Inspiration comes from many sources, as all of you songwriters know. Often, a song is the product of more than one source of inspiration. That is the case with my most recent song, “Surrender to the Sea”. This song will be revised – I don’t consider it finished – but you can hear a work track on my ReverbNation page (see the widget at the bottom of this page).
I’ve always had a very romantic notion about the seagoing life, especially regarding the days of the great sailing ships. I’ve had a song percolating inside of me for a long time, about a young man leaving home to spend his life at sea.
A recent maritime disaster, the El Faro, reminded me that a life at sea has its risks, as well as its romance. That disaster touched me deeply. Having been a merchant marine officer as a young man, I have a small inkling of what it must have been like on that doomed ship, and naturally, I had the urge to write a song about that.
These two sources of inspiration combined to bring this one song into being, which I entitled “Surrender to the Sea”. I imagined a young officer on a sailing ship in the early years of the last century, declaring that he has no regrets about his decision to go to sea. He surrenders to what he feels was his destiny: to live and die aboard his ship at sea.
I wrote the first two verses to sound, to the listener, as though they were letters sent home by the young mariner, in which he attempts to reconcile his life choices to his loved ones who are left behind.
The final verse to take the song in an entirely different direction. This ship’s officer reveals that he is writing in the log of a doomed ship, and he describes the peril he is in and the destruction happening around him. In the light of this new information, the first two verses and the chorus take on a new meaning and a new mood. This young mariner knows he is going to experience a cruel death; he is saying goodbye, and his declaration that he has no regrets begins to sound a little less convincing.
There are some problems that remain to be solved. The transition to the last verse seems a bit to0 abrupt to me. One songwriter friend suggested that I could indicate earlier in the song, either in the chorus or in the first verse, that the sailor is on board the doomed ship, writing to his family. Another songwriter’s thought was to change the order of the verses, and put the final verse first.
I’m not sure how I’m going to solve this problem, but I know it will be probably take several more rewrites. That is the path to success in songwriting (however one defines success): keep rewriting the song until there isn’t any part of it that bothers you.
Thanks for listening to my thoughts on my new song!