"Land or Sea" & how it was made.

"land or sea" is the 14th "yearbook" song, the middle track of the "february" ep.

this song was born on the ukulele. that very first melody that starts the song off is actually exactly where this song originated from. the entire song stemmed from that very simple ukulele melody. usually in the songwriting process, the direction and individual parts bend and change so much from the original thought that there is rarely much trace of its origins left when the song is finished. so i like that this song starts exactly as it was first written.

i recorded this my favorite ukulele - my KALA "Mango" tenor. love. it.

this song was incredibly fun to layer (musical) ideas on. some songs are very particular in what musical additions will "fit" ... some songs are a bit snobbish in that way. and other songs are very friendly and play nice with many ideas. this one played very nice with others.. so it was a lot of fun to work on, kind of like an ice cream sundae bar... you know, with all of the toppings to add... sprinkles, oreos, hot fudge, etc... it all just "works" together... and now I'm hungry.

anyway, I asked my pal aaron mortenson in nashville to play drums on this sucker and he did a lovely job. his pal and very talented engineer, chad brown did a fantastic job capturing aaron's performances. great sounds for sure. I knew I wanted a "snappier" rhythm section for this song and I'm very fond of how it turned out. the drums and percussion are always sort of morphing into something new. endless variations was the idea. really pleased with how it turned out.

when aaron and chad sent me the drum tracks over the web, we intially had some serious syncing issues. the drums sounded "off" and out of time with the song... but it wasn't extremely off, just enough to make me worried that it wasn't played well. ha. so after an awkward conversation on the phone, me asking "um... these drums are great sounding, but the performance feels... loose"... translation: "what happened?!" - after some trouble-shooting, we realized that the files had just been moved every so slightly. so they resent the drum recordings and low and behold, it was dead on and quite nice sounding.

my best pal, dan perdue did an incredible job on bass, with a bass line that entirely compliments the evolving drum beat. dan also contributed some great keyboard/synth sounds that give the recording some really nice "space" and depth - my favorite little bit is the synth horn section in the end of the song... it's subtle, but I love how it swings and has a bit of gruffness to it.

i played around with a bunch of mellotron layers (always a fan of mellotron... one of my all time favorite sounds) and a bit of electric guitar throughout.

i really enjoyed piecing the lyrics together on this one. as always, there were lines that didn't come easily, but overall i remember this one being an enjoyable song to write.

this song is very much about trust, and the fears that holds us back from trusting. it's about the challenges of faith in a life of no guarantees. that meant all sorts of things to me when i was writing this, and in the months since it was released, it has been even more applicable to my life.

the line "we've got no stakes in the ground" has particularly special meaning to me... in a sort of "eureka" moment in my life last year, i realized that after so many years of tension, hurt and struggle within certain relationships (family and otherwise) and countless life transitions, there is this point where a clean slate happens, a light at the end of the tunnel, where life takes on new shape - sometimes that is only possible when there are no more stakes in the ground. so that phrase was something of a mantra to me. it was so opposit of my intentions and sometimes it felt so terrifying, but eventually it became freeing, like some sort of undo button.

a fun fact: it's not super obvious, but in the beginning few lines I use the lyrics (and melody structure) to subtly count to 4, almost as if the lyrics are 4 steps "to make a difference" in life...

"One (as in 1) day we'll wake up and realize
To (as in 2) make any difference one must simply try
Try (as in "tri" = 3) to use words less than our hands
For (as in 4) change is a direct result of our plans?"

get it?

anyway, thank you for reading!

love, ryan



one day we’ll wake up and realize-
to make any difference one must simply try.
try to use words less than our hands,
for change is a direct result of our plans.

we’ve got no stakes in the ground.
we’ve got no anchors tied down.
land or sea, there are no guarantees here, we know,
there is nothing but our fears of being free.

it feels deeper than any ocean floor,
our lungs no longer believe in any shore.

so let’s dry out our clothes and catch our breath.
our process implies our progress.

we’ve got no stakes in the ground.
we’ve got no anchors tied down.
land or sea, there are no guarantees here, God knows,
there is nothing but our fears of being free.

finally, there’s a mountain beneath us.
but up here our lungs fight against us.
land or sea, there are no guarantees here.
God knows there is nothing but our fears.