About a song: You Say from Sparse

You Say is the 9th track from Sparse

Sparse feels a long time ago now, and I am always surprised when this track comes up on shuffle

[as it did in the car yesterday]

not quite because I forget it’s on the record, but because of my reaction.

I find myself dropping into and almost trance-like state of focus, listening closely to the performance, and reflecting on the lyrics. While this happens with other recordings, and is something I suspect every recording musician experiences, the effect is particularly strong with this one.

Here’s what I think is going on.

Firstly, You Say emerged during 2010, as I reshaped myself, and my family went through the very testing times of Dad’s illness, so its crucible was already emotionally heightened.

Musically, this was the first acoustic song I’d written in YEARS – I’d been using the acoustic to write, of course, but always towards a more developed band-treatment – with this one, though, I knew it would stay simple

[as much because of the lyrics]

In it’s own way, You Say was, I think, Sparse beginning to push at me, letting me know I was ready to make a stripped-down, intimate collection of acoustic songs.

It took me a while to empty out my picking hand on the song, too busy, hitting too many strings – I can hear that in the playing here; live now, it rolls more – and I think it benefits from the space, which leaves room for the lyrics to hit home.

Though Sparse aims to be just that, several tracks do feature quite a bit of extra instrumentation, though it never overwhelms the centrality of the acoustic and voice. On You Say, there are several other instruments.

For the second verse and solo, I added organ

[as I often do]

but underneath that, there is a lovely, throbbing electric guitar

[my Music Man Reflex through a Fulltone DejaVibe into my Budda Verbmaster]

and some very, very subtle electric piano vamping.

The solo is the Reflex direct into the Verbmaster – simple, straight. Gorgeous.

Then the final verse, the throbbing guitar remains with some very high electric piano/glockenspiel counter-point.

It’s very, very simple and, to my ears, beautiful in its melancholia; which is just what I wanted to serve the lyrics.

And so we’re here again: the lyrics.

Many of my conversation songs

[I… You…]

are self-reflections, discussions and arguments I’m having with myself. And that’s certainly true here. The early verses reflect upon how spent I was from my corporate life – so very, very tired – but the listening narrator

[still me, and just as tired]

is fully aware and hearing what’s being said, accepting and ready to move things on

[If that isn’t rooted in id and ego, I don’t know what is!]

Alongside this, though, I was dealing with being thousands of miles away from my family as my Dad went through his illness, and feeling so bad for how distance separates us; lingering guilt for moving away. I think the very last verse is my offer to them, to myself, to everyone; that no matter how far, I’ve been here all the time, just waiting to be there for you.

All this playing with the I… You… roles in the lyric leads me to the chorus and it’s punctuation. When I wrote the song, there were no speech-marks, i.e. it was the visitor complaining that the narrator wasn’t available

[a nod to the distance between my family and I]

but as the years have passed, and I’ve lived in the song, the visitor’s denial/avoidance has become more clear

[it’s where I’d been for a couple of decades, after all]

and the to-and-fro of those chorus speech-marks becomes ever more clear to me.

One final point of trivia – the demo originally finished  on “I’m listening…” and the 5th chord – but the lack of resolution really bugged me. At some point in live rendition, I added the little coda of “then you say…” with the resolution back to the root – it’s an offer, a glimpse of continuation, a suggestion that the I… You… has become We…

Which is everything I ever wanted from this song and its life in the world.


Vince Sig 131x89


You say
“Hello my friend it’s been a while
Since we’ve spoken
Lost the time
I’ve drifted far away from home”

You say
“I’ve given up there’s no winning
Had too much
All burned out
My worn out shoes, my jealous eyes”

You say… I’m not listening
You say… “I’m not listening”

You say
“My centre’s lost and I’m a mess
My up’s down
Left is right
My front is back, all inside out”

You say
“What difference comes from being me?
I’m empty
All used up
A dried out husk, a worn out seed”

You say… I’m not listening
You say… “I’m not listening”

You say
“I’ll just go and leave you now
Stayed too long
Burned my welcome
Cut my ties all into rags”

You say
“You’re distracted playing games
Still climbing
To a top
Beyond the clouds that never comes”

You say
“Hearing takes you being here
Not elsewhere
In this moment
Open doors and welcome arms”

I say
“I’ve been here all of the time
Take a seat
Take a step
Here is my hand, I’m listening”

Then you say…

Copyright 2013, Vincent Tuckwood




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