In this installment of “One Song” I talk to Sam Tayloe of Time Sawyer about his song “Tired of this Tired.” Time Sawyer is performing in a Common Chord Concert in Charlotte November 16th, 2013. Sam is the lead singer and one of the two songwriters, along with Kurt Layell, for Time Sawyer.
The song he chose to talk about will be on Time Sawyer’s next album, which is going to be recorded this fall, but it’s available now in a video by LL2 Productions. In the video, Sam’s vocals are accompanied by acoustic guitar. One of the strengths of this song is that the lyrics lean toward the symbolic and can be interpreted by the listener, but the feelings of sadness and frustration are made clear by the melody and imagery.
I’m so tired of this tired
The bend and the break
We move to the tunes but only songs that we play
Feeling left in the valley, an earthquake at bay
What I wouldn’t give not to wake up and say
I’m tired of this searching cause I’m tired of the find
And the words always yield the same fruit from the vine.
It’s a world without passion or passion is blind
What I wouldn’t give not to keep one in mind.
So tired of this tired.
I get up on time, never wake up too early
My days run along to a script
But the troubles I find and the folks behind ‘em
Weigh on my mind and my eyes they weigh in.
I’m too tired of this searching cause I’m tired of the find
And the words always yield the same fruit from the vine.
It’s a world without passion or the passion is blind
And the decisions we make only keep one in mind.
The tired on my tongue is not from sweat or of sun
It’s a tiredness of mind and a heart that’s undone.
There’s a kindhearted few with a eye for the crowd
You other sad souls you’ll not need come round
Although listeners with any kind of weariness or frustration can probably find something to relate to in these lyrics, Sam was willing to talk about what inspired him to write this song as well as the process of writing it.
Before we talk about the lyrics, I’m curious about what approach he will take when he records the song in the studio later this fall. The song, as recorded on the video, features raw, emotional vocals, and I wonder if something will be lost if the rawness is “prettied up” too much in the studio or buried by lots of instrumentation. Sam says that he thinks it’ll stay close to how it is, with a couple additions.
“I’ve really been thinking about it lately. We’ve got a great bass player coming to play bass for us. I want it to be acoustic but I want bass on it. I think I want some pedal steel. It would be a little eerie. I want it to be a little eerie. Like not your general pretty, classic…it would be more of a Neil Young Harvest Moon… a lot more resonance. I don’t listen to a ton of Neil Young, or, I didn’t really. Kurt (Layell, lead guitar) listens to a ton of it, but I got to where I do really enjoy it. The reason I got that idea was because Bob (Barone, pedal steel) had said he had just worked on a record where somebody had said ‘I kinda want you to do some pedal steel like Harvest Moon.’ And I went and listened to a little more of that. I’m sure a lot of people emulate what Neil Young has done, but that was some stuff I had heard in some other folk music I like a lot and it kind of made me think about that as a good option.”
The finger-picking guitar style in Tired of this Tired isn’t something that shows up in a lot of Time Sawyer songs. Sam talks about the role it played in the song-writing process.
“I usually have to have some guitar playing first. I’ll be playing guitar for a while and I’ll get one line that just comes out. I said ‘I’m so tired of this tired.’ I kind of knew what I wanted to do with it right after that, and I wrote it while I was playing. I like finger-picking. We don’t do a lot of finger-picking full band stuff, so I guess it’s kind of what’s keeping it on an acoustic level for me, cause it is more of a sweeter song. Finger-picking gives you a little more of that body, also being able to tell a story just by yourself.”
He admits that guitar-playing isn’t his focus and that often when he sits down to work on playing leads or learning a new scale he ends up just playing chords and writing, but in this case, the finger-picking adds an instrumental melody that plays off the vocal melody, and adds a lot to the song.
“I’m glad it came together like it did as far as working off each other. I’m usually pretty bad about it. I’m just worried about the words and if I can find some chords that go along with that little ‘let me say what I want to say’ kind of thing. For the most part, that’s what I’m worried about. “
So what is the “tired” that he sings about? It’s a lot of things. In this song he takes stock of his life and his friends’ lives as they pursue, or don’t pursue, their passions, both romantically and in their careers. He’s twenty-three, a year out of college. He and his band-mates quit their jobs in March to focus full-time on music, so when he talks about taking risks and following passions, he’s speaking from personal experience.
He trains his eye on the world around him and one of the things he sees is selfishness, a lack of commitment to other people.
The line We move to the tunes but just the songs that we play speaks of our tendency to do just what’s right for ourselves and not others. Or as Sam puts it, “if you want to be along with me on my ride then come along.”
“I feel like there’s a lack of commitment to a group effort. Recently when we played a wedding somebody was saying, ‘the advice I can give you, the farewell before you go off and be married, it’s gonna rarely be a 50/50 relationship. Not saying that it won’t be 60/40 or backwards, 40/60. But there’s gonna be a lot of times when it’s 80/20.’ And being able to understand that and live that and be gracious enough with the other person that you care about is huge in my opinion. We don’t do that. No one is wanting to give, they want to give as much as they say they can right now. “
This reflection on selfishness shows up in other lyrics as well. In the lyrics the decisions we make only keep one in mind, the one being kept in mind is the one making the decisions. At the end of the song he acknowledges the people who do think of others: the kind-hearted few with an eye for the crowd.
“I’m tired of what we do being around anyone. I feel like it makes people end up unhappy. Like we make decisions that are easy or whatever’s right this very second. And living for the moment — that’s something that, in a good context, is the way people should live and not hold back. But at the same time I think that living only for the moment puts you in a situation where you’re missing a lot. It’s putting yourself in a very selfish situation. “
I ask him about the expression, “You should live as if this is your last day.”
“Yeah, that’s perfect. That fits very well.”
“If you live like it’s your last day…”
“I’d say so much shit that I shouldn’t say.”
Another thing on his mind as he wrote this song was a lack of passion, whether romantically, for our goals or just for things that we love.
“There’s a bunch of musicians, it’s not ‘cool’ to say ‘this is my life and so important to me.’ Especially if you haven’t made it. Like if someone asks you about your lyrics it’s just like ‘What do you think it means? Yeah, that’s it.’ I guess, don’t be afraid to say how much you love something. If you have to be a dork about music then be it. Don’t be afraid of being a dork. I saw that online, not sure that’s the word but I’ll say it: ‘Being a dork means never having to lie about how much you love something.’ Don’t lie about how much you love anything. If it’s a person, especially.”
Sam sings I’m tired of this searching cause I’m tired of the find. I ask him what the “find” is.
Sam talks about searching for passion but finding people settling for mediocrity in relationships and work, and discouraging others who don’t want to settle. He hears messages like “You can’t feel that passionate about somebody because it puts you in a dangerous situation. Go with someone you’re pretty happy with but you’re not worried about that other person as far as what they’re going to do to you, or what happens if they’re not there anymore. ”
“But isn’t that what it’s supposed to be like?” he asks. “(They say) you can’t live your life for somebody else. But in my opinion that’s what it should be like. If you could find somebody and you feel that strongly about each other. That’s the only way, in my opinion, it should be. It’s not really living for someone, it’s having someone else share your life and vice versa.”
There’s a line in the song: Left out in the valley with an earthquake at bay.
Sam says it’s about “trying to be content, or too content, or ‘satisfied enough.’ Not getting too excited, not getting too low, I’m ok right here, there’s not a ton I have to worry about, but that earthquake…watching it… I’m not going to go there, because of a possibility of something earth-shattering and it could be bad.”
“So the earthquake could be good or bad?”
He’s got an interesting perspective on being “too content.” We’ve all seen this on social media. People talk about their problems but then dismiss them, saying they should be grateful that they have food and a place to sleep.
“There’s nothing wrong with understanding how blessed people are and I feel that way about myself. The stuff we have we should never forget. (We say) ‘I’ve got all this good stuff, I’ll just have this mediocre relationship with either my friends or the person I care about. I don’t have to worry about eating during the day, and I’m so grateful for that.’”
“First World Problems?” I ask.
“Exactly. That’s a social media term for you. I think we use gratefulness as this weird crutch. It sounds odd cause we should always be grateful for what we have, but letting that be ‘a way out’ of fixing other problems you’re still unhappy about is a misuse.”
Whether it’s from fear or complacency, he sees many people afraid to take risks.
“People are scared to jump off into the deep end because it’s gonna take a long time to get back. And I think that is a lot of what that is. ‘If it doesn’t go right I’m just in a worse spot.’ Instead of thinking ‘This could be awesome.’
“I’m totally fine with jumping off the deep end if I need to. I’m willing to jump off the boat. I’m willing to jump into the deep end and swim around.”