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 Finger in the Air as related by Clark Hansbarger.
The song “Finger in the Air”
Finger in the Air is about a man and woman who have come to a compromise, an understanding in their relationship in which they seem to accept that any mishap, any conflict, any and all trouble is entirely his fault. When something bad happens, her go-to reaction is to point a finger—usually the middle one—in his direction while she runs in the other. That he takes her back each and every time implies that somehow this all works for them.
As we have come to know about love…to each his own.
The song grew out of the the chorus, which I wrote first, sitting around my kitchen one evening. I like play guitar while Ginger cooks supper, not out of any gender-driven work patterns, but because she is a better cook and I can play guitar. Anyway…I was strumming a C chord when I pictured an angry gal driving off in an old Impala with a dream catcher hanging from the rear view mirror—a mirror in which she was watching her man receding as she waved her arm out the window, finger in the air. As happens in this twisted mind of mine, I saw then a whole life—a frustrated dreamer who claims a rather exotic heritage: a little bit of Cherokee, a bit more Norwegian, a lot of finger pointing, and plenty of anger.
It’s an ironic story, and, I hope, a darkly humorous one. Even as she blames her man for every wrong, and lights out for new pastures each time they fight, he can’t get enough of her. So, when she leaves, he “bides his time and waits,” which I think is kind of sweet. Unconditional love at its best (not to mention strangest).
The song is an important turning point for my songwriting, because it was the first one I wrote with this new band structure in mind. When I brought it to the band, we built the arrangement first around the drums and bass, letting Nick create a tasty Nashville shuffle while Mike played a standard country bass line. What’s cool is how the song shifts in the chorus, where Nick tosses in some beautiful rolls while Mike changes up the bass with a run that turns my head each time we play it. Listen closely and you’ll hear it.
Gary and Allen took hold of my instrumental hook and bent it into something their own (a change that frankly took me a while to get used to, though I love it now.) As the song progresses, the hook becomes the only instrumental lead, with Allen adding a few more notes and bends to it each time it rises in the song. Then Allen and Gary arranged the harmonies, which includes Allen’s eerie (and kinda humorous) Cherokee war cry.
When we recorded the studio version, Allen said he wanted to add a track of pedal steel type licks, and stepped into the booth and laid down a one-take series of very fun slides and bends that pushed the song that much further into real country. The resulting song is so damn fun for me that I want to write an entire album of Nashville flavored music now!
Here is a video of Finger in the Air from our CD release gig at the Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville shot by Michael Hobert.
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