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Songwriting: Three Days on the Mountain

I’m eventually going to get around to a whole series on songwriting – but this will be baby step in that direction. I wanted to touch on this song because the circumstances around it were a bit different from the norm.

First, and apropos to this song, people often ask, “Do you write the lyrics or the music first?”

Yes. Yes, I do. I always write the music or the lyrics first. But hold that thought.

To start, this song was an idea borne out of a window conversation. At the time I worked in an office and occasionally, when you had a break, myself and another colleague, Tom, would stand at the window and talk. One day the topic of relationship troubles came up. But also, it was almost time for my families annual backpacking trip out west. Mountains were on my mind.

I recall suggesting that if he wanted to forget relationship troubles, he merely needed to go into the mountains, “I promise you, within three days you’ll be lucky if you remember her name”. “That sounds like a country song”, he replied. And we laughed.

Fast forward to our backpacking trip. As we marched down the trail that conversation popped into my mind. “Three days on the mountain and I’ll be lucky if I remember her name”- why, that is a country song. I need to write this down.

There was only one problem. I had forgotten to bring anything to write with.

I normally bring a pen and paper to take a diary, jot down thoughts, keep track of the ever-important euchre score from backpacking related euchre games. But this particular year I had forgotten these important implements.

But I couldn’t get that line out of my head.

Then the next thing you know, the next line and the next line popped into my head. Over the course of the day, eventually I worked out the entire thing in my head. There was still a problem – nothing to write with. I kept singing it over and over to myself until I memorized it. This is because I had to remember it… for the entire week that we were in the mountains.

Every morning I would wake up and see if I remembered it. Every night I would tuck into my sleeping bag and sing it in my head.

Eventually, the trip ended, and we returned “to the world” and I was able to write the song down. And since I had worked the whole thing out on the trail – it was easy to set to music.

The first and only time I worked out an entire song in my head before writing it down.

And here it is - let me know how you think that it came out:


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