I was walking around the guest bedroom of my mom's house in Florida, on a short trip back home while I was still living in LA. I had a small coffee shop gig the next morning at Gold Leaf and was nervous. I hadn't played there yet and wasn't sure what to expect - this was several months before my first long motorcycle tour and I had not played in front of people in roughly a year because of Covid.
I was feeling insecure. My fears about folks not liking or understanding my music and lyrics was really present at the time. I felt compelled by this fear to write something new, to write a song that could get across the fullness of the persistent feeling I often try to articulate through my songs in a language that other people could actually access.
The result was "Let 'Em Bleed".
"I don't want to go to work in the morning, and I don't want to go to sleep." The lyrics appeared in sequence as I strummed vaguely on the guitar. "I don't want to go to Hell when I die," was a natural extension of this foreboding, reluctant feeling I get frequently. "I pray the good Lord, my soul to keep," was something of a literal prayer at the time and often is when I perform the song. I want to be held in the good, not abandoned into meaninglessness. I know what's down there and it is much better to fight for meaning than to relax into nihilism; should that juxtaposition present itself.
"But it's hard to keep it moving, when you're walking on bloody stumps." Grasping for some imagistic description to hammer in the point, there. It may risk being a bit purple, but so is the subject I'm trying to paint. "I'm just two miles from where I'm going and it just became an all day hump." The contradiction of knowing simultaneously that your end goal is very, very near and that it will still take you quite a long time in your present condition. To make things move faster, you need to heal fully; you still feel the pressure of passing time and a need to push on despite the pain, however.
Bringing my mind's eye to the meta-moment in which I was writing the song, out came the lines "I think I ought to move to Nashville, but I don't want to leave LA."
It was true. I didn't want to leave Los Angeles, though I'd spent all my time living there openly detesting it. I had grown comfortable in my little room and with my little routines. I got a sense of satisfaction from going to the Echo Park Von's with my backpack and duffle bag on my motorcycle to grocery shop. I got a little thrill out of riding out to the PCH and up the coast. I finally knew where things were. But, like all spiderwebs of comfort, it had to be forsaken and sacrificed at the altar of higher purpose. Los Angeles was prohibitive of my further expansion as a person, a partner to my girlfriend and as an artist. It was time to move on, to embrace the next phase. There was a sense of trepidation because of how comfortable I was. I admitted this to myself for the first time when I was writing this song, that I really did like Los Angeles despite all my still-remaining gripes about it.
"Because I can ride my motorcycle, there, twenty-four hours a day." The kind of endless summer that LA seems to have as weather also describes the feel of the city to me. It's always the weekend, work can come later. It was a hard environment for me to buckle down and beat the horse in.
"But it's time that I got it moving, because I've got a mouth to feed."
"Feels like there's nothing, now, below my ankles; so I'll just let 'em bleed."
It's ok to let it hurt. All of it. Don't run from the pain, observe it. Take note of it, follow it back to its causes. Only then do you have a chance at untying the knot, at healing the wound. The first step is to breathe and let it bleed. As the old cliché goes, "we may have lost the battle but we have not lost the war" or something like that. Sometimes you just gotta accept yourself, wounds and all.
As for this blog entry, the song itself probably explains my point much better than all this exposition can. In that way, I feel like I hit my aim well with this one.