As you know, almost all of the songs we write tell stories. We want to share those stories with you. Just as we did for our first two records (see the stories behind the songs on our first CD 13 and the songs on our second CD Again), we’ll post the story behind each song on our new CD now more than ever here for you to read. The plan is to feature one song each week for the next few weeks.
Here is the story behind Looking Out the Window for You as related by Clark Hansbarger.
The song “Looking Out the Window for You”
For this song’s story, I’ll open with a shout out to one of my favorite Virginia songwriters, Andy Hawk. I had just spent some car time listening to one of Andy’s stellar CDs when Looking Out the Window for You came to me. Andy’s sound and style was definitely in my head. His ironic folk-pop, alt-rock songs are peopled with lonesome, likable losers hanging on to problems with no clear solutions — much like the character in this song.
If you haven’t heard Andy and his band the Train Wreck Endings, you should have a listen.
Back to the song.
My wife Ginger was up in the boundary waters in northern Minnesota, canoeing with family. I had bowed out of the vacation to catch up on work and was feeling a little lonely, knowing I was missing out on some cool northern adventures. When I am home alone, I like to play my electric guitar turned up real loud. I was doing just that when the opening chords and the first lines of the song kind of jumped out at me. That’s how it often happens. A song sort of appears, sometimes as whole cloth; sometimes in fragments. This one came pretty quickly once I let it in.
Though the first line is true, the rest of the song’s story is invention. My gal Ginger was in fact “up above Ely (Minnesota) in a portage canoe,” but I’ve never been “stuck in a meeting” in Cleveland, never even worked in that gray city. And I’m not nearly as pathetic as this guy (or at least I hope not), though I have certainly experienced all the various pings and pangs love can bring.
Anyway, the song tells the story of this fictional narrator’s relationship with his girl from its inception to the present. He’s an angsty guy, not really jealous, just sort of filled with some free-floating insecurities and anxiety. But he wants to change — he really does — so the song has some hope of a happy ending. The characters love each other, and our narrator will be just fine once his lover gets home.
Musically, this was a fun song to work with. It’s our stab at a pop song [ed: with echoes of Arcade Fire and a very strong hook]. I play acoustic on it now, though, leaving the electric guitar work to Allen and his magic Telecaster. Other than the strong instrumental hook, there is no lead break, which keeps the song short and tight, like an early Beatles’ tune. In fact, just for fun, we closed it with a Brit Invasion ending, repeating the last four notes three times in an echo of the main hook.
It’s a gas to play live, because it’s a break from our usual style. Nick gets to pound on the drums louder and Michael runs a rocking bass line throughout. Gary’s violin falls to the background on this one, adding some rhythm chops and a few harmonic lines (other than the hook of course). No worries, though, Gary opens up the case and shines on the CD’s next two songs (which you’ll hear about soon enough).
All in all, for me, Looking Out the Window for You is emblematic of the new range of the Bitter Liberals.
We performed Looking Out the Window for You live in Berryville at the Barns of Rose Hill. Here is a video.
Please support our music by buying a copy of our new record.