For those not aware of Crowd Control, it’s a unique and cool Open Mic concept from Brittany Griffiths (Wavelength) and Billy Law. The last Thursday of each month, Crowd Control hosts an open mic, and each month there is a theme. The performers must present original material, and the performers are encouraged to tie their music in to the month’s theme. I missed out on playlist opportunities for the previous two themes of renewal and deception.
This month’s theme of circumstance initially seemed a highly challenging one to incorporate into a playlist. It then came to me that I should focus on the circumstances that inspired artists to create their songs. So for each song featured on the playlist, I will give a brief explanation as to what circumstances led to the creation of the song.
- Brigitte Mena, “Histrionics”
As a student of Psychology herself, it’s probably no surprise that most of Ms. Mena’s song delve deeply into psychological matters. Her new song is written from the perspective of an individual involved with someone who displays extremely dramatic and attention-seeking behavior. When I spoke to her about the song, she said “I feel like there is such a big push right now in our society for increased awareness of mental illness, but not a lot of conversation about the outside perspective of those trying to support others struggling from mental illness.”
- Cut Throat Finches, “New Age”
Politics have become a sore subject for many these days. As Mr. Russell sings, “I don’t believe in polite conversation, everyone wants to get into a fight to prove their right.” The song explores the political rift in our country, and how the divide in between the parties is getting deeper.
Hopefully people from both parties can come together and agree that this song rocks. Even those heathens from that other party.
- Vanessa Peters, “Carnival Barker”
In an article with the Dallas Observer, Ms. Peters said “while I was absolutely motivated to write it based on our current political situation, I always feel like it’s important to craft something that will be relevant on a more universal level.” The track manages to hint towards past political scandals, such as Teapot Dome, while its overall message seems perfectly suited for today’s political climate.
- Artemus, “White Noise”
At the time that Artemus wrote “White Noise”, he was on the road a lot, and it took its toll on his relationship at the time. He wrote the song one night at a hotel room in Abiliene, and in his own words, “I mostly just described everything around me while watching my own relationship fall apart in real time and being very aware of it.
- Sweet Chaos, “Again and Again”
The members of Sweet Chaos stated that this song was written a week after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. With the members of the band still in high school themselves, it’s a subject that can’t help but hit home for them. Their hope is that the message of the song will be heard and, in their own words, “maybe this wouldn’t keep happening again and again.”
- The Wizzywigs, “The Line”
While “The Line” was released on Soft Rocks at the end of last year, its roots go back to 2016. Lead singer Richard Keller was fed up with the political climate: the name calling, the outrageous statements, and the Presidential candidates. Mr. Keller describes the song as “A call to arms for people to wake up and stop letting politicians of all parties get away with being ridiculous behavior when they have a professional interest in representing us, the people who sign their paychecks.
- Hello Shannon, “Wander”
Shannon Camacho of Hello Shannon said that the title track of her new album evolved after a less than great full band show in Los Angeles. A series of shows they were supposed to play fell through, so Shannon and her husband (and Hello Shannon bandmate) Jonathan Camacho did exactly what the title track said. They wandered, and eventually made their way to the Grand Canyon. She said the song “came sort of out of frustration, feeling like we were using a lot of time and energy just wandering around hoping that we ended up in the right direction.” The Ghost would say they wandered their way into one great song.
- David Joshua, “Heaven Sent”
David wrote me a long letter about this song, so I’m gonna try to give the Cliffs Notes version. One comment though of his, though, struck me in particular. He said that this song “strongly departs from the idea that a pursuit of Jesus is always clear, fun, easy and safe. In fact, it has been my experience, it is just the opposite.” Throughout the song, he discusses the personalities he’s encountered working at a church, the struggles of those mistreated, and the idea that even our greatest trials and tribulations are heaven sent.” I just hope my Cliffs Notes of “Heaven Sent” are good enough that you all can pass the pop quiz later.
- The Blanche Davidians, “Copaganda”
Lead singer Cody Shavers saw the police responding to a domestic disturbance. Cody stated he began to film the incident “to keep the police honest”, but five of those police offers reportedly tackled him, after which he was taken to Lew Sterrett. To quote Cody, “anger is a great motivator”, and it led to the band’s newest single.
- Sub Lights, “No Alarm”
Here’s another case where politics was the inspiration for a song. Meredith Knoll-Duncan wrote the song a few weeks after the 2016 election, feeling angry “about facing the prospect of a corrupt sexual-assaulting president.” So she did what any angry musician would do, and put her anger to music.
- The Belle Sounds, “Like a Villain”
Direct quote from Noelle Hampton of The Belle Sounds: “I wrote this song as a form of therapy for dealing with my panic attacks. Anyone who suffers from these knows how powerless we can feel when these overwhelming, mind altering waves try to pull us under. Many doctors recommend inviting the feeling in when it starts to happen in order to gain control, as if you say, ‘I see you, give me all you’ve got….just try to kill me’. I drew from this idea when I wrote “Like A Villain.” Getting through a panic attack is a battle every single time, a journey we have to figure out for ourselves. Maybe this song will make someone else feel a bit more empowered and that might be a small step on the long path to freeing themselves.”
- Emmeline, “Orlando”
I don’t know what kind of song Emmeline pictured herself writing with former Click Five member Ethan Mentzer. I would have predicted a really fun, poppy number. No fun, poppy number was written, however. Shortly before they got the chance to work together, news broke of the Orlando nightclub shooting. This song was their emotional response to the tragic event.
- MD Wulf, “Fade Out”
MD Wulf had to do his share of soul searching and reinvention in the past year. He reported that he “puffed up and arrogant, playing shows drunk and sloppy”, and that behavior nearly cost him his bandmates. In addition, Wulf was “falling in love with the wrong crowd”, which further perpetuated these problems. The process of writing “Fade Out” sounds to have been cathartic, helping him change his perspective on life and performing, as well as strengthening his relationship with band mates and others.
- Remy Reilly, “26”
Sadly, being bullied is all too common of an experience for teenagers these days. What’s so unusual, however, is for a teenager to be able to take that painful experience and turn it into as powerful of a track as “26”.
- Ansley, “How to Be Alone”
Contrary to what one might think, this song is not about one specific individual, but the struggles of breaking up, as well as off-and-on type relationships. Ansley says that “it’s about that all-too-familiar experience of sacrificing for love, all to turn up empty handed.”
- Salim Nourallah, “Back on the Chain Gang”
Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders wrote this song as a response to the death of former bandmate James Honeyman-Scott to a drug overdose. It may seem odd for The Ghost to include a cover track on this list. Well, not only is “Back on the Chain Gang” in my Top 10 favorite songs of all time, but Salim Nourallah managed a near impossible feat by creating such a beautiful cover of a song I hold so dear to my heart. I also felt compelled to include this track because when I began brainstorming songs for the circumstance theme, the first thing that popped into my head was Ms. Hynde singing “circumstance beyond our control, oh…”