Southern Cross Northern Skies - Notes On Writing & Meaning
'Southern Cross Northern Skies' is about following a star that is impossible to see unless you learn to look in new ways and trust where it will lead you…
1. Different Now
Written in Albany, Denmark & Vasse, Western Australia, 19-22 November 2011.
I felt this song signalled a new chapter when I wrote it and that’s why it’s the first song on the album - We’re a little different now.
The lyrical imagery was inspired by the views of Albany Harbour, during visit to the Anzac War Memorial that got me also thinking about what would become Track 6 on the album - First To Fall - after a gig in Denmark, Western Australia.
2. Closer To Blue Than Green
Written in Dublin 6-9 April 2013.
I got the title a couple of years ago when I was still living in Dublin. I was stopped in my car at the traffic lights heading north waiting to turn right from Clanbrassil Street into South Circular Road, Dublin 8, and noticed that the colour of the green arrow light for those turning left was: Closer to blue than green.
The title ignited a process in me where all I could do was surrender to where it wanted to take me… And, it took me a while to figure out where this song was taking me, but I think it's about moving from naivety and innocence (green) to growing up and moving on (blue) and back home again (green).
Or, in other words, surrendering to life's losses (Blue) and dealing with them so you can move on and reclaim the innocence of youth (Green).
In more detail:
The first verse: is carried by the idea of not taking a chance on something you care about (In my case, never asking my first “crush” out on a date or letting her know I was interested in her when I was 15) because you are too inexperienced (green) to appreciate the personal value of the situation.
The second verse: is a metaphor based on foregoing the comfort and safety of what you know in exchange for the wisdom and experience gained from following your heart but having to face the darkness of change and uncertainty.
The third verse is the epiphany, where you recognise that there’s a natural order and rhythm to life that can assist you, or imprison you, depending on how you look at it. In this case, recognising the light is green and you are free now to go ahead.
The broken-flashing lights (metaphor drawn from encountering broken flashing-orange traffic lights just prior to the intersection where I observed the “closer to blue than green lights”) are both a warning that things have to change and an effort to draw attention to the fact that you can decide that you are free to go ahead rather than wait for permission.
The lights “flashing in time” also represent a warning about living a life of conformity rather than following your own heart. The “broken lights” represent those who have stalled in a life of bitterness, unable to move forward.
3rd Chorus: Recognising the journey through darkness has reached an end and now you can see the green light that allows you to move forward, even if you’re alone on that journey and not able to save everyone.
The resolve is that life has it’s losses which mount as you get older and the lesson is to take time to mourn and acknowledge the grief rather than suppress the feelings and become bitter. Only then can you continue to celebrate what you care about and not shut down your feelings and life-force for fear of loss.
Some earlier reviewers have used “wistful” to describe my music. I looked it up and discovered that it basically means being happy and sad at the same time. It’s an explorers theme I guess, having to say goodbye so you can find the new.
3. Indian Ocean Blue
First draft originally written between 9-31 Dec 2012 in Dublin.
With many and major edits, adjustments and rewrites up to 8th Feb 2015.
Basic idea: A contemporary Sea Shanty about the pioneering spirit of discovery and leaving safe ground. Saying goodbye to the comfort of what you know and love because life is moving you forward.
“You only get to know where it's going
If you stay with it”
4. Sweet Summer Wine
Written on 21 October 2013 in Vasse (With edits 21-22 Oct 2013)
For the Wine Song project at Cullen Winery, originated by Vanya Cullen for the Cullen Wine Song Album.
We are akin to grapes and wine - Life turns some of us into fine wines whilst others become vinegar.
5. Let Yourself In
Written by Rory Faithfield 20-24 September 2014 (Vasse & Sydney)
Themes: Love, friendship, persistence, commitment, loyalty and freedom, with time and space for change.
I think it’s about letting go and trusting in some kind of higher part of yourself, represented and assisted by those you love.
The metaphor of the ‘great lake’ represents the subconscious mind.
6. First To Fall
Written in Vasse, Western Australia 6-11 Feb 2014
Specially researched and written on request for the ANZAC Commemorative Committee in Albany, WA.
Song Title, ‘First To Fall’ originated from the Anzac website
General idea: A dreamlike recollection of a digger who survived.
My objective is to write a song that celebrates the Spirit of the Anzac soldiers. Their loyalty, service, mate-ship.
In thinking about this I recalled a scene from Herman Hesse’s ’The Glass Bead Game’ (that I read years ago now) where the main character (which as I vaguely recall) dives into an icy pool which shocks his system and kills him - symbolically bringing about a death of his old life as an intellectual (with lots of theorising about the nature of life) and the birth of a new person willing to embrace life to it’s fullest.
“the big thing in the war for Australia was the discovery of the character of
Australian men. It was character which rushed the hills at Gallipoli and held on there”.
Charles Bean - WW1 Historian (‘In Your Hands’)
Origin of the 3rd line from 1st Verse:
I can still hear Jack Adams cry
“Up boys and at ‘em, follow me”
Transcription of Private Ralph Scobie DCM 54th Battalion AIF: Jack Adams ran along the top of the trench and he bawled out ‘Fix bayonets and load up’ and then he came back still running, ‘Up boys and at ‘em, keep going, there is no objective’.
The idea for the lines from the song Bridge section:
Explained in this extract from the RSL website:
All these stories, together with the reports of the terrible losses were being printed in the newspapers back home in Australia. After reading such horrors, why then did 36,000 men volunteer to join the war effort? The spirit of the ANZACs had touched the hearts and minds of all Australians. Win or lose, they wanted to be with their mates. They couldn't stay home and do nothing after their mates had given so much. Their country needed them and they wanted to stand up and be counted. The true spirit of the ANZACs - a willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country, their pride and their mates.
The spirit of the ANZAC continues today in times of hardship such as cyclones, floods and bush fires. At those times Australians come together to rescue one another, to ease suffering, to provide food and shelter, to look after one another, and to let the victims of these disasters know they are not alone.
"I'd rather be killed than leave them there to die", said one ANZAC after he had risked his life to rescue a wounded mate from the battlefield and lowered him back into the Australians' trench at Gallipoli. That spirit lives on in many Australians today.
Origin of the lines from 3rd Verse:
“Webb was an orphan from Essendon
Throwing bombs back into the night
He lost both his hands and walked out of the Pine
Following an ancient light”
Extract from Australia War Memorial website:
“One of them, Corporal Frederick Wright, clutched at a bomb that burst in his face, killing him. Another, Corporal Harry Webb, described by Charles Bean as an ‘orphan from Essendon’, continued to catch until both his hands had been blown off. He walked out of the Pine and died.”
Coincidentally: The Essendon Football Club are nicknamed the Bombers.
7. Rebel Songs
Written in Vasse, Western Australia on Friday 25 March 2011
I wrote this after finding my wife’s lost wedding ring in the sand on the Newtown Beach near our Australian home in Vasse, Western Australia on Friday 25 March 2011 (I was still living in Dublin but visiting Australia at the time). The night before I'd played a gig at JB O'Reilly's Irish Pub in Perth and the legendary Irish Rebel Song band ‘The Wolfe Tones” were out in the back restaurant on a night off from their tour. This was the day after Ian Paisley (Northern Irish Loyalist Leader) retired and the whole culture of the “Rebel Song” was beginning to feel more and more anachronistic. I saw footage on TV News of Ian Paisley laughing away with Martin McGuinness (Ex-IRA Sinn Féin politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland). They had become known as the 'Chuckle Brothers'.
This gave me a lot to think about as I scoured the beach with a metal detector for my wife’s lost wedding ring. The idea that arch-enemies could become friends was quite a jolt to my Irish Republican background and family history. I was named after Rory O’Connor (my Grandmothers Cousin) who effectively started the Irish Civil War in 1921 after leading that side of the IRA that rejected Michael Collins acceptance of the patron of Northern Ireland and 26 County Republic.
In 2011 the firebrand Loyalist Northern Irish leader, Ian Paisley, retired from politics after making friends with, among others, his old enemy the ex-IRA leader and current Sinn Fein politician, Martin McGuinness.
Then the Queen of England came to Ireland and visited the Garden Of Remembrance in Dublin, paying her respects to those that fought and died for Irish independence from British rule. Those of us with Irish roots were kind of stunned and amazed at her bravery, sincerity and respect.
Subconscious Reference - Pink Floyd’s ‘We Don’t Need No Education’.
This song is about mind control and I'm sure my subconscious is making reference to it by using "we don't need no”. The song is really about needing education where the double negatives of “DON’T need NO education” cancel each other out, so in essence we do of course need education and new ways of thinking about how this is achieved.
8. Wine Wine
Written in Vasse, Western Australia 28 March – 6 April 2014 (Coda created Nov/Dec2014)
Plus edits and adjustments up to 14 March 2015
Also written for the Wine Song project at Cullen Winery, originated by Vanya Cullen for the Cullen Wine Song Album.
I decided that although I don’t drink anymore, I could still reference past experience and write a ‘Drinking Song”, with the basic premise of she-leaves-and-you-get-drunk and discover a new lover embodied by wine.
9. The Bloody Hookline
Written in Vasse, Western Australia on Monday 28 May 2012
(With edits and adjustments 9 April 2015)
I wrote this song deliberately using formulaic chord structures (the 3 chord trick for the chorus and 4 chord trick for the verses) originally just for demo purposes in my (very occasional) songwriting workshops.
The idea was to demonstrate how you set up a “hooklike” and I guess the lyrics brought out my twisted sense of humour: It’s kind of a protest song against protest songs.
10. All The Pretty Stars
Written in Dublin - Started on 6 Nov 2012 as 'Out Of This World'. Updated 5 Dec 2012 & 22 Jan 2013. This latest modified verse and new bridge version 27 April – 8 May 2013.
I think I’ve spent 30 years trying to write this song and finally found a way to say:
“We need the darkness to see the light
All the pretty stars only appear at night”
11. My My Pretty Darling
Written in Sydney 5-6 Feb 2013
There’s a possibility this might be a song written by my wife’s dog… I may have just been the cosmic stenographer who transcribed it for him. His name is Beaujo and he’s a Ruby Red Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with very big eyes. He’s a master of telepathy who suffers from separation anxiety.
Given that my Songs For Sooner album was related to the story of the dog I owned in my teenage years - Sooner - who would have “sooner” stayed under the house than come out into the world, 'Southern Cross Northern Skies' is about following a star that is impossible to see unless you learn to look in new ways and trust where it will lead you.
“My eyes are open
So many beautiful things to see”