The story behind “13 Years”

As you know, almost all of the songs we write tell stories. We want to share those stories with you. We’ll post the story behind the story for each song on 13 here for you to read. The plan is to feature one song each week for the next 13 weeks.

As the heart of the CD, the song 13 Years is first up. Without further ado, the story behind 13 Years as related by Allen Kitsleman.

From The Bitter Liberals CD 13

The Song 13 Years

I met Kim Jensen while playing an Irish pub in Killington Vermont in the late 90’s. This was during ski season. Kim approached the band after our show and said she loved our music and wanted to help us find the audience she thought we deserved. She was the CFO of three major magazines in Boston at the time, and was a force of nature as a business person. She got things done.

The thing that really made our friendship click was our shared love of the power of music and the belief that songwriting was a sacred form of human communication. She took over as our management, starting both a management company and a record label from scratch, which led directly to the high water mark of my musical career—the 12 Days Genghis Angus recording.

Kim believed in my writing and showed me how to believe in it too. We set forth on the journey of working the record for a couple years. The band toured cross country, played hundreds of gigs, traveled thousands of miles, worked as hard as we could. In the end, the record was picked up by another larger independent record label, was licensed to MTV’s Real World Hawaii, and got us to the E-Town and Mountain Stage radio shows. We even sold a few units and got some AAA radio play.

Like most records, the trajectory of 12 Days was slightly less successful than that of Dark Side of the Moon, and soon it was time to turn our gaze toward the horizon. Kim had established contacts with other artists and was working on other projects as a sideline to her corporate roles when she was accused of some sort of malfeasance. I don’t know the truth, because it never reached the light of day. I can tell you, though, I believe Kim was too smart to do anything unethical. It is my belief she was scapegoated and left holding the bag in her corporate world, and her music endeavors were used as a weapon against her. I believe she saw what was being done to her and the threat to everything she had worked so hard for.

Kim took her own life in December of 1999.

That was the end for me. I walked away from the music business in reaction.

Well, that was the end for me until 13 years later when I met Gary McGraw at a party playing music in my living room. The spark was palpable. We realized there was a strong and mutual musical magnetic pull there, and we eventually discovered purely by playing for the love of it with Clark Hansbarger and Mike Jewell that we had stumbled on something unique and beautiful. The mutual respect for the song, the meaning, the space, and the power of music was there for me again.

“13 Years” is the song that I could finally write after my fellow bitter liberals set me free again. The song puts the tragedy of Kim’s death into a manageable set of containers. It broke the dam, and the music has started to flow again.

Allen Kitselman

Read the lyrics to 13 Years.
Learn the story behind When the Night Will Let Me

9 thoughts on “The story behind “13 Years”

  1. Pingback: 13 Years: The Bitter Liberals « Apothecary Shed

  2. We bought a number of cd’s after the concert last week so that our children could hear the music. I have listened to the cd ten times or more, and I find the song, “13 Years”, haunting, yet lyrical and beautiful. Really, I love all of the songs. I am so glad you guys have gotten together. I am looking forward to many more concerts and songs, and stories behind the music.

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