Son: “Dad, these fish just don’t seem to be biting today.”
Father: “Well son, back in the day, we used to haul in our limit in just a couple hours. But remember… a bad day of fishing beats a good day of work, don’t ya know.”
Grandpa: “Hey der’ , we used to catch ’em dis long [spreading his arms like an eagle], by the dozens…and all we used is cheese. Right from da’ dock. Yeah…back in the day…” (he says trailing off…)
Exchanges like this happen all the time. Whether it be about fishing, etiquette, the weather, girls, boys, or work ethic, I was hearing people use the “back in the day” phrase so often, it just had to be a song.
Back in the day is one of those phrases that defines a contrast between:
1.) something that is happening now, and
2.) a similar situation any point before today.
It could have been how things were 100 years ago, or yesterday, but back in the day carries a universal innuendo that whatever happened then was a “better different” than whatever is happening now. References to back in the day were often made up of folklore, you’ve heard them:
…back in the day, we walked several miles to and from school in cold, biting snowstorms, uphill both ways.
…back in the day, folks were hard working, firm hand shaking, chivalrous, look you in the eye people.
There are also the real simplicities of living back in the day, like being able to drink whiskey and stay up late or just eating the food grown in your own dirt.
I pondered this phrase for a few months while observing humans, hearing it again and again in conversation. Then, I got into one of my songwriting areas of solace and white space (this time it was ice fishing). Basically, I threw those few months of observations into representative lyrics, contrasting things that were happening now, with how they were (or maybe how we would like to think they were) back in the day. Maybe we reference the past in hopes of a better future? Maybe the song setting takes place in the future? This had to come into play in the song.
Well, the fish weren’t biting that day, so the song got written with the help of this old guitar.
While the songwriting is a very personal reflection of everyday living in the north country, I’m really enjoying the recording and arranging part of this Campfire Americana: Volume 1 project. In recording Back in the Day, it was fitting that I had two musical compadres from earlier in my musical journey join in as “Campfire Stars”.
Parker Goessling adds some electricity with his guitar work, especially on the solo. While Parker is only around 20 he has played like a veteran since I first heard him back in the day when he was 9, forming a band called Resign with my son on drums and a few other friends. Resign evolved into Breaking Glass, who recorded a great EP called Shatterproof at McNally Smith. Check it out here. Being the drummer’s dad, I was eager to setup a jam room in the basement of our house for the band to practice. It was a blast helping as their manager and roadie for a few years, and they had great success around the Duluth area during their short stint.
Also featured in this recording is Brian James. Back in the day, I was the bass player in an indie-rock band called Busy Signal down in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Brian was our lead singer. He joined me in the Sacred Heart studio and you can hear his backing vocals on the chorus.
Since this tune was written on a slow day of ice fishing, I thought it would be appropriate to include some video footage of a recent gig I played at the Aerie Lake Crappie Challenge in early March.
So here is a video preview of the song of the month, Back in the Day. If you like it, please share it with a friend, or just hold the door open a little longer for strangers.