Road to Road Trip.
If you've been following me for a while, you know that Road Trip has been a long time coming. With my first EP released in 2014, and two others following in 2015 and 2017, I was certainly overdue for a formally assembled full-length album. I wanted to take a moment to talk about each song on the album, and what inspired its creation. Because if we're being truthful, a whole hell of a lot has happened in my life these past few years. As someone who's known for being very transparent with her followers, I've decided that I will open up and spill the beans. And I'm not gonna hold back, I will tell you the truth and nothing but the truth. The good, the bad, and the awkward. (Heh, lol, that sounds like it could be an album title or something.) If you want to follow along musically, feel free to open up the album on Spotify or BandCamp - and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Track 1: Idaho
The Story: A co-write with Miranda Fairbrother, one of my best friends since middle school, this song was actually her creation long before it was mine. She brought me Idaho in the form of a poem as she was getting ready to leave our little hometown of Londonderry, NH to go to college out there. (Yeah, we're all still trying to figure that one out, but we still love you Miranda.) She knew she wanted me to turn it into a song, and with a little bit of lyrical rearranging and the help of a guitar and a summer campfire, it came to life.
Fun Fact: Idaho was written in 2012, and was actually almost the opening track of my 2015 album AAA, but was ultimately cut. It came back initially as a joke when I started writing about other cities/states on the album, and the band guys liked it so much that it ended up sticking around for real. I like to say that the song was ahead of its time. Unlike my 2007 song "Pennsylvania" written when I was 13 about the boy I liked moving away. That one can stay in 2007.
(Also, throwback to 2011 in this stellar photo. We were wearing strapless prom dresses, I swear to God we aren't naked.)
Track 2: Elephant in the Room
The Story: This one is another "oldie" but it's been so popular among you guys that it doesn't feel old at all. It took me a year to write this song, with the seedlings popping into my brain in late 2013, to finally be completed three days before I opened for Jason Lancaster (of Mayday Parade) in 2014. I already had a feeling this was going to be a good one, but whenever I heard the crowd react to this song at that show, that was the moment I really knew.
This song went on to open so many doors for me, from winning competitions, to allowing myself to write the rock songs I'd always wanted to, to gaining fans I don't think I would have made otherwise, and to even being included as a first-round Grammy nomination ballot option and a Great American Song finalist. If we're being honest, there were times I thought I'd never write a song as good as this one ever again. I felt like I'd peaked, or if I was somehow the local music version of a one hit wonder. But I was never bitter about it, and while I have been able to pop out other songs that some of you love just as much if not more... I still love this song just as much as I ever did. I will always be thankful for what my "little song that could" has done for me.
Fun Fact: Everyone thinks this is a break-up song, which is fine, I have no issue leaving my music open to personal interpretation. My ex-boyfriend even thought it was about him, which was hilarious, but it was not. This song was actually about someone who wanted to be in my band... and I didn't feel they were a good match, but I was very afraid of hurting their feelings so I kept avoiding the subject whenever it came up. Then this song happened. When they eventually heard this song, they immediately loved it and it is their favorite song of mine to date. Oops.
Track 3: On the Border
The Story (Part 1):
The first time I attempted to write this song, it was supposed to be about the Southern border and heading into Mexico. I had one particular guy in mind when writing this song, and it was sort of a joke about running off to Mexico with him. (It later would become a Canadian themed song, hence this photo from Vancouver.) I came up with the chorus... and that was about it. Just as quickly as it was born, the song moved into my unfinished vault where young songs go to die.
The Story (Part 2): Flash forward just over a year later. Tom (my drummer/current boyfriend) and I attended a music event, and the original guy "On the Border" was inspired by was at this event. We're all friends - hugs were exchanged, and it was a jolly good time. But then... my brain started doing... the songwriter thing. We're in the car on the way home and I said, "Tom, it's time. It's coming back. It's entering my brain. We need to write it TONIGHT." And that's the story of how my boyfriend and I co-wrote a song about another man. I don't know about you, but we think it's hilarious.
Fun Fact: "On the Border" was at one point, a contender for the title of the album, referencing living on the border of reality and fantasy in these songs. However, because I couldn't nail the song when I tried writing it the first time, I dropped the idea of it being the album title. This was actually the last song I finished writing for the album, so the concept of "Road Trip" had already been long present and implanted in my brain.
Track 4: Folk Song
The Story: My ex-boyfriend was notorious for constantly leaving his crap around my house. One day, I ended up stubbing my toe on his harmonica. After a few choice words, I picked it up and started fiddling around with it.
After a little while of going back on forth on the harmonica melody you hear in the beginning of the song, I said to myself, "Well, it's too bad I don't write folk songs, or I'd actually be able to do something with this."
And then my world came to a freezing halt. "Hold up," I thought. "Why do I need to write a folk or blues song to use this thing? Why are we constantly gatekeeping genres and the kinds of music artists are allowed to explore? Why does the music industry have so many rules no one actually cares about?" The first draft was finished in ten minutes.
Fun Fact: The first draft had a pre-chorus that included a small nod to "All Star" by Smash Mouth, but I ultimately decided that while rather humorous, it wasn't fully necessary.
Track 5: Can't Look Back
The Story: Can't Look Back was the first single released from Road Trip, in August of 2018, but the song's roots trace back much much further. Sometimes, even when you want something more than anything else in the world, it just makes sense in your life to go in a different direction. It is one of the most painful songs I've ever written, and unless specifically requested, I've come to a point where it's very difficult for me to perform anymore.
I started writing this song in the shower on a lonely day in 2014. It would take me two years to write. I knew - exactly - what this song was supposed to be, and I call it one of my "prophecy" songs because when I got the final master, it was everything I'd envisioned down to the smallest details.
Fun Fact: Okay, maybe not a fun fact. From those first humming of "turning around, turning around" in 2014 - to finally finishing writing the song lyrics in 2016 - to recording and releasing it in 2018... the timeline of this song eerily followed the timeline of my history with the person it was written about. I released this song approximately two weeks before things went down that would lead to me and the person I wrote it about never speaking again.
Track 6: Secret Love
The Story: Secret Love is a journey, and if you've heard the song, you know I mean that quite literally. I'm sure the message and story of the song is pretty self-explanatory, but what you probably didn't know was writing and recording this song directly lead to me choosing "Road Trip" as the title of the album. The bridge was actually the first part of the song that was written, and this is the only song of mine where the bridge has come first.
Fun Fact: I wrote this song in my ex-boyfriend's bathroom. Maybe I'll tell ya more about that on the next album... but probably not.
Track 7: If I Were President
The Story: Contrary to popular belief, this song is not about one politician in particular. This song is about corruption on a global level, not just now but since the beginning of time. I'll leave it at that, politics brings out the worst in people and quite frankly I can't handle it.
Fun Fact: I wrote this song in July of 2016. Take from that what you will.
Track 8: San Diego
The Story: Sometimes, relationships end because the person sucks. (See next song.) And sometimes, relationships end because life sucks and circumstances suck. That's where San Diego came to life... imagining how things could be different if only circumstances were a bit more on our side. If only other things (or people) stopped getting in our way. Knowing that if we could get rid of those things coming between us, we would finally be alright and be together after all. Of course, that's not really how life works, which is why I call this song my "fantasy song." A lot of the songs on Road Trip are of me living out fantasies I couldn't replicate in real life, and this song is one of those fantasies.
Fun Fact: I have never been to San Diego. Womp womp.
Track 9: Tiki Bar
The Story: On the surface, Tiki Bar sounds like a nice little tropical pretend getaway story filled with way too much rum. And don't get me wrong - it totally is. But the line "He left me at the wedding, I went and lost my mind" definitely was not just for satire.
I wrote this song with Rodger Hagopian, and while the concept of a "tiki bar" was all his idea, I threw in the story of how I was actually broken up with at a wedding, twisted it to be from the view of a bride left at the altar, and then running away on the honeymoon by herself. Because I'm a strong independent woman who don't need no man, duh.
Fun Fact: Some of you who have been part of the Amanda Gang for a while may remember a little love song called "Change of Heart." That love song was written about the man in question, and I may or may not have totally recycled that old melody into this song. Oops.
Track 10: Fusion
The Story: I have told the true, blunt and ugly story of Fusion in the past, but I'm not sure it's necessary to repeat it. If you really want to know all the full details, with a trigger warning for assault, you can go to my Facebook page and scroll back to the single release date of November 21, 2018.
What I will tell you, is that releasing Fusion allowed me to take ten years of pain and finally set it free, and it was a life changer that left me permanently feeling thousands of pounds lighter. I don't usually post the most grim and personal details of my life publicly online, but I don't regret this decision, and knowing this release has helped people in similar situations has truly solidified that decision.
Fun Fact: Again, not really a "fun fact" but indeed, a fact. "Fusion" first spiraled out of my brain and onto paper in May 2011. I thought about releasing it many times between then and when it actually was released in 2018 - and almost successfully did once - but I just wasn't able to. I didn't want to release it until I was ready to tell the full truth with no restrictions. When I finally did decide to release it to the world on the ten year anniversary of the event in question, I thought about changing some of the words to reflect years of advancing in my own songwriting, but I ultimately decided against it so I could tell this story through the eyes of the 17 year old girl who originally wrote it.
Track 11: Solo
The Story: While clearly taking the path of a breakup song, Solo zones in on what is, in my opinion, the worst part of a breakup - which is not losing the relationship but losing the friendship that started it.
It took me 7 months to write this song. I tried to write about this person many times before then, something snarky and Taylor Swift-ish, but I couldn't come up with anything good. When I finally allowed myself to actually feel something (gasp) and write something honest, it was 7 months to the day of the breakup. The song was finished in ten minutes with no edits.
Fun Fact: If you were following my music career closely in 2016, there are some lyrical "Easter eggs" in this song for you. Have at it.
Track 12: Just One Night
The Story: Sometimes, you look at someone who you think is pretty attractive, but you don't feel like getting involved with them is the smartest idea, you know? But part of you thinks, "Man if I could just get this out of my system, if I could just do it once, I can forget about it and move on with my life." That's how it works, right?
Fun Fact: That is not how it works. And it definitely was not just one night.
Track 13: The Ballad of the Runaway
The Story: This was the song that let me really know the purpose of writing Road Trip, and taught me a lot about who I am. I have a natural tendency to run away from my problems, both physically and mentally. It's not something I'm proud of or recommend, but it is part of who I am, a challenge I am constantly trying to reassess and grow from. Putting this into some sort of lyrical form was a big step for me, and even though this is a deep-cut and not one of my more marketed tracks, it is probably one of the most important songs on the album in its own way.
Fun Fact: Not really a fun fact, but a fact nonetheless. This song, while about me and my own brain, was inspired by my ex-boyfriend. He used to always tell me I would never be happy living in Nashville, Los Angeles, Oklahoma, anywhere really, if I couldn't find happiness within myself while still living here. He is the "wiser man" who offered me the advice in the song. I don't talk to him, but if I could tell him anything, I would tell him he was right about that.
Track 14: Somewhere in Syracuse
The Story: Truth be told, this song was a beautiful accident. I entered the Coffee Music Project and was accepted, but I somehow missed the memo that I needed to write a song about New York for the competition, and I only had 8 days before the show.
Okay, no worries, guess we're writing a song.
When most people think of New York, they think of NYC. I happen to think of a little city upstate where my drummer is from, and that's where this song came from. I may have also accidentally realized while writing this song that I was in love with him. Oops. That's okay, the song ended up being a finalist in the competition.
Fun Fact: And we lived happily ever after. The end.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading the entire Road Trip story! It was a journey spanning 8 years of writing and 18 months of recording. It was a hell of a ride, that's for sure, but I wouldn't change a thing.
Thank you to all who have listened to Road Trip, purchased it, streamed it, shared it, and reviewed it for your publications. Your support means the world to me and ultimately gave me the push to move to Nashville later this year.
Thank you to the New England Music Awards, Limelight Music Awards, and the ISSA Awards for nominating "Road Trip" as "Album of the Year" in 2019 and 2020.