As a songwriter, this album finishes a trilogy for me, starting with 2008's New Good Old Days, then slipping into The Beige Album in 2009. I can see now that Living the Dream is my completion of a journey, a journey that started with the turn of a century, the death of my parents, and the subsequent shaking of my faith in just about everything. Living the Dream is what happens when a man looks mortality in the face, sees his own reflection, and takes his friends out for ice cream. There's nothing we can do about the passing of time but enjoy the ride." - Antsy McClain, Nov. 2011
1. Living the Dream
This was the first song I wrote that started to pull the theme together for this album. It's happy, upbeat, and draws upon a recurring theme in my music: enjoying the simple things in life. This guy doesn't have the fanciest car in town, he doesn't make a lot of money, but he's got his girl, a Summer night, and a watermelon Slurpee. Life is good.
2. Rain Dance
This song came to me during a rain storm. I had this guitar lick going, and I was looking out the window at the diagonal rain fall I started singing the chorus, "Let's see your rain dance, baby." And it quickly became like a mantra to me, and I wondered how many times in my life I could have benefited from those words myself. If I had had the notion to dance during past storms, how would it have changed the outcome and made the storms more tolerable? So, I wrote this for all our future storms. Hang tough.
3. Picking Up Speed
The reaction to this song has been interesting to watch. The few times I've played it for anyone, they give a disapproving snort to the phrase "over the hill." We need to stop fearing this phrase. It was a derisive term used by young baby boomers in the
'50's and '60's to call attention to the "squares" in middle age whom they saw as authority figures, or worse. Now that boomers are themselves middle-aged, they don't care for the phrase all that much. I see it as a wonderful description of mankind on a rollercoaster. Looking back on my life, I can't think of a better description. And looking forward, well, if the shoe fits... Everyone who's ever ridden a rollercoaster knows the best part is the last half of the ride.
4. Time is a West Bound Train
This is one of the first biographical songs I ever wrote. I wrote it as I was just starting to perform in front of people, back in the early '90's sometime, but I always felt it was too close to home for me to perform it live. Since writing it, I may have performed it a half dozen times, always on someone's porch or in their living room. Some songs are too important to open up and distribute like canned soup. Time is a West Bound Train has been waiting patiently for the right curtain call, and this album is it.
5. Hanging With My Friends Again
My friend, television and film producer Alan Blomquist, needed a theme song for the upcoming reunion of the guys from The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He gave me one line of direction: "Give us something happy and up-tempo about getting together with friends you haven't seen in a while." "Cool," I thought, "A reunion song!" I'm not sure I've ever heard a decent reunion song about friends
from High School or college, or wherever, getting back together, so I dug right in. For inspiration, I pulled out my High School year- books and put my 20-year High School reunion photo up on the wall beside my desk.
6. Live It Like You Dream It
On a recent family vacation, we all put together a mix CD of our favorite Summer songs. On the CD was a number of fun, bouncy rap songs (picked by my children, of course). They turned out to be our favorites. We replayed them as we drove to the beach, singing out the windows and soaking up the sun. I came home a new man, and a new songwriter. I wanted folks doing that with my music. So, I wrote my first rap song. My daughters sing the chorus, and I play and sing everything but the drums. My buddy Spoons played that beat and I looped it. The ukulele on the song is the one I brought back from that unforgettable family vacation.
7. Out On a Limb
No mid-life concept album should be without a wistful recollection of one's youth and innocence. This one's mine. My first book, "It Takes a Trailer Park, recounts the magical tree at the edge of my grade school playground that miraculously had a limb that had grown into itself. We called it "The H Tree," because it kind of made the shape of an H. I thought it was amazing, and it lead me to climb every tree in my town – and beyond. A few months ago, I was at a business lunch with some friends in California, and I couldn't stop looking at this amazing tree across the street. I wanted to climb it so bad. I can't remember what the meeting was about. Concert dates? Merchandise? Probably. But I think of that tree often. I made a note of the address. I will get back there.
8. Drive Thru Life
(This song hasn't been made into a demo yet.) My philosophy of life, to Enjoy The Ride, is most often repeated for my own benefit. I am so often running from car to plane to hotel and back home, that it's easy to forget to stop, slow down and live in the moment. Perhaps like you, I have a calendar and an alarm clock on my smart phone that changes with whatever time zone I am in. It monitors the passage of time so efficiently that I don't even realize my own obsession with time until hours have passed without any notice of color, sound, texture or detail, and I realize that I've done it again: walked through my own life like an extra on the set of someone
else's movie. This song is yet another reminder for me to slow down, and not grab at life like some warmed-over bag of fast food. Life is like that: If you're content with cheap, fast and bland, you won't have to look far. It's always close to the most traffic, right along the freeways. Like food, the best of life is going to take a little more effort.
9. Larry Anne
A palette cleanser for all the other conceptual stuff on the album. This one's just a fun, bouncy love song. If it makes you a tad uncomfortable, listen all the way through. It all gets cleared up at the end, whether it needs to or not. I really was intent on sitting down to write a song with a girl's name, like all those classics, Gloria, Mary Lou, Dianna, Sweet Caroline, even Beth — they all have
their own songs. It seemed that every name I wrote down already had a musical history. So, as is often customary with me, I came at it from left field.
10. We're All Gonna Die
The somewhat autobiographical story of a man who is determined to resist enlightenment, and ignore the educational pontifications of a dying man. I wrote this after visiting my friend Danny, who was dying of a brain tumor. Our visits never failed to fill me with light, knowledge, and priceless reminders that we are here but for a brief moment. I began to look forward to my visits with Danny —
my own "Tuesdays with Morrie" experience — and I felt a little guilty. I started going there to keep him company, to serve him, and yet (as was typical of Danny) I was always the one being served, being fed, being uplifted. The day I wrote this, I wondered if anyone could visit a dying man without being changed, and if so, what kind of shallow person would he be? Hopefully through the clueless man in this song, we can all learn to search for more clues.
11. She's Taking a Sick Day
If you've never taken a sick day when you weren't really sick, then you may not get this song. But if you've ever got up in the morning, looked outside at the sun-drenched trees, heard the birds chirping cheerfully from those trees, and thought, "I just can't go to work today," then this is your song. Nay, this is your anthem. For many of us, this is the reason we have jobs: so we can call in sick. Sick Day
Sluffers, Unite! (NOTE: I have never actually done this. This song is not autobiographical. I've heard of this from others. I was always a dedicated and loyal employee at all my jobs.)
12. What I've Learned From Dogs
Every word of this song is true, every note from the heart. If only I could sing it like my dog Charlie sings: always pure, always soulful, never a wasted note, it would be the perfect song. But until I am reincarnated (upgraded, if you will) to the more evolved state of a 5-year-old Schnauzer, you will have to put up with me, warts and all.
13. Bone of Contention
"This is the story of Adam and Eve, though we all can relate to this stuff." Thus starts the song, setting the stage for a heretofore untold mid-life crisis. Just beyond the suburban gates of Paradise Bluff, a wistful couple slog through the ups and downs of parenthood, career choices and temptations of the flesh, only to face the realization that "with Paradise closed, they have nowhere to go, so they keep
holding onto old ways." I wrote this after sitting near a middle-aged couple at a restaurant. My wife and I couldn't help but watch them. All through lunch they never once looked at each other. They never once spoke to each other. They only fed themselves, and chewed. It was as if their lives — not just the food, but their very lives — were without taste. They were only there for the sustainance, the
caloric intake needed to endure the next few hours, another day. It freaked us out, and we made a promise to each other that whatever happened, we would never be that couple.
14. Evidence of Life on Earth
"This is us, for what it's worth, our evidence of life on earth." This song (just written and not recorded as a demo yet) is the perfect sentiment for the last words of this album. It speaks of our impermanence here despite our attempts at immortality. My mortality used to scare me, but not anymore. It brings me great peace to be approaching 50 years of life with more than a few scars, more than a few mistakes made, and never enough smiles. This little album of 14 songs will take you less than an hour to listen to. It will be tucked into a playlist folder on your iPod, or be copied onto a flashdrive, or be passed around on a thin, silver disc a little wider than an English muffin. It will take up no more than 120 Megabytes of space on your listening device or computer. It took me 5 years or more to make, yet it's reduced to a mere 120 megabytes of data. And that's ok with me. How different am I, really, than the sand-painting monks in Tibet? They spend weeks on an elaborate sand painting to one day stand up and brush it away — weeks of work gone with the deliberate sweep of their hands. But the memory of their having painted together is forever intact. To them, it's a mighty symbol of life's impermanence, that life is change, and attachment to material things is foolhardy.
These albums, for me, are my sand paintings. And this one has 14 songs that all say basically the same things those monks say with sand: Life is short, and we're all gonna die. But now we live, and here, in the flesh, all this material stuff is nonsense.
Thanks for listening. And thank you deeply, for your continued support of my music.
- Antsy McClain
lead singer guy,
The Trailer Park Troubadours