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Published: 2009/11/03
by Randy Ray

Ode to Joy: The Tom Marshall Interview

“Light” is my favorite song on the album—musically and lyrically, it rings true. I felt it was a different angle for you, but it is still very simple, yet very deep.

Yeah, exactly. That turned out to be the theme of Joy’s songs: simple, yet deep like the song “Joy,” itself, in a way.

“Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” is a song people can relate to from time to time with its element of the mind not clicking like it should. I love the line Got a Clif Bar and some cold green tea. Yes, we all need to kick start the engine, right?

(Laughs) That’s another one that I think Trey latched hold of and realized that there’s a deeper message in there that he could bring out from obscurity depending on the way he sang it. I think he chopped some lyrics out of it, and just really liked that line. I was in hell, working in front of a computer, and I actually really did have a Clif Bar and green tea. That was my snack. (laughter) I remember thinking, “Oh, God—how do I get through this thing, just sitting there in a 9 to 5 slog?” That one, also, was written a while ago because I haven’t been 9 to 5ing in four and a half years. The song is a Scott Herman/Tom Marshall collaboration. We were desperately reaching out to each other across the void, and comfort each other in our respective horror at the time.

“Ocelot” seems fairly straightforward. too.

Yeah. I think Trey was the ocelot, and I was writing to him.

“Twenty Years Later” is a nice bookend to the album as Joy begins with “Backwards Down the Number Line”—another glance back before looking ahead.

I’m so glad they moved that. When I first heard the album, “Twenty Years Later” was going to be the first song. I thought, “Oh, no. ‘Backwards Down the Number Line’ should be the first,” but I didn’t say it. Trey came upon that himself, thank goodness, and put it at the end. To me, it’s an end song, especially with that “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” jam at the end.

(laughs) But, yeah, I don’t know, really. Trey and I wrote that entirely together, just sort of thinking, “Here we are twenty years later.” The little verses were just kind of put together kind of Tom-silliness style.

Well, Phish in a way, recording-wise, it’s been around 20 years, but it is more like 30 years later for you and Trey.

(Laughs) That’s true. That’s true.

Let’s talk about your work with Trey on a few songs you specifically co-wrote with him, which appear on Party Time, the bonus CD included in the Joy box set. “Alaska” is a familiar song to Phish fans as Trey played it on his solo dates in 2008.

That had a “Tennessee Jed,” Grateful Dead kind of vibe going on there. I think we wrote it in Saratoga Springs in Trey’s apartment when he was staying up there. I just remember really—that was one, again, we wrote together. I think the challenge to ourselves was “Let’s just write a happy, funny, ‘Tennessee Jed’ kind of story with a swing to it.” And that’s what we did. That was our take on that sort of thing. I don’t know why we chose Alaska, but I remember (laughs), shortly thereafter, the whole Sarah Palin thing ruined it for him. (laughter) Ruined it for him.

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