Photo credit: Paul Wood
“Friends” begins with a gossamer backdrop of synthesizers and guitar harmonics that are tied together with Whitson’s hushed vocal. As the chorus drops, Whitson poses a sincere and biting question—“Who crowned you king / made you believe / that we’re the damned and unworthy,” as the band launches into a breath taking second verse, culminating with a harmonica solo. In a lull before the parting chorus, Whitson drawls “so sell your friends to feed the cause / but don’t be surprised when they’re all gone.” “Friends” is a powerful secular paean to friendship, betrayal, and questions of identity.
You can buy a copy of Friends here.
SC: I really love these lyrics in the chorus—“Oh my friend what troubles you? / Don’t forget we’re all struggling, too. / Who crowned you king / made you believe / that we’re the damned unworthy”. Can you tell me a little about them?
NW: Thank you. The lyrics of “Friends” specifically the chorus, really became a personal rallying cry at that time in my life, and really ever since. The lyrics are rooted in what was happening at the time among our friends. Reflecting on that—step back, you don’t always know what others are going through or where they’re coming from. We need to be champions of each other.
SC: Do you feel the full band version of the song changes the song?
NW: It’s fun bringing the stripped down acoustic songs to any group setting; like the volcano science fair project, you never know if it’s going to work just right or be a disaster. Kris and I made a full band demo when we started working together, but when we got everyone in the room to record it live everything changed, at least it felt that way. We had all kinda dabbled on some tunes on our nights off prior to recording, but we had never managed to get everyone together in the room just once. So when that day came it felt very much like we had never played together, I think it’s because everyone in the group are great songwriters and excellent musicians. It was pretty challenging the first couple takes, there was so much creative energy in the room it was like we were trying to sail a ship through a storm or wrangle a wild horse. After we went through those few hours, there’s no way that “Friends” could have been captured any better. Everyone brought something special to the song that night that made it what it is today. Sounds different, but I think the message still resonates.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Friends”?
NW: The writing process, for the song itself, was really a single moment. I was sleeping on a mattress in the basement with my acoustic guitar. It was late, I couldn’t sleep; restless from some of the drama at the time. I was torn with my decisions, not sure what to do next or where to go. The songs flowed out, just a pure open moment alone. I think the isolation may have helped. It’s hard to slow down these days.
SC: What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Do you hold off for inspiration?
NW: I think the writing process for each one of us is unique. I know for myself, personally, it comes in waves. Ideas come on the daily and sometimes best with others around, writing together; but to really crank, I often need to turn life off and find a quiet place to be alone.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence you?
NW: We have a great music community here in Atlanta. I’m always absorbing everyone’s creative energy. Everyone has a lot to give here, I think we all experience that with the different people we work with. Being surrounded by encouraging and positive people is always good for the creative spirit, it pushes you to use your best effort in everything you do.
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