Ode to Joy: The Tom Marshall Interview
Sure. But I was also wondering about lines like I never thought I could have it so good… you were the song that my soul understood. That has multiple meanings, too.
Right. Oh, I know. Those lyrics came so fast. We were together, and there’s something that is amazingly magical when Trey has a guitar in his hand. And when he’s playing, sometimes I’ll put down something quickly that, later, I might regret. Sometimes, Trey will say, “Come on, Tom, come up with something here. We’ve got to record this.” This one [“Joy”]—we didn’t feel that way, even though the lyrics came fast, there was no hurry like “Let’s get this thing written.” We just knew. This one was fast and perfect, and the lyrics came out right the first time. It really did write itself.
I remember…I even have the original paper, and there’s no cross-outs. We just put it down. I was really thrilled with the puzzle piece line. I was agonizing about it a little bit like “How does this fit into the meter?” I remember I had it differently in my head. I just had to write it down because there were so many cool words and ideas. I was also thinking of “In My Life,” the Beatles song: there are places …
You are talking about no cross-outs, and I am amazed at how these words just tumble out so gracefully natural and perfect: but time is a river that flows through the woods, and it led us to places we both understand.
Yeah, that’s early in the song. There are two halves to the song, and that one is still the daughter half, and not the Kristy half. That one was sad, and I remember Trey and I were sad listening and thinking about it: the kids growing up, and we’re growing up, too. Hopefully, you grow up, and you’re happy. There’s a lot you can, as a parent, control, in a way. Then, there’s a lot you just have to sit back and watch. We want you to be happy, and we’re trying to do everything we can. We try. But, shit. Time is a river, and it flows—who knows really what’s going to be around the next bend?
How does something like “Kill Devil Falls” fit into that Joy scheme of things?
“Kill Devil Falls”—I had written the lyrics a while ago, back in the era of “Walls of the Cave.” However, Trey rewrote it, and added a C section, if you will. Suddenly, we realized that it’s a song about addiction. I didn’t really get it as he was doing it, but he said, “Here’s sort of a goofy song about a guy who drinks too much, or loses his girlfriend because he’s an idiot.” Just by adding that stand at the base of the mountain (Don’t follow me) part—his reference, in a metaphor, to his problems, which I didn’t really realize until later.
But “Kill Devil Falls” was your phrase, initially.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Where was that phrase coming from you, at that point, back then?
(Laughs) Honestly, I think it was one of those one-off, off the cuff, funny little things that I’ve sent to Scott Herman, trying to goad him into writing a response, and I don’t think it did. Later, I found it as I was rifling through some stuff to bring up to Trey. What’s funny to me is the transformation and relevance now.
What about “Light”?
(Laughs) That was funny because I think I was online with Phantasy Tour when Trey and I were together. I went on Phantasy Tour, and referenced a song. I think I said, “KDF,” and that would be “Kill Devil Falls,” but I was also talking about another song, and that was “Light,” which was being written at the time. Later, I remember reading people saying, “I wonder what Tom’s going to write about, and I wonder what they are doing these days?” And months later, when they saw the lyrics, someone said, “Oh, no— it’s like all of these religious references.” (laughter)
And it did kind of come from that sort of place. Trey turned me on to some reading that he was doing at the time.
I thought so. I didn’t want to directly ask you.
He did. He did. Believe it or not—you know those cheesy books that you can get a beginner’s commercialized, packaged versions of Buddhism, like The Secret, with its roots in Buddhism, in a way? There was one that was packaged, but much more difficult, and much more mumbo jumbo-y by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now. Even trying to make sense of it is kind of mumbo jumbo. It is. It really didn’t make sense. And yet, it described this guy, and I guess he was having problems in his life, blah blah blah, and suddenly, he realized that his mind and he are separate entities. That realization was a huge epiphany for him, and it enabled him to get on to a whole different plane of happiness and satisfaction.
He was trying to explain how you could live in the now—the past doesn’t really matter; the future really doesn’t matter; you’re here and happy now. I was thinking, “How do I envision that for myself? How can I try to do that? If my mind and me are separate, maybe I can see a gap between them?” (laughs) Then, I started writing.