About the Songs

Amazing Life 

"Sooner or later, every chapter ends. But there's always another waiting to begin."   

They say that life is what you make of it. I've always wanted to meet these infamous "they people," because I'd sure have a lot of questions for them. It's easy for self-help books to talk all about rising to conquer the challenges of life, making lemonade out of lemons, and all that. It's a lot harder to actually do, especially in the midst of the unthinkable calamities that some people endure. Yet, on so many occasions, we hear about those who have gone through the worst experiences, only to figure out later that in some way, it led them to or shaped them into what they were to become.  

Life's full of surprises. At one point, we may want something or someone so badly that it seems our life will be over if things don't turn out that way. Years later, we may look back and say, "thank God it didn't turn out that way!" The country band Rascal Flatts had a huge hit with "God Bless the Broken Road." Imagine how many weddings that's been the theme song for since Rascal Flatts released their version of it in 2005. A year later, Survivor (a band whose songs and melodies I greatly enjoy) released "Seconds Away," with the chorus lyrics: "we're seconds away from another tomorrow; seconds away from another hello; seconds away from a moment in sorrow; we're seconds away." Here we have two of the endless examples of how songs have captured the concept of life being an unpredictable adventure, a roller coaster ride that's far more incredible than anything any amusement park could ever come up with!  

If you've ever had the opportunity to visit any of the majestic mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes, forests, fields, and whatever else planet earth has to offer... if you've ever stood outside on a crisp autumn evening and stared off into the stars... if you've ever looked back at the moments of your life... the first kiss that left your spirit soaring through those nighttime skies... the endless laughter of a get-together with good friends...  the moments of triumph... all the opposites of these, such as the times of heartbreak, anger, setback, and failure... the various people that have come into and out of the various seasons of your life... how the path of your life has progressed and the tapestry has woven together... the mysterious jaw-dropping unexpected events when all seemed lost...   

An amazing thing that happened in the recording of this song was having the opportunity to have a colleague from Rhode Island blast out an awesome trumpet part over the last choruses. Bill Smith shared his expertise and talent for many special occasions at the church in Rhode Island where I used to lead the music ministry. To still be able to have him be a part of this inaugural project, even though I now live in Kentucky, was one of the many blessings that took place in the process of making Realign a reality.  

It's truly an amazing life, where promise fills the air. There's blessing everywhere. Don't ever give up, because the next one may be just around the corner. If anyone asks where you heard this, tell 'em one of the "they people" told you! 

Listen to the Light 

"One against the other while the halls of power thrive; we've been victims of the spin." This song's dedicated to the truth-seekers.  

As a songwriter, it's hard to answer the question "what's your favorite song you've ever written?" I like to make the analogy, as I'm sure many other songwriters have likewise done, that it's like asking a parent which one is their children is their favorite. I have a special attachment to all the songs I've ever been involved in the creation of. But if hypothetically I was ever somehow forced to answer the question, "Listen to the Light" would be a strong contender for that distinction. One reason has to do with the music. From the first time I ever messed around with that intro piano line and all that it lead to, I was electrified! The marriage to the lyrics, expressing a topic I've long been passionate about, amped me up even more. The creative part of the recording process was something I looked forward to every time I stepped into the studio. It seemed this song had room for everything plus the kitchen sink! When I heard producer Doug Weier's final mix, complete with Chad Martin's ripping guitar lead reminiscent of an 80s greatest rock hits compilation, I went into overdrive!  

I think most everyone would agree that in every walk of life, more goes on behind the scenes than most people are aware of. Even in the conventional, traditional study of history and current events, reading and research will uncover the many backstories and intrigue surrounding events. Often, all one needs to do is "follow the money." Think of how many movies and television shows have themes like this. Do we really think all the story lines come from pure fantasy? 

However, going beyond that, there are many who believe in something that's intentional and even diabolical. Society tends to refer to them as the "conspiracy theorists." They feel there's some sort of organized manipulation of events from behind the shadows by influential people who are the real power brokers of the world. These may be the super wealthy, the elites of banking and industry, etc. Others take it even a step further, and say the manipulation at its core is non-human. Some would say spiritual or inter-dimensional. The various religions of the world have always had their version of this. For Christians, these forces would be identified as demons or fallen angels; in the Gnostic tradition, they are referred to as archons; the Islamic and pre-Islamic world characterize them as the Jinn. I could probably fill many more paragraphs here with the various depictions throughout history and cultures. Heck, turn on the History Channel or go on You Tube, and you'll see there's a whole lot of people who believe in extraterrestrial interaction with humanity.  

Personally, I find these topics fascinating. Some of it seems "way out there," while some seems quite compelling and well-researched. Sometimes, even the "way out there" material seems thorough in its research. While going to the extreme of finding a conspiracy, or demon, or whatever, hiding in every corner would perhaps be overkill, wrought with its own pitfalls and slippery slopes, is there something to, for example, the idea that wars, conflicts, and division are instigated and guided by those who play both sides and benefit from it? We don't live in a vacuum. The Bible speaks of "the powers and principalities of this world," and as someone who believes in a spiritual component to our existence, would the darker elements of that not feed off of negative energy and conflict? But if so, then the $64,000 question becomes, "what can we do about it?" Well, some people may be led to share their insights on a larger scale, whether that be through writing, journalism, speaking, running for office, becoming an activist for a cause they're passionate about, music, ministry, or whatever. For others, that's not the case.  

Before I continue, I want to make something very clear. I think life is a learning process, and we keep learning until the day we depart this earthly realm. When I talk about this or any topic, I do so as one who's still very much learning, growing, and sharing that process with others. I don't claim to be any expert who has more answers than the next person, and I still have a lot to learn. I personally believe there's a lot going on behind the scenes that we know nothing of. I'd also be willing to bet that if that's the case, then those who are working behind the scenes would also probably be willing to create false narratives, or even some of the conspiracy theories themselves, as a way of leading the masses to a different perception of reality. 

So, my big confession is yes, I think it's safe to say I'm a sort of what many people might refer to as a conspiracy theorist. I mean, I don't have an underground bunker packed with twenty-five years of freeze-dried food or something like that. Like I said, sometimes things are just what they are, and you can't find a conspiracy in everything, just like the exorcist can't treat every case as bona-fide possession. But I do believe there's a lot more than we know about in all areas of life, and in many, if not most, events and situations, there are things that are hidden. However, one could spend every moment of the rest of their lives researching and never be able to say for certain what's what. That could be really frustrating, I imagine. There's so many different theories about so many different things, many of them overlapping or contradicting each other. Maybe we can't say for certain what all the specific details are, but do a lot of reading and studying beyond the "official" sources, and you can start to get a pretty good picture. I also can't help to have the hook of an old song running through my head as I write this: "I know there's something going on....."

I strongly believe that beneath and behind all of it is something bigger. Something beyond this realm of our existence. Call it the spiritual if you like. Think of it as the ongoing battle beyond the veil between good and evil. Think of me as an optimist, or naive, if you wish, but I thoroughly believe the force of love, goodness, and creation ultimately always wins. I believe when we consider this level of reality, this unseen realm, then things may start to make a little more sense.

That being said, regardless of what spiritual tradition or religion one comes from, the truth can start to become clearer and better understood by inward reflection. The idea of the Kingdom of God within has been a principle concept in numerous spiritual traditions, and I think before we can really be a source of positive change in the world, we need to get our own house in order. I'm willing to bet if each of us can learn to fight and overcome the negative energies and forces in our own lives and beings, we can then be a source of light and goodness in our daily interactions in the world around us, and choose love over anger, hatred, and impatience, even in the smallest daily situations. We can choose to create an atmosphere of light, love, peace, and happiness around us. If enough people start doing that, I think there would be a change for the better in the aggregate. All of this is where "Listen to the Light" comes from. 

As I said, some people may be called to action on a larger scale. But regardless of our situation, for everyone it begins with the small, everyday things. It might be something as simple as letting the rude driver cut in on you, or holding your tongue (keypad) on Facebook, or not going ballistic with neighbors over their horse-sized dogs leaving steaming presents on your front lawn (a personal favorite of mine). Don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting we become pushovers and wimpy wallflowers, not do I think that's what "turn the other cheek" means. There's a time for righteous anger and action. I just think far too often, we get triggered by the little, ultimately meaningless stuff. I know I often have.  

We need to awaken and face the reality that the world is possibly not always what we thought or hoped it was, and always seek to gain understanding of ourselves and what's around us.... to look within, and listen to the light.

Where Do the Children Go 

"Where do the children go, and who's that deadly piper who leads them away?"  

The Hooters were one of my favorite bands of all time. Their songs, instrumentation, lyrics, vocals... you name it! With "Where Do the Children Go," Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian created a powerful, timeless message to contemplate. It's a song I've always loved, and it seems more relevant today than ever before. So I decided to get a mechanical license and record my own version.  

I read where the original meaning of "Where Do the Children Go" was reportedly about suicide, and was based on a specific case of three young teens who killed themselves in Quakertown, PA in the early 80s. I've also seen interpretations that see the song as a commentary on the threat of nuclear holocaust, a central theme in the 80s, when the song was penned. In either case, the pressures and hopeless feelings that could lead a person to choose suicide, and the threat of widespread calamity and suffering, have certainly not decreased in the years since Hyman and Bazilian first conceived the song. In many ways, the pressures of growing up, along with the dangers we all face every day, have gotten worse. This is the context in which I interpret and experience the song.

It wasn't that long ago that the idea of children going to school and being gunned down by their peers was virtually unheard of, and definitely not in the social consciousness. In regards to mass violence in general, while there were occasional instances, it paled in comparison to today's figures. The violence in movies, on TV, and in video games was likewise no contest when compared to today's appetite for graphic depictions of such. In years past, parents might not think twice about a child playing outside or riding their bike around the neighborhood unsupervised. Not anymore. But today, danger isn't only out on the streets. It can be a few clicks away on a computer, tablet, or phone, all while in the supposed safety of one's own home. Even if they don't encounter strangers online, it's possible and probable they will encounter bullying, which technology has morphed to a whole new intensity. Alcohol and drugs (usually pot) may have always been a temptation for curious teens, but today, they seem like the minor leagues compared to what's prevalent and readily available. And kids of all ages don't have to look to illegal substances. The amount of drugs being prescribed to them has skyrocketed. Families are increasingly stretched financially, even in traditional two-parent homes. This means longer work hours and more time away from children. Not that the children may even notice, as the pressures to succeed at earlier ages, along with the endless activities, chip away at the childhood years. The world of pop culture and entertainment is also taking its toll on childhood. Young people are being groomed to value materialism. Music, movies, and TV are full of sexual themes, and sexual activity is taking place at unimaginably young ages. Human trafficking is alive and booming, and many children and teens, even from affluent neighborhoods, are finding themselves lured into hell by seemingly harmless interactions at shopping malls, libraries, and other familiar places. Children of lesser socioeconomic upbringing are faced with their own challenges, in neighborhoods riddled by gangs and families who in many cases have given up hope on any type of better future. Oh, and did we forget to mention the endless wars that are being fought around the world today, along with a global economy being stretched further and further to the brink? What about the children in other parts of the world who are groomed from a very young age for war? What about the ones both around the world and here in the United States who are hungry, and who live in poverty? Are their cries being drowned out by all the vitriol and political bickering?  

The scary thing is that the previous paragraph probably doesn't even begin to fully summarize what today's generation is dealing with. I'm not a parent. Maybe someday that will change, or maybe not. Though it comes with joy that I'm sure only those who are parents can comprehend, I'm sure parenthood has always been a major sacrifice, filled with challenges. I can only imagine that in the world of today, that's the case more than ever before. It's daunting when you think about it. Is it any wonder many kids today feel trapped in what seems like four walls closing in on them? Thank God for parents and stepparents who are willing to take on this challenge, and to navigate these treacherous waters. Every generation has its own unique story, and while the world has changed in the many years since Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman penned this song, its significance still resounds. All the best prayers and wishes to all the parents out there who rise to meet these challenges, and to the children of today, who will be the parents of tomorrow.

"They handed us down a dream, to live in this lonely town. But nobody hears the music, only the echo of a hollow sound."

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