When I was five, I nearly drowned. We were living in a charming little trailer park, just steps from Lake Superior. A nautical museum now stands at the site where a handful of forgotten folks built their lives, but I have many fond memories of my family's brief stint in that tightly knit community. There was the giant willow tree, which stood grandly in the center, shading our humble metal homes and providing endless climbing opportunities. The circular dirt path, which wound around the properties was where I first learned to ride a bicycle. And of course, there were the countless hours spent frolicking on the shores of the mightiest freshwater force I've ever encountered.
My dad's band mates had come to town for a visit. They and their children were sprawled out on the beach enjoying a perfect afternoon on the bay. The bass player's oldest son and I were showing off for each other by doing cartwheels and headstands in the water. He decided to see how far he could wade out into the water without going over his head. Not wanting to be left alone or outdone, I followed. The problem was that I was several inches shorter than him and evidently I hadn't been taught how to doggie paddle, because suddenly my lungs began to take on water, a wave went over my head, and the sunbathing parents were the last thing I saw before everything went black.
My next memory was "coming to" back up on the beach, my dad simultaneously scolding and cradling me. He had leaped in fully clothed and dragged me out before I sank like a stone. I was really embarrassed, but I suppose I was thankful someone was paying enough attention to notice that I had gone under. The big lake isn't picky about who she pulls into her unforgiving grips. I've known several people who weren't as lucky as I was that day. My parents made it a priority to teach me how to swim and I never again took for granted the power of Mother Nature.
In fact, it has been a huge inspiration in terms of my songwriting. Much of my catalog includes water references, and It has carried over into the writings of Davey Hazard and I in Hot Pink Hangover as well. One of the earliest songs he and I penned was, "The Summer That Johnny Drowned." Many folks have asked what the song is about and I always have to ask, "What is it about to YOU?" As songwriters, we provide a blueprint and a foundation- but it is up to you, the listener, to design the details- which will naturally be based around your own experiences. Is it about a loved one drowning (or nearly drowning)? Is it a metaphor for feeling overcome by waves of guilt, pain or passion? Is it about drowning in a relationship? Any art form is open to unending interpretation. If a song were completely literal, it probably wouldn't have the same impact because we couldn't assign our own narrative to it. So- expect many more loosely constructed, metaphorical little ditties from us! And also enjoy a little visual representation of the aforementioned song, through the artistic lens of Sargent Danny Rampage as he unveils the latest in his custom, hand illustrated, seasonal posters. Like it?! It can be yours soon! Sign our email list for first dibs!
As always, thanks for stopping by and feel free to share your take on "The Summer That Johnny Drowned" in the Comments section. We love to hear from you!