people ask me who Tina is. Like… QUITE a few friends are very curious about who I’m talking about here. I don’t believe in giving anyone the satisfaction that I’m writing about them by naming them directly. So, I won’t name them here either, but I will tell you how I came up with the name. Years ago, my wife asked me how songwriter’s choose names to go into songs. Diana. Rhiannon. Delilah. Billie Jean. I really didn’t have an answer because I feel like sometimes it’s a very direct and organic thing. You just name the person you’re talking about. While sometimes you try to take a backdoor to all that upfront honesty and attempt to be poetic about it. This is the latter. I wanted a two syllable name and settled on Tina because 1. I don’t know any Tina’s (so no one’s feelings would get hurt) and 2. it’s a cute shout out to yet another band I was influenced by (Young In The City). I told you those shout outs were filthy all over this record. Anyways… That’s the story behind why I put Tina on there. Yes, Tina is a person I know. You can speculate as too who it is.

“It’s like the winter made you notice that this town is filled with the ghosts of when we were younger, more reckless, and less afraid of what comes next. “

This line is probably the most run-on sentence of the whole song and yet, it makes a ton of sense to me. Something about the endless days of frigid fucking boredom during the Midwest winter makes you take stock of what you’re doing in life. That can be a really scary road to venture down, depending on who you are. For me, I wanted to project some of my own insecurities about who I am and who I’m becoming as I grow older, onto this character I’ve created. I think everyone has those moments where they wonder if becoming older has made them stagnant. 

“So light me up. 

Don’t let me fade out.

Get me drunk.

We’ll tear up the town.

We’re living one last time.

Clear liquor and cloudy eyes.”

I wanted to include the whole chorus because from my point of view, it’s super tongue in cheek. It’s almost so sarcastic that it comes off nasty. When I wrote it, my thought was to take these verses that are super honest and introspective and partner them with a chorus that is seemingly stupid. As if you’re having a conversation with someone that gets too deep and you cop out by saying “Let’s get drunk!” I really like that idea because it’s something I routinely do. 

“If you don’t wonder if leaving couldn’t turn it all around.

If that midnight train out of Pasadena couldn’t help you settle down.”

Damn I really just might break this down line by line… Oh well. You’re in it now right?

I used to (and sometimes still do) have this daydream or fantasy, of just getting in my car and driving away from everything. Never saying goodbye. Not taking anything with me. Just disappearing to somewhere else, as someone else, and starting over. I don’t think it would solve anything. Really, it would probably just hurt a lot of people I care about. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. It just means that I don’t tell anyone when I am thinking about it. So… yeah. Let’s get drunk!

Oh, by the way, yes Midnight Train is a shout out to journey. I mean who hasn’t drunkenly sang along to Don’t Stop Believing at some point in time. The Pasadena shout out is actually to a handful of people from the area that I admire and respect a ton. Eric Lilavois, Joe Olender, Celeigh Chapman. Those three were a huge part of my first west coast tour as a solo artist. We capped off a run of shows in Pasadena, CA at Eric’s studio. I slept on the couch in the studio, but not before I played every single SG Eric owned. It was amazing. 

“Meet me somewhere east of Eden, timshel.”

This line is ripped straight from East of Eden and I felt like it needed to be there to set the scene for an absolute gut-busting bridge. The theme I was playing off of is “Thou Mayest” or the idea that we all have the choice of who we become. We are free to be who we want. More on that later.

“I am who I am because I want to be and you’re not just pretend because I don’t believe.

I’d repent for my sins, but they’re a part of me becoming a better man.”

Ok it’s later now! This bridge is probably the lyrics I’m most proud of on the record. Not because I feel like I’m being edgy or trendy or anything like that. Because this came from a really open and honest place. I don’t subscribe to, and frankly I abhor, the belief that we are not enough and therefore need a deity to make us whole. Humans shouldn’t have to devalue themselves in order to elevate their God. My mistakes are what make me who I am. They are not shortcomings in my character, but foundational building blocks on who I will become. My identity is not as a sinner. You matter. You are enough. You don’t need someone or something to make you whole. Anyone who says you do is either trying to sell you something or is searching for that truth themselves. 

As a final thought, you know what’s really scary? Acceptance. It is really hard to accept ourselves as the wildly inconsistent, emotional, crazy, and weird animals that we are. Also, accepting that we’ve majorly fucked up in the past, and will more than likely majorly fuck up in the future, is a really tough pill to swallow. In fact, it makes me physically sick to think about the terrible person I used to be. The things I used to say. The mental gymnastics I would play to dehumanize those who I disagreed with. It’s disgusting. But you know what? Those mistakes matter. That guilt matters. That bad taste ensures that I’m going to do my damndest not to repeat that behavior. I don’t want forgiveness for the sake of my own self-righteousness. That forgiveness will come through my future actions and whatever those may be, will be my choice. 

Now let’s get drunk.


Feel free to speculate the rest:

Holy // Ghost

If it doesn’t matter, Tina, then why even hold my hand?

If it doesn’t make you a believer, then why even pretend?

It’s like the winter made you notice that this town is filled with the ghosts of when we were younger, more reckless, and less afraid of what comes next. 

It was all cigarette smoke and your holy ghost.

So light me up. 

Don’t let me fade out.

Get me drunk.

We’ll tear up the town.

We’re living one last time.

Clear liquor and cloudy eyes.

If you don’t wonder if leaving couldn’t turn it all around.

If that midnight train out of Pasadena couldn’t help you settle down.

If that wild heart just keeps beating and you can’t drown out the sound.

Meet me somewhere east of Eden, timshel.

I am who I am because I want to be and you’re not just pretend because I don’t believe.

I’d repent for my sins, but they’re a part of me becoming a better man.”

Isaiah Dominguez