As mentioned in a previous post, confessional songwriting has a way of chronicling lived experience. Over time it becomes possible to revisit older songs, the sentiments and intentions behind them, and sometimes songs written for others in the past seem to call for new “commentary” in the present. Commentary in the form of a new song.
This commentary can come across in many ways. In this post I present the song “Your New Wings.” Throughout the song it makes intertextual references to an older song, namely “Girl on a Swing” written for my daughter Ida in 2006 and released on the album From Here to Heaven. On “Girl on a Swing” the singer celebrates the child’s play on a swingset and seeks to capture the moment while also lamenting that it slips away as he tries to capture it.
“Your New Wings” makes reference to the girl on the swing, while celebrating that the girl has grown. As the prechorus goes:
“All things grow, I know / Sometimes you too / Would have wanted to stay / But in life we risk ourselves some / For the outcome / Hopefully helped by an inner child by our side”
The chorus uses the imagery of the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. I here took inspiration from a meme on social media that said: “Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over she began to fly.” With the text was a picture of a butterfly spreading its wings. This meme, or prompt, was what initaited the songwriting. I thought there was something in the line that could be built upon, and I wrote the chorus first:
“Just when the caterpillar thought / she was going to die / she began to fly / Just when she felt so alone / she was going to die / she began to fly /
I’ll keep with me / a little girl on a swing / as you take to the sky on /
Your New Wings”
The message of the song is that it can be cumbersome to transition from childhood to adulthood, and “I know / Sometimes you too / Would have wanted to stay.” But it is also a celebration. A celebration of the grown person that takes to the sky on her new (adult) wings.
Meanwhile, the love between parent and child lives on. That special moment (a symbol of the thousands of special moments we enjoy as parents) was captured well enough that “I’ll keep with me / a little girl on a swing / as you take to the sky on / Your New Wings.”
Listen to a first draft of “Your New Wings” here
The music to the song came as I wrote down the words. Staying at a retreat for composers in Bargemon in the South of France, courtesy of DPA, the house guitar was tuned to DADGAE when I arrived. It inspired me to revisit some older songs written in the DADGAD tuning (the first song I played on the guitar was “Girl on a Swing”). This in turn inspired me to write new songs as commentary to older songs. (See also the previous post on this page about the song “You Shall Not Want For Love.”)