This album has been a long time coming, in various forms. I had the title for almost two years before it finally got finished--which means I had the lyrics to "Futile" sitting around for just as long, since that's where the title-phrase came from. But we'll get there.
I had meant for this to be album #11. But then the pandemic hit and singing songs about girls didn't seem to fit the times. So I released "Departure" instead. I remain VERY proud of "Departure." I should do more stuff like that... But this one got put on hold. Which is a good thing. That allowed it to turn into TWO albums instead of just one very schizophrenic one... Because at one point I was going to do "Almost Moving Backwards--Side A" which would be basically this album, and then also release "Almost Moving Backwards--Side B" the same day, which is now in the form of "Happy Now?" which you can read about here.
Like most of the first-forms of my ideas, that was a bad one... The only part that survived of that idea is that the cover of this album has "side a" written on the tape in the art--which makes sense regardless, so I left it. I had intended for this album to be mastered to an audio tape before getting dumped back into digital so the cover would make a little more sense...but that was also a bad idea. Or at least one that would've taken too long and been infuriating. Instead I just treated this how I used to treat my old "direct to tape" recordings in the late 90s. The parts you hear are pretty much done in one take, layered on top of each other, in GLORIOUS mono, as God intended. It's a flawed, dangerous way of doing things that leads to stuff not quite being perfect...and that's what I love about it. The method is a step backwards in how I do things. So in that way, the title makes sense from a production standpoint. And so on... If you want songs in stereo, listen to the other album I guess. :)
So...anyway... This one became this one and that one became that one. But they're twin sisters. They share a brain and sometimes one goes to the other's biology class just to see if the teacher notices. And stuff like that. I've been describing them in brief as "Almost Moving Backwards" is about regret and "Happy Now?" is about anger. But it's not quite that simple, of course. Nevertheless, more than a year into the global pandemic, with everybody pretty much just deciding it's over even though it absolutely isn't, I decided--the hell with it...I'm putting out the albums. So here we are. These are albums from my soul. They're for me. And now they're for you, too.
As I said, both "Almost Moving Backwards" and "Happy Now?" were released on the same day. But I consider this one the be chronologically "first." This is album #12. "Happy Now?" is lucky #13. I like them both a lot and I hope you will too. But as much as I almost HAVE to talk about them together as one long process; on this page we're here to talk about "Almost Moving Backwards." So let's do that, song by song, as usual.
One last note before we start... I've realized in abbreviating the title for my own sake when I've been writing about it in notebooks and stuff that the letters "AMB" also form the initials of a good friend. If you're reading this, said friend, sometimes an initial is just an initial.
Let's (Americana) rock.
Live Your Life
It's difficult to know what to say about this one that I didn't say on the Bandcamp page when I wrote about it there...but I'll tell you that the line "Whatever doesn't kill you might just be taking its time" is still my favorite line I've ever written and it's probably the one major "truth" I've ever stumbled upon as a lyricist.
This song is an opening song. It's a mood-setter. It's a thesis statement. It informs the rest of the experience of this album. Buckle in.
Then & Again
It's that simple. Not much to add. But I enjoyed playing the harmonica on this record. :)
I'm a big fan of the novel "Rebecca." I read it in my 20s and I've returned to it often. The Hitchcock movie version with Lawrence Olivier changes the ending in a really shitty way that hurts it pretty badly. I don't like the movie. Neither should you. Read the book. It's great. At the time of writing I'm reading Tatiana De Rosnay's "Manderley Forever" which is a novelized biography of du Maurier. I recommend that too.
The song works through the lens of viewing it as a break-up song too. That's fine. That's intentional. I've wanted to write a song about the book for years and I've had the "I know I'll never forget Rebecca" refrain in my head since I was like 25. But I also didn't want my listeners (if any) to have required reading outside of the song. So I wanted this to work if you've read it or if you haven't. And I think it does.
I like the guitar solo in this one a lot, too.
After the Storm
It's a hopeful song. A forward-looking song. A rarity in the Derek Brink discography, in that way. I'd be lying if I denied the heavy Uncle Tupelo influence on the song. But I'd also be lying if I said I know who shot Kennedy. So it goes.
I think I like playing this one more than I like hearing it. I hope it's the opposite for you.
It's worth mentioning that I had the chorus for months and months, but had no idea where it was going until May 16, 2020. On that day, Lynn Shelton died. She was a filmmaker, writer, and director...and she was also in a relationship with Marc Maron, who is one of my favorite comics. I heard that Lynn had passed away and I wrote the verses and bridge for this song within an hour of the news. The original lyric sheet has "for MM" scrawled in the margins.
I hope someday Marc hears it.
I wrote this largely about a friend who lost her daughter. I knew both women. I'm not as close to the mom anymore. Time does that--it always sucks. It's my fault as much as anything. That's how it is... But the daughter was on my mind when I started writing this song. I started writing and was laying my soul bare...and this came out. It felt important to say it...
But as I said above, this song almost got much darker. The original lyrics in verse two were about my relationship with my own mother, which wasn't entirely or even majority positive. But I felt a need to dial that back after listening to the first takes. Not so much because I'm uncomfortable exploring my feelings about Mom... Mostly the reason I changed it is because I don't think that version was a fair representation of the friend I lost. Her kids get to believe whatever they want to about their mom. I remember mostly the truth about mine--though sometimes it IS hard to remember, as the lyrics state.
Anyway... This one's hard for me to listen to. I'm sorry if the mix in any way suffered as a result of that.
Some People Never Change
In 2014 a friend and I sat in a bar together and she told me about how her then teenage son had asked about meeting his dad for the first time. His dad had left the picture when the boy was still in diapers. I knew his dad. I still know his mom. And I kinda know him. It's all complicated.
We talked for a while and at the end of the night I went home and had the basic outline of this song in my head. It probably sounds like I'm angling to be his step-dad. That's not really what's going on here. (Though I AM unattached...ha ha?) Mostly this is just the advice I would've given him that night.
I had the song sitting around since about 2015. In 2019 I decided I wanted to put it on an album--THIS album. I demoed it and sent a copy to the mom because I knew I only have so-much right to tell someone else's story. She approved. And here we are.
I like this one a lot. It makes me feel good about my piano playing and bad about my willingness to reach out to assholes. It's a good one. It goes by pretty quick. I had to break your heart in 2:30. I think I got pretty close.
Another Protest Song
Okay...now that THAT is out of the way...
This one was one of the handful actually written DURING the "quarantine" that went largely ignored in Missouri and elsewhere. I was very definitely observing it. I was completely isolated for months, and at the time of writing have been only sparsely "back" into society. (I don't know that I'll ever be comfortable at a large event again, actually...) But this one was written when the language of the pandemic was still in heavy effect. When "social distancing" wasn't a joke. When "get back to normal" wasn't a liberal concept, but was a universal goal. You know... That afternoon...
The most alarming part of the "shut down" if you can call it that was that despite the fact that so many of us were social distancing, working from home (if at all), and doing our best to keep one another alive...the police were still murdering Black people and pretending they had the right to do it. George Floyd was murdered. Breonna Taylor was murdered. Several others were murdered... By cops. Deny it all you want. You KNOW the truth.
And in the end, sitting alone in my home, waiting for the pandemic to end--watching people being so selfish as to throw Memorial Day parties and keep their bars open in my own city...watching the police mow down Black people like it's all in a day's work... I kept having the thought, "I don't think THIS is what we meant by "get back to normal." And this song came out of it.
If you disagree, please never listen to my music again. I do not want to entertain you.
(But if you agree and just don't particularly like this song, that's cool. I probably could've done a better job mixing it in your case.)
Anyway, this one's about a girl named Danielle.
I meant for it to have drums. And bass. And other things. But when I started working on it, I got it up to this point and thought, "no...it's done. This is the song." And I stopped. Because it was right.
It's a song about doubt, but also about faith. Based a bit on the bullshitty "Footprints" poem everybody's been clubbed over the head with for the past 30-40 years (or more?)...but with my own spin on it. One of my favorites on the album.
I call God "her" in this song. Because I've reached a point that I'm more comfortable thinking of God as a Mom--not a "mother" but a MOM. Someone nurturing and welcoming and comfortable...but who still has the power to smite the FUCK out of you...but chooses not to. "Tell God that I miss her...and I forgive her" that's the whole point of the song. Sometimes you even have to forgive the person who never meant to do you wrong. Whether they did or not is subjective, I suppose...
There's a Rufus Wainwright influence on this one that you might not pick up on. I hope you do. It's there. And you should listen to his stuff. After listening to mine, of course.
Anyway...this one's very personal in the lyrics. It's the closest I'll get to spilling my guts. I called it "Futile" because that summed up all of the feelings I was pouring into it. The song itself sounds victorious. The truth is anything but. I don't like writing about this one. So I'm going to stop.
And with that there's nothing else to do but finish out with what would've been the liner notes, if this were a CD.
Thanks, of course, to all of the usual people. In particular, Dad, Susan, Dave, Valerie, Tessa, Melody, and Patterson. And the relevant people at work. And elsewhere. And Amanda. And Becky. And Colby. And Bruce. And Jim. And Tim. And Nik. And Shane. And so on... I'm sure there's a whole list I'm failing to list, but I'm writing this late at night after a reasonable amount of vodka...
Influences on this album:
Listen to shit. Watch Shit. Read shit. It's important.