“A Simple Life” is another old sad song that I wrote back in 2002 when I was playing with Reckless Truth Pail. 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.
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
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.