When I was a kid, my dad would sit by me as he tucked me into bed at night and tell stories - amazingly vivid stories that would connect from night to night like some amazing TV series. These weren’t stories that he’d read or heard somewhere else. He created them himself - often around themes from our daily life - and at the end of each story was a lesson or a moral. Over the years, he must have told me hundreds of these stories and he never told the same one twice. At the time, this seemed perfectly normal. It was only when I started writing my own stories and songs that I realized what an amazing feat this was. When I was older, I asked him how he learned how to come up with and tell those stories. He explained to me that, because he and his siblings grew up with nothing, the only entertainment that they had was telling each other stories. As the oldest of seven kids, he got a lot of practice.
I was tremendously lucky to have someone like my father in my life. I see my father’s death as his final life lesson to me. On the night that he passed, I lay in the room with him. As I held his hand, I learned that, as important as it is to hold on to your loved ones, it is just as important to let go. This was his parting gift to me - one final story before going to sleep.
While I appreciate the condolences that I have received since my father’s passing, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for my loss. I don’t feel like I have lost anything. I know where my father is. He is in my mind and in my actions. My hope is to put the best of him into the world in the same way that he put the best of himself into me. That is why I have dedicated Who You Were to him and him alone.
Who You Were was born out of gratitude to my father and a desire to share the gifts he gave me. Some of the songs on the album came from stories that I have told for many years, and some were born new and seemingly out of whole cloth. There are fun songs, love songs, inspiring songs, self-reflective songs, and thankful songs, but all of them are based around the core idea of passing on the kindness and understanding that I have experienced in my life.
This album is an homage to my father’s wonderful stories, his sensibilities, and his use of language. Some songs on ‘Who You Were’ include direct quotes from my old man. To him, learning was “getting your mind right.” I use that line in the tune “Gotta Get”, where I list off some of the lessons that he taught me. When I was just a pup, I asked him if he was working on a Sunday. With a joking smile, he responded, “Every. Damn. Day.” “Every Damn Day” became a mantra to me later in life. It appears on Who You Were as the title to a song about the steps that I strive to take every damn day.
When I first started recording last year, I didn’t intend to make an album. But once the tap was turned on, it couldn’t be turned off. I have always built my stories and songs around things that I believe in my core, but this album has a new layer of polish and conviction. If I hadn’t told you that my father passed away during the writing and recording of Who You Were, you may not have been able to tell. That is by design. These tunes are all made to stand on their own and require no set-up or explanation. This album was crafted with more care than any other album I have made to date. But I wanted to explain the process in order to honor the life of the man that has shaped who I am.
Thank you, Pop. And thanks to the rest of you for listening.