"Body" (Spotify) is the fourteenth song (of 25) in my Atlas: Year Two series. The first (of three) songs written for the theme "Intelligence": Body, Heart & Mind, inspired by the Enneagram Intelligence Centers. (To learn more about this theme, and all of Atlas: Year Two's themes, read here!)

Originally, when Atlas: Year Two was mapped out, the three "Intelligence" songs were sequenced like this: Mind, Heart and Body. I thought that made sense on a physical level, top down, head to toe! But in learning more about Enneagram and the three Intelligence Centers, it is actually taught in reverse of that order: Body, Heart and Mind, because, in processing the world around us and the feelings and experiences we have, we first rely on our gut - our instinct (Body), secondly, we process emotionally (Heart) and finally, intellectually (Mind). This is why I rearranged the order of these 3 songs.

Though these three songs were inspired by the Enneagram Intelligence Centers, they also represent the coming together of the physical, emotional and intellectual pieces of us. These are the key ingredients that make us, us! Actually, a better analogy would be cooking tools- these are the pots and pans of who we are. With the body, heart and mind, we process the world around us. Thematically, I really loved the idea of this "Intelligence" EP being a bridge between the "Emotions" EP and the upcoming "Enneagram" EP (9 songs based on the 9 Enneagram types!) - it keeps one foot in the physical and another in the psychological.

"Body" is a song about intuition. The first thing I began singing, before the song was a song, was "i feel it in my bones." - which is something we say when we don't know why, but we just know something. It's another version of a "gut feeling" - I loved that those idioms speak to the physical body and intuition at the same time. I decided those idioms were a little too on the nose for this song, but I used them as the jumping off point of the whole song.

"there’s magic in our bones,
a north star in our soul
that remembers our way home.
there’s magic in our bones."

That first chorus lyric, “there’s magic in our bones” - this means a lot of things to me.. I think it describes the gift of intuition- it feels buried in us, like something primitive, but at the same time, there’s a lot of wonder or magic around the idea of intuition. In researching "intuition" a bit, I learned that neuroscientists generally say that our brain is constantly searching for and collecting patterns and storing them in our subconscious. I think that’s so true and beautiful. What an incredible magic trick we are capable of! I believe that explains only some of the gift of intuition, that there's more mystery and real "magic" happening too! An internal compass that we are born with that knows more than we think we know. That's essentially what this whole song is about. 

On a more personal level, this song nods to a recent large life decision my family and I just made. I recently watched a TED talk by Ruth Chang about this. She says that hard decisions are hard because there is no clear answer - and this is actually a good problem. It means that either option isn't right or wrong. There's freedom in that. It's an opportunity to start a new adventure. For my wife and I, January 1st, the new year began with zero plans to buy a new home. Not even on the radar. Then, a couple days later, suddenly we saw a home in town and we fell in love. The home felt right, but we couldn't explain why - we love our current home, we weren't looking to move and somehow, we felt a magnetism toward this house. As parents to two little ones (a 2 and a half year old and a 4 month old), the idea of uprooting in anyway right now, especially just "because", felt totally crazy to us, and yet we couldn't get the house out of our heads. So, we trusted our gut and we jumped in. So writing this song at a time when there were a LOT of conversations about intuition and why we feel compelled to do the things we do, was probably some really good processing for me. So the line "a north star in our soul that remembers our way home." is a direct nod to our new home. Also, a teeny tiny nod to the house was the word "bricks" in the opening line... 

“a feather is a ton of bricks,
or maybe i'm too sensitive...” 

Firstly, that opening line was inspired by something Fr. Richard Rohr said in explaining the Enneagram "Body" (or "Gut") types: "Reality comes at us like one shock wave after another. We take it on like a full body blow every three minutes. EIGHTs fight back, NINEs back off, and we ONEs try to fix, reform, and control reality." I love that. So the "ton of bricks" line is a tip of the hat to that concept. 

(Brief Enneagram note: If you're unfamiliar with the Enneagram, (in the words of wikipedia) it is “a model of human personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of NINE interconnected personality types." Each of these nine types fit into one of the three "Intelligence Centers": Body (the EIGHT, NINE and ONE types), Heart (the TWO, THREE and FOUR types) or Mind (the FIVE, SIX or SEVEN types)

That opening lyric is also a play on the adage, “straw that breaks the camel’s back” - there are situations in our life, where we get right up to that breaking point and our intuition kicks in, and we then choose to listen or ignore what it’s telling us. So I liked starting out the song with this abstract concept, and following it up with some second guessing- rational thinking. That created a little rule that I followed in this song: every abstract lyric represent intuition, and the conversational lyrics represent the rational processing we do to explain it. It was a lot of fun to write this song with that in mind.

It took a long while for the lyrics to finally fall into place on this song. The lyric that sort of "unlocked" the rest of the song was "There's magic in our bones" - it was almost like all of the lyrics were hiding behind the word "magic" and once I found that, the song was ready to be written. That word resonates with me for a million reasons, but as a Dad, watching my two little girls grow from tiny babies into little girls - magic is the only word that makes sense. As I mentioned above, how intuition works is magic, the incredible complex and ornate design that makes up our bodies is magic. That through a matter of bones and muscle and willpower, we move around this earth - that's magic! Nature is magic, imagination is magic, love is magic! We are surrounded by all of this "magic" every day of our lives, so the final  and recurring lyric of the song:

"There's magic in all of this"

.. is a reminder to myself to recognize this gift of life as the magic that it is.

Now, let's talk about music (music is magic too)! I originally wrote this song on the ukulele, but when thinking about what instrumentation best represents the "body" the ukulele didn't feel quite right. So I chose all acoustic/organic instruments. 

FUN FACT: Did you know that the violin was designed to mimic the sound of a soprano female voice? Who knows if that's 100% true or just coincidence, but I believe it is and absolutely love it. With that in mind, I knew that this song should have prominent strings throughout, ideally a string quartet: two violins, one viola and one cello to represent the entire range of human voices. So I called frequent Sleeping At Last guest, Sharon Gerber to assemble the troops! She and her quartet are SO incredible and couldn't have played more beautifully on this song. All of which was recorded live as one stereo track. SO grateful for their beautiful work!

For some reason, I've had the song “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” in my head a LOT lately. It's from the movie/musical, "Hello, Dolly!" and is brilliantly featured a bunch in Pixar's Wall-e. I loved the style of strings in the intro of that song- I'm sure there's a correct classical word for what that type of playing is, but for lack of knowing that word, it's swirls of tremolo violins stabbing chords. I love it and thought it's such an appropriate sound for this song, about blunt gut feelings and intuition.

In thinking about the percussion of this song, I originally imagined it being full on drums throughout, but as the song was coming together, I realized it needed an older, more classical approach, so I decided to record loads and loads of orchestral percussion instrumentals: timpinis, cymbals, celestas - even chimes! (Never thought I’d be able to do it, but i did it… there’s so much “magic” talked about in this song that it felt like the right time for some chimes! Don't worry, they are VERY quiet.) 

Easter Egg: in the upcoming song "Heart", I recorded my wife and our 2 daughter’s heartbeats, and my own, and incorporated these songs into the song. In the upcoming song, “Mind,” I recorded each of us singing a single note. In this song, “Body” I had each of us clap and in editing, created a really deep rumbly sound that leads into the last chorus, right alongside the timpinis! I wanted to make sure that our little family was ingrained into each of these “Intelligence” EP songs.

There's a lot more to talk about, but I'll leave it here! Thank you for reading!! I hope you like "Body"!! "Heart" and "Mind" will find their way to you soon.

Love, Ryan



a feather is a ton of bricks,
or maybe i’m too sensitive...
i don’t know.
all i can say is this,
from now on
i’ll try to listen to intuition.

there’s magic in our bones,
a north star in our soul
that remembers our way home.
there’s magic in our bones.

no, i don’t have a script for this.
but i know the right words exist
and i just need more time.
i know, i know, i’m asking for the moon,
but i must listen to intuition
believe me, i only want what’s right.

there’s magic in our bones,
a north star in our soul
that remembers our way home.
God, it’s easy to forget
there’s magic in all of this.

it’s so easy to forget,
it’s so easy to forget
that there’s magic in all of this.

there’s magic in our bones,
a north star in our soul
that remembers our way home.
God, it’s easy to forget
there’s magic in all of this.

there’s magic in all of this.