by Lindsay White
Hey Kings River Life readers! Lindsay White here. I’m a San Diego songwriter (originally from the Central Valley), and I’m kicking off the west coast leg of my duo’s summer tour on Saturday, August 17 with a performance and songwriting workshop at Vista Theater in Fresno, CA alongside local songwriter Victor DesRoches. Lorie was kind enough to let me submit a guest blog leading up to the event, so I thought I’d pick one song and break down the story behind and songwriting process for it. I hope you enjoy! See you at the workshop and concert!
“Time is On the Way” was written after returning home from my first solo cross-country tour last summer. There’s always a lot to process after a big trip like that, and I was sitting in a puddle of heavy feels about my music “career.” My shows weren’t particularly well attended or well paid, despite my best efforts. I didn’t sell much merch, despite my best efforts. I didn’t make many new contacts, despite my best efforts. It felt like my best efforts would never be good enough. Was I in an abusive relationship with music? Should I be investing so much time and energy into a dream that barely seemed to give me the time of day?
These were the thoughts running through my head as I started to sift through pictures and videos from the tour. There I was shooting a music video in a Phoenix forest. There I was performing for a girls rock camp in Salt Lake City. Wandering around former homes of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford. Posing for a picture with The Grand Canyon behind me. The Pittsburgh skyline behind me. Times Square behind me. There I was with my sister at a Chicago comedy club. With my wife driving across the Mississippi River.
I felt my perspective shifting with each image. How could I possibly think I was getting nowhere with music? I was getting everywhere with music! Even though expectations that I created out of my own assumptions weren’t being achieved on a timeline I also created out of my own assumptions, I was nonetheless lucky enough to be bombarded with awesome experiences all along the way. Life was giving me a reminder that my hard work was paying off, not in huge career milestones, but in places, moments, and people.
To mimic the emotional journey I was going through, I wanted the music of the verses to feel small and sparse. Lyrically, I wanted to highlight the heaviness of being human. We are as connected as ever to information and people, but that can be so isolating and anxiety inducing at the same time. In these moments, negative self-talk tends to take over and blinds you not only of the value you bring to the table as a unique individual, but also to the potential you have to do great things:
Is the weight of the world wreaking its havoc?
Is the state of affairs so scary it hurts?
Is that venomous voice in your head automatic?
Just letting you have it?
Making you feel like dirt?
Is the hardest part of your day in the morning?
Pick up your phone, feel alone, and lament?
Does the pressure you feel steal your breath without warning?
Feel that furrowed brow forming?
Making you feel irrelevant?
You’ll notice the verses are structurally very similar. That’s something I tend to do in all my songs because it makes my brain feel good when verses share the same skeleton. You might also note how much I use wordplay within lines. I love the way alliteration and in-line rhyme sounds help contribute to the overall flow of the melody. Lastly, each line is a question. I’m not only asking myself how I feel, but I’m trying to connect my heavy heart to listeners by asking, hey, do you feel like this as well? When I sing this song live and I see people in the audience nodding at the verses, it reminds me that we are not actually alone in our loneliness.
Where the verses convey despair and isolation, the chorus provides hope and purpose. Drawing from my cross-country tour, I wanted the chorus to sound how looking at beautiful, epic landscape feels. I wanted it to conjure up the exciting, anything-can-happen, open road feeling that comes with traveling:
Baby you’re the damn Grand Canyon, baby you’re a big great lake
You got that majesty, that beauty you can see from outer space
And all those tall Sequoias, they didn’t grow in just a day
You know a landmark kind of life takes time
Time is on the way
Time is on the way
Carving marvels out of clay
Yeah time is on the way
Time is on the way
Coming round to save the day
So slow down, let it pave the way
Yeah, time is on the way
The idea of “feeling like dirt” (from the first verse) has such a negative connotation, but when I think of dirt in terms of majestic natural landmarks like the Grand Canyon or the Sequoias, I remember that even the smallest building blocks of nature play a pretty significant role in creating the “wonders” of the world.
While the verses used questions to relate to the listener’s insecurities, the chorus is a pep talk that infuses confidence and hope into those dark places. I used “time is on the way” as the repeating hook because the forward motion of time is the only consistent thing about being alive. That can be scary or worrisome if we choose to view time as a thief or a draining hourglass. In the years leading up to writing this song, I was furious with time for taking my mother and my best friend away from me in the same year. I was terrified it would continue to rob me of people, of youth, of opportunity. But as the fog lifted on some of that grief, I walked away with a different relationship to time. I had a deeper understanding of the brevity of life. And with that, deeper understanding came a deeper commitment to savoring people and experiences. There is comfort in the knowledge that time is a key element in the creation of wonderful things. There is also comfort in the fact that time can help transport us away from painful memories, places, and relationships. In that light, I realized time could bring me peace.
Writing “Time is on the Way” marked a turning point not only in my life, but also in my songwriting. I had become so accustomed to writing from a dark, angry, grief-filled place, and it felt really good to finally write a hopeful song. I hope it feels really good for you to hear it.
You can find a performance of this song on YouTube and don’t miss Lindsay’s concert and workshop this weekend.