Behind the Music in Tennessee River Shakedown: Not Alone

Not Alone is the third song on Tennessee River Shakedown. Like many songwriters, I get really excited about just about every song that I write and demo.  But this one felt special to me from the start.  Some songs just come to me out of thin air and I write them both melodically and musically in my head, while others come from jamming and improvising with the guitar and vocals (and sometimes the piano).  Some folks call that latter approach “channeling” songs--like when you just start playing and singing and see where it goes.  I channeled “not alone,” which you might be able to tell after hearing it because it sounds like nothing else I have ever written.

I went into the writing of the song, with an eye toward playing with this contradiction I had been feeling since the start of the pandemic and even before. The world was getting tougher. Colder.  More isolating. And at the same time, and in strange ways, it also felt like we were more and better connected to each other than ever before.

All of that weirdness, in my mind, was the combined result of the pandemic, globalization, the rise of social media, personal and corporate branding, political polarization.  All of it.

The song “Not Alone” is and was about trying to deal with the craziness of today’s world, especially how easy it is to get down, withdraw oneself from the world’s most pressing and urgent problems, and to also quit on one’s own personal ambitions and dreams. After all, when there's so much else out there, how can any of us be reasonably expected to cut through the noise in ways that fit and reflect who we really are?

Ultimately, this tune is fundamentally about rejecting the pressures and pitfalls associated with today’s world and having the courage to forge one’s own path and identity. That’s what I am trying to do in my own life—reject all the things that people say that I can’t or couldn’t do, shouldn’t do, and would never do. My response to all of that, despite my many insecurities, is  F-it. I’m going to climb onto the bigger stage and teach myself to fight for what I believe in—be it my personal dreams for music, my love and family life, and also my deep commitment to western democracy (and my concern for it).


In terms of production, this song was a relatively easy one to record. Like the other songs we record at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, this one was tracked on the second take once we found the right tempo. The band really grooved into this tune. Jimbo Hart, the producer, really wanted the song to have a John Lennon double fantasy vibe. So, he and we went with a old sounding, almost upright tenor for the piano and then we also used chimes to set us up into the vocal hook of “you’re not alone.”

This is one of my favorite tracks on Tennessee River Shakedown because it has a contemporary flare to it, while also having a nice throw back feel to the kind of sounds and vibes the Rolling Stones created when they visited and recorded in Muscle Shoals in the 1970’s.

Turn this one up. And thanks for listening!


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