A Simple Life is another old sad song that I wrote a while back. This one was written on acoustic guitar and features a lot of heavy hammers and chord arpeggios. I wrote the chords with the verse lyrics and had the chorus chords but couldn’t do anything with the chorus words. I brought it to my co-writer Tari Follett who helped me by writing the chorus words. Thanks, Tari!

Musically, I felt really strong about this chord progression. It’s in the key of C but has enough curve balls (D major substitute and the Bb in the prechorus) to keep it interesting. I also enjoyed the F major – F minor device to end the chorus and get back to the dark and minor verse.

Chords and Lyrics

A Simple Life
Miles Maxwell ©2002

Capo fifth fret

Am/D - F – C – G
All I ever wanted was a simple life
Am/D - F – C – D
Never asked for nothing more
Am/D - F – C
Don’t want no money, nice things or diamond rings
G
Just the simple things
Bb/D F
With a mind clear and free
C G7
But you took that away from me

Hey you, yeah you
Life will never be easy again, old friend
You took what you could and left me complicated
Well, now I never forgive and I never forget
I never forget

But that’s the one thing you taught me, isn’t it dear

C – G – Em – F
There’s nothing, there’s no one
It’s too late to save me
I’m tired, I’m broken
Look what you have made me
Hope you got what you wanted
I hope you forgot me
I tried to forget you
C – G – Em – F Fm
Look what it has got me

Some people build walls to simplify their future lives
Some build walls to hide what remains
But me, I’m tired of my walls
And I’m tired of feeling so ashamed

All I ever wanted was a simple life
Never asked for nothing more
Don’t want no money, nice things or diamond rings
Just a simple life
With my mind clear and free
But you took that away from me

Chorus

Solo

Chorus

A Simple Life decoded

Now that I’ve introduced this song, I want to clarify from a writers perspective what I was trying to do. It’s actually about two things: First, it’s about child abuse. That probably sounds a bit like a stretch and I intentionally kept things vague enough to be applied to multiple situations but the wrongdoing at the hands of a parent was the first thought here. I heard a tough childhood story from someone I cared about and this was my attempt to get inside what that experience might have felt like. I definitely did not have this kind of childhood but I wanted to memorialize that empathy in something that I could sing about with passion.

Second, it’s about a friend who was raped. Similar to the first theme, I have not been in that position but I was moved by my friend’s story and I felt a need to try to understand that story in my own imagination.

Part of me feels like talking about it openly cheapens the song and makes it seem like I intended to co-opt someone else’s experience for my own creativity. I don’t see it that way but it occurred to me in hindsight so I figured it could probably have occurred to others. I see it as kind of a tribute to their pain and perseverance. Even if feelings and trauma don’t get resolved in the song, the character singing it is fighting instead of surrendering to the pain of the situation and that means they have hope.

In any event, it’s a song I’m still proud to play because the music ain’t too bad, the message is a real one and it makes me feel something. Hopefully, it makes the listener feel something too.

Bitter Jealousy is another oldie I’m pulling from the vault. I co-wrote the words and music on this one, again in California. This time though, I co-wrote was with friend Dan Divanian. If memory serves, this was his first attempt at writing a song. Not bad for starters.

Musically, it has a fixed minor verse form, a pre-chorus and delayed but extended chorus. It plays kinda long and, since the focus was on telling an entire story with a beginning, middle and end, it might feel a bit repetitive by its conclusion. I’m proud of how it makes you wait for the major chorus until 2 and a half minutes in. It’s like a reward for putting up with a lot of story exposition.

The story was one Dan told me that I translated into lyrics. It was a specific situation he went through but I could tell right away that the situation is a common one. It takes a lot to make a love connection between two people. Sometimes, it’s the right time and the wrong place. For the two teenagers in this song, it’s the right people but the wrong time. In hindsight, I feel like the song is also about realizing you are about to miss out on something you took for granted.

I should add that the stuff about drugs was legit all made up. The song kind of had a brooding Sacramento vibe to it and the Weezer song “Hashpipe” had recently been released so I threw it in there. It wasn’t something I actually did. If you listen to the demo recording I did from way back in 2001, you’ll hear a sweet melodic intro riff that I don’t bother with in the video and you’ll hear me talk about freebasing coke or something else equally unbelievable.

Lastly, here are the words and chords to the song so you can all sing along.


Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way you looked that night
Bm A F#m
Your hair tied high and your eyes burning bright
G A Bm
I never saw you that way before

Bm A F#m
Maybe it was the way I felt that night
Bm A F#m
I had a beer, a few rum and cokes and a puff of my hashpipe
G A Bm A F#m
I never saw you that way before
G A F#m G-F#m-Em
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A Bm
I saw you that night and I saw more

For two years I owned a piece of your heart
In all that time, I never allowed it to start
Because I never saw you that way before

I don’t know what it is now
That’s got me turned around somehow
I’d never seen you that way before
But I saw you that night and I saw more
G A D
I saw you that night and I saw more

D A
So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
D A
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
God, I wish I were him tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight
D A
Tonight

G-F#m-Em G A

That’s okay. I’m better off without you
Strange to say, you’re probably better off without me too
Because we never saw each other that way

If we’d agreed we could have seen the best of me
But all I’m left with is my bitter jealousy
Because we never saw each other that way
But I saw you that night and I wanted to stay
I saw you that night and wanted to stay

So you say you’ve got a new boyfriend
What’s his name? Does he treat you well?
God, I wish I were him tonight
God, I wish I were him tonight