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Story behind the song: "Don't"

 

Its a simple song, but deeply profound. 

 

Have you ever wanted something so much, that you can't even talk about it because it starts stirring up feelings in you?  Feelings that won't be 'put back to sleep' easily if you wake them up.  Feelings you are working so hard to 'get over'.  I'm talking about wanting something, or someone, so much that when it looks like it's not gonna happen, when it's falling apart, when its breaking down, you go through a season of soul-searching depression and you start to question everything about your purpose and meaning in life?  Yeah, that's where this song came from.

 

Allow me a preface before I tell you the story behind this song...

 

Here's what I love about art and what I've found to be true and consistent in all my songwriting; what is deeply personal is also deeply universal.  In other words, we all believe our deepest emotions are completely personal.  We think to ourselves, "I am the only one feeling this way.  No one else feels this way.  I am totally alone here."  But the truth is we are all feeling the exact same things, we just hide it from each other, for fear of being vulnerable. 

 

See, as a songwriter, I'm always trying to connect with a larger audience.  I want to write songs that everyone can 'identify' with.  So I spent a season writing songs that I thought encompassed a larger demographic.  It was an intellectual experiment, and it backfired.  The songs fell flat.  No one really cared about them.  They lacked the 'je ne sais quoi' to make them special.  I would play them at a concert, and I thought they'd be everyones favorites, but people didn't care about them.

 

Then I wrote a song out of a deeply personal place.  I didn't try to craft it to make sure everyone who heard it could insert themselves in it.  It was SO personal about MY deepest longings and hurts and losses and hopes... and guess what?  People loved it.  And more than just loving it, they identified with it.  They made it their own.  They would come up to me after the concert and say, "That song. Ugh. That song... that's MY song."  

 

That's when I realized, what is deeply personal is also deeply universal. 

 

The more honest I am, I am astounded by the mass amounts of people who give me feedback that they share the exact same sentiments.  Of course, our stories vary, and the details are wildly different, but the core emotions are the same.  This makes me feel so connected to humanity.  I wish we all could all peek behind the curtain of our hearts and see we are more similar than we are different. 

 

All that to say, I have a very distinct and exacting POV from where I wrote this song, and I'll share that with you.  However, I would hate for MY story to replace YOUR story of why it speaks to you.  Because it's highly likely that you don't have the same circumstances I was in, but it's also highly likely you do have the same core emotions as me.  So while you hold on to your 'story behind the song'... here's my story behind the song:

 

I wrote it after having a conversation with an A&R executive at a record label who was interested in signing me.  I can't tell you the emotional rollercoaster it is to be an artist, putting out music in the world that you've poured your heart and soul into, only to be criticized and rejected with one "listen" (or sometimes not even that!).  You start to feel like you don't belong.  You start to wonder, does anyone think what I have to offer is valuable?  

 

I wanted to tell this guy, "Listen, don't get my hopes up.  Don't tell me things that I want to hear.  If this isn't going to end well for me, I'd rather hang up on you right now, cause I literally can't afford the emotional investment.  I've gone 'emotionally bankrupt' on this dream of mine.  I have put my whole heart in, and I've come up short.  And I have accepted my loss."  I wanted to tell him, "You think this is just a casual/get-to-know you conversation, but I am hanging on every word.  My heart is beyond vulnerable right now.  Whatever you say has the potential to make or break me."

 

In the end, they did not want to sign me, and I grieved that as best I could when it finally ended.  But what I was left with, after I hung up the phone that day, was a reckoning.  A reckoning with my own desires.  A reckoning with my own hopes.  (And yes, I'm stealing this 'reckoning' idea from Brene Brown - I am obsessed with her and I owe her tens of thousands of dollars in therapy hours she saved me through reading her books.) 

 

But I digress... 

In that conversation with the A&R guy, something had woken back up in me, something I was trying so hard to keep asleep.  When I was dropped from Capitol records it felt like the dream inside me died.  Or maybe a more accurate word picture is that my dream was on life-support in the ICU.  It was severely wounded and I was exhausted from holding out hope that it would ever come back to life.  You see, I loved my dream.  It is/was beautiful.  But the reality is, that it has not panned out the way I imagined it would.  And that is a hard truth to accept.  Especially for an idealist, like me.

 

My tendency here is to insert positive sentiments.  I like to spin everything into a little anecdote to make myself feel better.  To wrap it up in a pretty little package and put a bow on it.  I try to say something like, 'but God knew all along what was best for me, and TA-DA, now I've come to realized something so much better!'  That's a 'classic-me' move.  

 

But I'm NOT gonna end it that way today.  I'm gonna be real.  And I'm gonna dare to trust that maybe what's deeply personal inside me right now is also deeply universal, and is inside you right now. 

 

I still struggle with this dream daily.  Part of me wants it to just lay down and die, so I can move on.  So I can stop holding out hope.  So I can pursue other things.  But it won't die on it's own, and I can't kill it, because I can't quit loving it, even though I try.  I keep on returning to it.  I keep longing for it.  I keep seeing new ways and possibilities that it can be resurrected and that starts the vicious 'hope cycle' all over again.  The hope that if I hold on long enough, it will come to fruition.  The hope that this is some test, and I only need to prove myself faithful, and it will all work out.  And here's the kicker... that might be true!  (Ugh, here we go again, the vicious hope cycle just started over in my heart! Haha)

 

Heres's the deal, we all want to matter in this world.  I'll personalize it... I want to matter.  I want my art to matter to you.  I want it to matter to a lot of people, 22 million people to be exact.  And because of that, I take a risk and put myself out there.  But it is a painful reality to wake up to when I am rejected or not received in the ways I thought I would be.  And sometimes I want to run and hide and say, "Just don't... don't get me going, don't stir up these things in me, don't wake up my dormant dreams, don't tell me my songs matter, because its hurts so much when it doesn't work out the way I had hoped it would... so just don't." 

 

Story behind the song: "Can't Feel You Anymore"

 

Warning... this is a painful song to write about and I can imagine it will be a painful song for you to listen to or read about.  But the song is so honest and real, I feel that you need to know the whole story behind the song.  Because my greatest fear is that you will judge me without knowing the deep pain it was born in.  So listen/read with love and care as if this was your story, because we are all a family of humanity, and I believe we are all interconnected in ways we can't even possibly imagine. 

 

On June 16th, 2015 we had a little family birthday party for my daughter who was about to turn 2.  The only people we invited were my parents, my sister, her husband & their son, Camper.  It was a great day! We had a little backyard dance party, food, cake, nothing crazy... very normal.  And we went to sleep that night not knowing it was the last day of "normal" in all of our lives.

 

The next morning my sister called us and said, "I think Camper caught a stomach bug, he woke up this morning and started throwing up.  He's sleeping now, but just wanted to let you know in case your girls start feeling sick."

 

We didn't think anything of it. 

 

The day went on, and Camper (who was 2 years and 9 months old) kept waking up, throwing up, and falling back asleep.  My sister thought it was good for him to rest, so she kept putting him back to bed.  But by the evening, she was having trouble getting him to wake up. He was listless and limp. My husband (who is a pediatrician) advised her to take him to the ER. He said, "He is probably dehydrated and needs fluids."  

 

We were sitting at the kitchen table, eating a late dinner, when the phone rang.  It was my brother-in-law calling from the ER.  I will never forget hearing his voice say, "He has a brain tumor."

 

Even now, 3 years later, the tears are rolling down my cheeks as I recall this memory.  

 

The room started spinning and I remember falling to my knees praying, "Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God" .  That's all I could utter. 

 

Apparently, Camper had a undiagnosed slow-growing brain tumor that reached critical mass and had hit a blood vessel causing it to rupture.  He had a massive bleed and was basically brain-dead by the time they got him to the hospital that night.

 

There are no words to describe the emotions of shock, sadness, pain, fear, confusion and darkness that washed over all of us in the next few days while we slowly stepped into this new reality.  We all took shifts holding his tiny hand and telling him how much we loved him.  My brother-in-law & sister made the most beautiful (and difficult) choice to donate his organs, and now his heart is beating in another child somewhere. 

 

The days & months that followed are a blur.  But the grief was forced into a very expedited timeline because my sister was already 6 months pregnant with their second son when Camper died.   I remember thinking how this felt like such a blessing and a curse.  Obviously, I don't believe any child is a curse, but it was so hard to endure Campers death while knowing a new life was growing inside her.  As any mother of two children knows, you wonder how you could possibly love your second child as much as your first.  It miraculously happens, but without knowing her second yet... it felt so cruel to be loosing her first little love. 

 

On the other hand, it felt like such a blessing because this pregnancy, and the life growing inside her, was literally the only reason to get up out of bed most mornings.

 

Shortly after her second son was born, my sister announced that she wanted to try to get pregnant again.  She had always wanted to have two children, and because she was getting older, she didn't feel like she had endless amounts of time.  Of course we all supported this decision.

 

What you have to understand is that with BOTH her first pregnancies (Camper & his brother), she got pregnant literally the first "try".  It was like she was the definition of "fertile myrtle".  She assumed this new attempt would have the exact same outcome. 

 

If you have ever journeyed with someone who is trying to get pregnant, or if you yourself have been on that journey, you know it is a monthly emotional rollercoaster.  So imagine adding the grief of a lost first born child, and the heightened hormones of having a infant... For 9 agonizing months she tested negative... and then finally on September 10th, she got a positive pregnancy test. 

 

I remember it was September 10th because September 11th was (or would have been) Campers' 4th birthday.  We could not believe the timing!  I truly believed this was a miracle gift from God sent in divine timing to help her get through the sadness of celebrating his birthday, without him on this earth.

 

And then, the day after that... she had a miscarriage. 

 

When I got the news, I sat down at my piano and that's the day I wrote this song: "I Can't Feel You Anymore".  

 

You see, I have spent my whole life writing and singing songs about God, about hope, about faith, about trust... and for the first time ever, I lost all that.  I was absolutely devastated.  And to be honest, I still have not recovered and I don't know if I ever will.  It was just too much.  Too hard.  Too painful.  Too much suffering, sadness & loss.  Where was this good and faithful God I had believed in?  Because I looked around, and I could not find Him.  I had always "felt" God's presence in my life and I have always seen the angle of redemption in every circumstance... but that day (and for many days since) I felt alone, like there was no one watching out for me.  Because how could a loving God allow this to happen?  Did He turn His back for a moment?   Did He let go of 'the wheel' and accidentally drive our lives off a cliff?  Everyone's pat 'christian answers' (including my own) were not filling the void of darkness I was teetering on. And so I decided to not fake it anymore, and I dove head first into the darkness.  Of course, I didn't make this public knowledge, but those close to me have been faithful sojourners on a very rocky road for the last several years.  

 

I don't know where you are at in you own life and maybe me saying this stuff scares you or makes you uncomfortable but that's not my intention.  I am longing to share whats going on in my heart & head and I'm hoping that through the honesty, it will actually connect us in ways that 'faking it' never could. 

 

Through this deconstruction of all of my religion, I have arrived at a few core beliefs.  And for what it's worth, I feel like sharing them with you.  

I do believe in God, though I don't understand it. 

I do hope that in the end, there will be redemption for all pain & suffering & sadness we experience on earth. 

I do know there is great comfort in the eyes and embrace of other people who have also suffered.  And when they look at you, and when they embrace you, they are the eyes & arms of God in that moment, stirring a deep hope that we are not alone. 

Brand new look!

 

 

Welcome Everyone!

 

Thanks for stopping by my newly renovated website.  

I'm looking forward to keeping you more updated with all that's going on in my life.

I will be posting new music here soon, so make sure to sign up on the email list and I'll alert you when that becomes available.

Thanks and much love,

 

Kendall

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