“Carolina Sky” was a co-write I did with Jerry three years ago. I love doing co-writes with Jerry. We write together in a variety of ways, but often (because he’s too lazy to work on ideas I start), he’ll send me a seed of an idea, and I’ll take it from there. Sometimes that seed is pretty fully formed, and sometimes it’s pretty raw. And I’ll pick and choose what I like and take it from there. One of my favorite things about co-writes with Jerry is that, in retrospect, I may believe I know what each of us contributed, but when I go back and check the original demos, I’ll often find I’m wrong. On “Carolina Sky,” for instance, I had modestly congratulated myself for writing the lines “we gave it all our very best/but we’re as far from north and south as east is to the west.” Crazy thing – turns out Jerry wrote that. Ah, well.
So what I’m going to do is to open the curtain and share with you Jerry’s original demo snippet – exactly what he sent to me – as well as my note to him (three years ago!) about what my intentions were for writing the rest of the song.
Here’s the demo snippet:
And here’s what I wrote Jerry, after a little work:
On Feb 22, 2009, at 6:10 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Alright, here’s the deal. Every once in a while, I try to write one of those Freedy Johnston songs, like “This Perfect World,” which, on the surface just sounds like a sad relationship song. Then you dive in and realize that something terrible and cinematic may have happened. Maybe not. Maybe she disappeared. Maybe she died. Maybe he killed her. Hard to say.
So, you started this one with “she set herself on fire again,” and I decided to take it metaphorically, but seriously. There’s a folksy timelessness, and there will be Winston-Salem regional touches (shutting down the tobacco plants and auction floors leave the narrator out of work). She’s a swan, he drags her down, he’s down on his luck, she’s angry about money, class, something happens. What? We don’t know, but she’s gone, gone, gone. This one needs a few more verses to paint the picture. The law comes around in the last verse and asks about her, but he doesn’t know “where she is tonight.” Lost love song, or was he confused and scared and forgot where he buried her? Either way, he’s not telling. Ideally, you can dig in to the mystery, but if you miss the point entirely, you still get a nice lost-love folk song.
And here’s the demo I did and brought to the band:
Great performances from the band when we finally got in the studio. This is exactly the kind of song I wanted to write for Les to sing, and he really nails it. There’s a mournfulness in his voice that inspires me. Wish I could sing with that kind of inherent sorrow. Steve plays accordion here, and it’s a perfect touch. He’ll be happy to tell you he’s just learning the instrument, but I think his instincts were strong. Jerry really drove the rhythm on bass, and me, well, all I had to do was to keep strumming. The VIP was Sir Ricky Lee Nathey on pedal steel. He came into the studio for half an hour, and all I had to do was run him through a Bassman with generous amounts of analog delay and give him a cold Budweiser, and we were in business. It should be noted that the solo was to have been Steve’s on accordion, but Rick’s “background” melodies were so strong that we really didn’t have any choice but to feature him. And those high notes at 3:25 still break me down every time.
And finally, a word on the title. I intended for “Long Night’s Moon” to be the name of the song. Long Night Moon, in some reckonings, is the name of the full moon in December. To me, this is a winter’s song, and the resonance of full-moon behavior is at the heart of the song. The “Carolina sky” bit was a throwaway line to me, but Jerry felt strongly that that phrase had greater resonance. I still have misgivings, but I’ve been wrong before, and, if anything, I appreciated the idea of using “Carolina Sky” as a deflection.
Definitely my fave MBG tune to date. Hope you enjoy!
LISTEN TO AND DOWNLOAD “CAROLINA SKY” TODAY!