Shadow Puppets And My Little Baboon - Album Notes
Shadow Puppets 2023 - Song Notes:
North South East And West - This is a song about hope and helping others find their way through hard times. A couple of songs on this album has to do with depressive disorder. We’ve had family and friends go through some scary bouts of depression. It’s such a helpless feeling when trying to assist someone who is going through hell. That’s what it is, hell on earth! Most of the people we know are too embarrassed to receive help from family and friends, let alone a professional. We come to realize that being a good listener and offering advice only when asked is a healthy start for all parties. Otherwise, it just pushes them away to the point of shutting down. We try reaching out to them on a daily basis but even that would be recognized as intrusion. This song was my attempt to give a little light in what can be the darkest of tunnels.
Shadow Puppets & My Little Baboon - As a songwriter I usually leave perception to the listener. But for this album I’m choosing to add liner notes to each song. Giving the audience a more personal explanation of each composition. This album is so much like a scrapbook of mine and my families life for the year 2023. The song is literally about when Lisa and I first started seeing each other. We would lay in bed with the bedside lamp on and make shadow puppets on the ceiling. It also has the day dreams of a ten year old version of myself, who fantasizes about how I wanted my life to be. Who my wife would become and the children we would share. The baboon in the story is Lisa. When she smiles her nose crinkles up and reminds me of a baboon. I know it sounds horribly mean but I assure you it’s the cutest little thing that we can both laugh at.
Digging Through The Cereal Box - When my sister and I were kids, we would always try to be the first one to open the cereal box to retrieve the secret toy at the bottom of the box. This would cause many arguments. My mom would eventually get us our own box of cereal to prevent the bickering. I also talk about playing with my dad in the rain. I have more than a few amazing memories of my dad and I playing in the rain. We are true Pacific Northwesterners. In that rain or shine, we will tread on.
Breathe In - People handle situations very differently. We all see something dissimilar, even if we travel the same trail. I can make a statement and mean one thing, then the next person who hears or reads it may have an altered perception. I try to represent the distinctive diversity in people and how we all can be so diverse. The song came to me from a memory I had on the farm with some baby gosling playing hide and seek under a pile of leaves. Who would of thought that after thirty plus years a song would come out of it. It’s magic.
Hardened Life - Plain Jayne was writing songs for our second album when we came up with this song. We wrote the music to the song and when it came time to finish the lyrics we ended up writing two different songs that shared the same music. Both songs were heartfelt and personal. Ryan and Zane would write about Ryan’s childhood with his mother and I would write about how I perceived my father as my hero. So how could one choose what lyric to use or better yet, what lyric not to use? Luckily for us we always recorded a “Not So Plain Jayne” album every year to hand out to our family’s for Christmas. We ended up recording both songs and released them one year. I always regretted not recording this song for our second Plain Jayne album. My pride once again got in the way and carelessly let this song go to an album that few would hear. It deserved to be heard. This is my way of trying to right a wrong. But more than that, I love this song and it’s meaning more than any other song of that time. It’s truly a masterpiece.
Waiting For My Moment - My great friend Gauta (Randy) Ioane and I wrote this song one afternoon. He called and said that he wanted me to read some lyric sheets that he had been working on. Now keep in mind, Randy is an amazing lyricist but he doesn’t write music. Taking someones lyrics and putting them to music is literally the hardest way for me to write music. I have no idea what he hears in his head when he writes his lines and it’s next to impossible for him to explain it. So as I was sifting through about twenty of these stories, I finally got to one that clicked into a melody. As we explored the lyrics and rearranged some of the lines I realized that this was a story about a relationship that ended badly for him. He and I wrote the rest of the song together and ended up with an anti-love story. This could be the ingredients to any country song. But knowing Randy, it needed to be a power ballad.
The Gorge - I used to rock climb with my buddy Keith back when we were teenagers. But as I got older my interests went else where. In 2021 another great friend of mine, Lee called me and gave me this “We’re not getting any younger” speech. His idea was to get out to see and touch places that no one has ever been. He had previously taken a trip to the Oregon coast and visited a place called The Devils Cauldron. It’s a majestic place that has practically a 360 degree wall of cliffs. It’s almost as if the earth built a football stadium on the edge of the ocean that you can peer over. Where waves crashing up to 100 feet onto the cliff walls. It’s huge to say the least with its ocean filled 300 foot sea walls. After Lee told me about this place, he suggested that we could eventually rappel down this cliff for a future goal after a few years. We wound up concurring that goal just a few months later. This song represents the natural beauty that I find when driving through the Columbia Gorge here in Oregon and Washington.
King Of The Mountain - My Cousin Rhino brought this riff to me at our studio on our farm when I was about sixteen years old. He said, “check this chord position out. I can play the same fingering on about four positions on the guitar neck without having to move my fingers.” It was one of those hidden key moments that unlocks another drawer in the never ending quest of guitar knowledge. We never wrote anything using this configuration. I used it for warming my fingers up for shows through the years. But when this acoustic album presented itself, I decided to give Rhino a call to finally do something with the riff. We sat down without an idea in mind, other than his original idea. After about ten minutes we had the skeleton of what would become an epic song. Rhino played all the hooks in the recording and I would finish everything else, including the lyrics. Music is so timeless and this song is the proof.
City Lights - This song was originally recorded around 1998 for the first Not So Plain Jayne album. When we decided to release an album that didn’t have to be written by all four members of the band, it gave us the freedom to bring literally anything to the table. That meant the freedom to explore other styles of music, to bring in guest artists and to even record cover songs. Ronnie had been working on a feel good easy listening type song that he couldn’t finish. That happens a lot with songs. You sometimes find yourself writing half of the song and hit a brick wall. That’s when a producer or another song writer steps in to help encourage the progress of the song by suggesting lyrical or musical ideas. That’s when I offered to help and ended up coming up with the second verse. It turned out to become one of my favorite songs ever.
Pass It On - I originally wrote this song for an conceptual album that I was working on that had about nine songs that flowed into one another. Similar to the end of The Beatles, Abbey Road album. I recorded the entire album but didn’t quite like how it turned out, even though the songs were all pretty good. This song was one of three songs from that album that I used for this acoustic album. Although stripped down from its original recording, the song offers the quest we all share for the need to spread love and knowledge to one another.
Leaving November Behind - The poem Auguries of Innocence by William Blake has always been one of my favorite pieces. The thought of seeing a world in a grain of sand has always fascinated me. So I decided to write a song that somehow related in some way to the poem by Blake. The line, “staring at the worlds on the ground” is a direct reference to the sand from the poem. And the line, “pick one up to take us to a place where nothing is found” is a reference from Buddhism of not needing material things. I love writing lines that leave interpretation wide open. So many of my heroes have written songs that are so relatable because they chose not to give their audience “the answer.”
Celilo - Lee and I were heading out towards the Columbia Gorge to go rock climbing at a place called LeeHow. It’s a place where we developed about twelve climbing routes that rest on the side of the Columbia River. As we drove, Lee shared a story about Celilo, a place that offered more than just majestic waterfalls. This village is one of many where the Indigenous people thrived and hold sacred to their people. He explained that the government built a dam, currently known as The Dalles Dam which resulted in the devastating flooding of the village. Halfway through his story, I started to hear the music for the song playing behind his words. And by the time he had finished his story, I too had finished the song and its lyrics. That again is the power of music and how fast that magic can appear. I encourage you to research the story of Celilo. The fight to reclaim the village to its original state by tearing down the dam is still being fought. I feel we need to leave the waterways alone so their wildlife, vegetation and the Indigenous can once more flourish as they once did.
Not Afraid - The thought of where my life might be if I would have gone left instead of right has haunted my thoughts throughout my entire life. The “what if’s” in life can be both exhilarating and frightening. This song tells a tale of just that. The thought of, if you continue working your fingers to the bone for that extra dollar, your life may not turn out the way you hope. And that with one simple action toward self enlightenment, you can change your life completely.
If I wonder - Do you love or hate certain flavors of jellybeans? Well I do, the popcorn favor,,, yuck. That’s the thought I had when I started writing this song. The song is just about the wondering of life's moments. Nothing more, nothing less.
Mr. Humphrey - Plain Jayne played an acoustic show in 1999 to an audience of our family and closest friends. We took our heavy rock material and converted the songs into clever auditory anthems. We always loved how the nuances of this song acoustically played on the ears. Layer upon layers of melodies along with a story that breaks the soul. Ronnie happened to be in town as I was tracking this song and decided to help me record it. What we came up with that day is an incantation that surprised us beyond belief. We had no idea that the original version of the lyrics had more to the story then we thought. We were able to find new life in the song and we were also able to take the song on a musical journey that had previously not been there. Again, magic.
I Take My Time - I wrote this song back on the farm. Just out of high school, and during that hard time of making decisions of what comes after that. I remember being afraid to step out into the world of being an adult. I recall my older aunts and uncles asking me, “what are you going to do with your life?” I hated that question. That's where this song came from. A thought that would explain that I’m not in a hurry. Give me a moment to figure out my next step. Let me breathe from being in an institution full of peer pressure, isolation and judgement. I knew it wouldn't be any different in the real world, but please give me a moment.
Golden Rule - Have you ever been curious about how much time we waste in life by waiting in line? Whether it be in the grocery store, on the freeway or being on hold when your on the phone. How about that conversation you wished you would have had? This song tells a story of a man who lives those thoughts and realizing that life has these rules that can't seem to be avoided.
A Child Never Dies - I wrote this song back in junior high school. I always thought it was kind of sappy, but as I got older and a bit wiser it kind took on a deeper meaning. It’s universal. Love is love and it fits wherever it is directed.
The Distance - I chose to record this song towards the end of this project. It was bouncing around my mind for a while. I kept thinking that it would be fun to put an upbeat, punk’ish song on the album. This was written by my long time friend Paul Watts with a little help from me. Pauls lyrics have a timeless way to say “I miss you.” We’ve recorded various versions of this song a few times through the years, but never released it. I love how simple this song has always remained and when recorded acoustically, it forces the listener to focus on the story.
Left Field - Now that I’m getting older my voice needs a lot of upkeep to sing in my lower range without fluctuating. My upper register is as strong as its ever been. And on this album I chose to use a vocal style compared to singing to my children as they sleep in bed. I chose not to color or push my voice in anyway. This song was a huge challenge for me, being that it sits in the weakest part of my vocal chords. The key falls in-between my upper and lower part of my vocal range. It took me a few weeks of recording and re-recording to get it to a place I was happy with. I absolutely love this song and it is in my top three on the album. I can imagine someone like Ray Charles singing this song in a way that only he could. I will probably one day re-record this song with a full band and give a more soulful rendition. I hear it in my head and can’t wait to put it to tape.
Empty Water - I was playing drums one day and tipped my glass of water onto the floor. That’s when this song entered my head. It simply tells the story of that day. Anytime I can pull a song out of my head that relates to my family is a dream come true. If you think about it, I am creating a document of that particular day. I’m guessing people who write in a daily journal can relate. I am just creating emotion through music with mine. Try watching a horror movie with the sound turned off. It’s not scary at all, in fact it kind of looks silly. Music has a way of painting the imaginary picture. It fills in all the spaces and tells our mind what we should be feeling.
Faceless - I have to tell you that I’ve always wanted to record this song. From the moment it fell upon my ears I felt jealous. It’s one of those songs that I wished I had written. One that got away from me. This song was written by Plain Jane’s, Zane Whitmore. He recorded it for the first Not So Plain Jayne album. Zane has a way to force you to feel exactly the way he wants you to feel in his lyrics. It’s a gift that is shared by people like Brittany Howard, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Trent Reznor, etc. I was beside myself when he gave his blessing for me to finally record this song. I chose not to rearrange anything in the song. I mean, how do you change perfection? You can’t. You fucking better not. And believe it or not, this very simple composition was the hardest song to sing for me on this album. The way Zane phrases his lyrics and the melodies he fits in-between those phrases are next to impossible to replicate. All’s I can say is,,,, GENIUS.
Hide And Seek - When I decided to go all acoustic for this album, one of the first people I wanted to work with was Tim Breazeale. Tim and I had always talked about writing and recording a funk album. I knew right away that this album would need an extra tooth in the sprocket to hold the listeners ears. It needed a song that stood out against all the other songs. So I knew Tim was the musician who was going to bring that refreshing breath to this project. (There is an internal joke in that last statement “refreshing breath.” Being that Tim would purposely smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of beer and eat five pepperoni sticks before he and I shared a microphone for shows. Talk about nose bleeding, stink ass breath.)
Sister - What side are you on? That’s the question we find ourselves asking these days. This song is about my sister and my relationship after I found out who she was as a human being, and her stance on equality for all mankind. I am a huge supporter of human rights, civil rights and love for any and all. A huge supporter of being who you want to be and being called whatever you want to be called. Why would anyone care or try to suppress someone else in that way? I support and love the LGBTQIA2S+ community and share an amazing family full of ❤️. A supporter of government reform across the board and making our public servants accountable. There are so many great public officials that get a bad rap from the dirty ones. I support women and not only equality across the board but also women being in complete control of their bodies and what they do with themselves. I support better funding for mental health awareness and support. Look,,, to me it’s simple, love all, help everyone and don’t leave a footprint. I know how disappointed my father would be. But I know he would be proud to see me standing on the side of progression, love and equality.
Begging You For More - This song almost didn’t make the album. I myself am not a big fan of it, but everyone that I had listen to it loved it. Go figure. This was another song off the concept album that I never released. Though the song turned out completely different from the original version, I still kept the reggae vibe that it originally had.
Cheating Eyes - In 1999 Plain Jayne was deep into recording our 2nd album. We would get crazy offers from fans to play house parties, motocross events and even strip clubs. Even though we owned our own recording studio, the studio was expensive and we needed the money. We got this offer to play a battle of the bands and the winner would win $2500.00. We didn’t ever play those types of events because music is so subjective and the judges were alway corrupt in some way or another. There was a hitch that was presented after we played our closing spot. The promoter said that we were guaranteed to win. No matter if the Foo Fighters showed up to play, Plain Jayne was going to walk out the door with the money. It was a fucked up situation that we wouldn't normally put ourselves in. We gladly took the money from the crook, paid each band for their time and walked out the door vowing never to work with that guy again. To this day, that guy is an A&R rep for one of the biggest record companies in the US. It just goes to show that the music being heard by the masses is chosen from people of power. People who have no idea how to play an instrument or write a song. That’s why music is in the state it is in. When was the last time a current young artist inspired you to learn an instrument? Hmm?
Leave Me - The people I’ve known who suffered from depression have always left me wondering, how? I think everyone on the planet has had a bad week, month, year. But how does someone fall so deep that they feel like they have no other choice but to end it. For me, subjects that inspire deep thought influence my writing. This song is a result of me trying to put myself into their shoes. Though the subject and the outcome of this song is horrific, it is realistic for many.
Shut Down, Reboot - I first noticed music playing in my head when I was about four or five years old. My dad pointed it out to me when he noticed that I would always tap to it or hum it. He asked what I was humming or tapping to. I would tell him that I wasn’t sure, that I’ve never heard it before. It was very distracting as a child, especially in school. I had a very hard time focusing on anything because the music would be so loud in my head. It would dissipate a little as I got a little older and started playing instruments. With my guitar or piano, I would start learning the songs I heard in my head. That would quiet them down for a bit. Now a days, I try to get them out as quickly as they enter my head. I put myself in the studio and record them or simply hum them onto my phones voice recorder. It puts my mind in rest mode knowing that they are safe to recall at anytime if they are on tape. Some call it miraculous, I call it a curse.
Writing on the walls - I recorded this song on my first solo album, “Will Helm Scream?” I’ve always loved the meaning of the song. Being that it basically states how close other families seem to be in other countries that don’t have the distractions of technology. I know there are shades of grey to that concept. But there is some truth to it. The song has always been one of my favorite stories that I’ve written. I started playing it on piano for fun a few years back and thought how I wished I could put this version out. It kind of takes on a different meaning when you hear it simplified and slowed down.
Tobi - To talk of death around certain people can be ominous and sometimes forbidden. Most people feel very uncomfortable. There are cultures who after living a full life celebrate and actually look forward to the passing into the new life. Myself, I couldn’t fathom the thought of losing my Lisa or my children. I hope that I go before any of them. And when I think of my own death, I have a calming acceptance to that reality and am ready when that day comes. All we can ask for is to live a life full of experiences, good and bad. I have lived an amazingly full life. I feel my experiences in life equal four times of what most have experienced in their lives. Whether or not that is true, it feels comforting to wholeheartedly believe that. I don’t have the worries of not having succeeded in my dreams and aspirations. I feel like I’ve done it all. And what ever happens next is just the sprinkles on top of the muffin. I’ve lived such an amazingly full and happy life. It’s a blessing to have walked on this earth, share a moment or two with this person or that person and to have gained so many experiences (good and bad) to share with my children.
From the darkness I see a spot of light.
Though the journey to capture it will take a lifetime to overcome.
Good, bad, life and death, I will need them all before I rest.