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Writing Considerations: Last Leap of Faith

Most of the time, (as discussed in Jake's Guide to Songwriting) when I write a song it is either because I’ve decided to put lyrics to an interesting guitar lick or chord progression, or I’ve come up with an interesting thought or lyric idea that I want to set music to.

But every now and then I write a song because of a challenge or other exercise. For example, “Didn’t Care About Money” was in response to a challenge to see if I could write a song, limited in length, to two minutes; that still told a story.

(Which I then stretched to two and a half when I decided to record it). Another was in response to a lack of country music-based Halloween songs, which resulted in the song, “Legend of Hangman’s Hill” .

For the first release off the “Rode Hard” album, I set a writing challenge for myself, to see if I could write a love tragedy type song.

I had been musing on the saying, “leap of faith”, which often connotates people making a leap into the unknown and trusting to providence. But then it occurred to me that my daughter's name is Faith – and thought, here is another opportunity to write something that has a play on words that I’m often known for.

Thus, what would happen if Faith was a person? Then the “leap of faith” would take on an entirely different meaning.

I was also inspired by Nickle Creek’s “Lighthouse” which is just absolutely haunting. It is also a love tragedy story, set in a lighthouse.

Instead of a lighthouse, I decided to use a castle as a setting, and then set the time to some period in which people might live in castles. And then to set the conflict I went with the classic “my Dad doesn’t like you”. The challenge then comes to introduce the characters that reflect that.

In a castle overlooking’ sea

Came a love that wasn’t meant to be

For he loved the daughter of the lord

though he knew it’d never be his place

For her hand he’d take a leap of faith

She had been a happy girl

And had what she needed from this world

For her father was the castle’s lord

But when he saw who caught his daughter’s eye

He’d intervene in a way he could deny

With that out of the way I wrote the chorus to reflect the reason of why we’re here – the two young loves that found themselves in this situation.

A tale as old as time

Two young hearts, set on fire

Kept apart by the hands of fate

For his love she took a leap of Faith

The listener reaches the stage of the story where the conflict needs to be introduced and resolved. The introduction is the following verse:

A special mission would be devised

Whose true purpose was disguised

but he answered the call of his lord

A ship would be put out to the test

The lord hoped the coming storm would do the rest

And the conflict is resolved, with the outcome in the song's bridge.

Upon the castle wall she heard his fate

And they still talk about the last leap of Faith

At this point the listener realizes the outcome and the meaning of the “last leap of Faith”, comes into clarity. (A result my wife was not fond of – sorry babe).

For this song I felt that an epilogue was due that which is covered in the last verse that brings us up to modern times.

Some have talked about destiny

and the castle broken by the sea

With ruins that stand

above the breaking waves

Her ghost still walks upon the castles brim

and you can still hear her call to him

Now the listener learns that while the initial conflict between lovers and intervening parent is resolved, the story isn’t over. We repeat the chorus here to reinforce the context of this story and then we switch to the outro.

Now, you can still hear her call to him

Her voice still carries upon the wind

The passing years have brought her no relief

She still sings, in the key of grief

One thing that you may find interesting is that I had the idea of the “key of grief” lyric months before I wrote this song. It was one of those interesting notions that I had jotted down. When I was thinking of the outro I remembered this lyric and though how it was perfect thought to go out on.

This song was probably the most challenging that I have ever written. It didn’t come from inspiration like most of mine do, so I had to put a lot of thought into. I’ve learned not to “press” with song ideas that I am struggling with. Such was the case with this one. The original first verse that I had written I hated and deleted. The only thing that survived from the first draft was the second verse and the chorus. The scribbled draft sat on my desk for months… literally gathering dust… that is, until it was covered up with other work. I was cleaning my desk one day, came across the draft, and decided to knuckle down and finish it.

A few final thoughts on writing the music for this song – ensuring the lyrics resulted in music that matched the setting. Like most of my songs these days the core was written on acoustic guitar. But then I added two contrasting sounds, an electric 12-string to fill out the background, against a mandolin’s bright sounds in the foreground. The finishing touches were to bring on Dustin Schrimpsher for lap steel, Sarah Cammisano for that haunting violin, and Cayce Stoops backing vocal, in which role she played the woman in the story.

I hope that you enjoy it - as much as you can enjoy a song with a sad ending. Although perhaps a better way to put it is, I hope that you can feel it in the way that it is intended.


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