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 Karma as related by Clark Hansbarger.
The song “Karma”
The song Karma is metaphysical gumbo — a catalogue of the ways our lives are directed by our choices and circumstances. The chorus of the song says it all, “no matter what you do, it’ll all come back to you.” Whatever you think, however you act, whatever you wish, it’s coming right back at you! In the end, our relationship to the world is circular, not so much in a classic definition of Karma, but in that we are each the center of our solipsistic universe and in that way (as the center of perception) all we do leads back to us.
I’m not sure the concepts laid out hold up to close ontological scrutiny — but I’m not sure they really need to. In the end, Karma is just a song , which, like an essay, is at best only an attempt to express an idea, to stir the pot.
I wrote Karma as a jangly Americana piece. My Gibson J45 guitar sounds best when played hard, so I was strumming a strong back beat in Em when the words began to come.
Because the lyrics are essentially a list of possibilities, the lines came easy. No plot to follow. No conflict or climax. No movement toward resolution. Just a flow of ideas chugging along.
When I brought Karma to the band, Mike Jewell was still with us, and he put a steady conga beat to it compliment my hard strumming. Allen then wrote one of my favorite hooks, which the song now opens and closes with. A warning, though. His hook is an ear worm; listen to the song a few times and you’ll be humming his guitar line the rest of the day.
When Nick Shrenk and Michael Rohrer joined the band, they designed a very tight, driving rhythm, changing the song significantly. The new bottom allowed me to strum less and give the song more “air,” more room for the other instruments to rise up. I love the way the song now has more of a Bakersfield Sound, more of a stripped down, rockabilly country sensibility.
The song’s structure is pretty simple: three verses with a bridge. “In the end,” the song ends with a rousing jam between violin and lead guitar. The interplay between Gary and Allen is fantastic. Listen closely, and you’ll hear their dueling and dancing as their entangled leads accelerate. In concert, performing Karma is usually my favorite part of the evening.
We performed Karma live at the Tin Pan in Richmond. Here is a video.
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