Farewell Song

  • Submitted on time! Feb 26, 2023
Earth Tones

Okay, so. Doubled down on the drone zone and tuned my B-string down to an A and let that sucker ring the whole time (capo 4, though, so it’s a C#). Got that idea from Hiss Golden Messenger.

Writing to the drone was not comfortable for my typical vocal range. But serendipitously, I recently remembered that, when I was young, I was told by my older brother’s friend’s dad that I couldn’t sing and shouldn’t try to front bands. So here’s me talking my way through a song instead. Go to hell, Mr. Barclift.

Lyrically, I found myself writing about the intersection of two very different farewells for two very different places. One from my hometown when I was young, and one from New York City—not that I’ve left it yet.

Only had two nights to work this one out, so I apologize for the mix.


Farewell Song

Was told to mind my own.

To get real and stay put.

But honey I was right

to believe in you.

Was told to stick to my day job

six years before I had one.

Was told I couldn’t sing—

but I could always talk.

This is where I leave you,

in the only way I can.

With my chest up

and my heart on the line again.

And it’s not because I love you,

And it’s not because I don’t.

It’s that sometimes 

something in you says you have to go.

And yeah I lost my phone.

It could really be anywhere.

I feel a thousand different ways

between the highway and here.

Got called out on the train again:

“I’m gonna kill you in front of all these people.”

That one stuck with me pretty good.

But this is where I leave you,

in the only way I can.

With my chest up,

and my heart on the line again.

And it’s not because I love you,

and it’s not because I don’t.

It’s that sometimes 

something in you says you have to go.

It’s that same old feeling

that I knew once before.

Looking for feedback on

Pick your battle: How's the talky vocal delivery working for you? How do you get kick samples to sound less flabby? Thoughts on my new interests in playing slide guitar and banjitar? A few of the chorus lyrics don’t feel right to me yet—do you agree?


Rmal October 8, 2023 7:56pm

Ryan – get this on Spotify – I want to be able to listen to it all the time. Spectacular

Ryan October 9, 2023 11:50am

Thanks, Rick! Definitely plan to record this one with some real live humans and then release it.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:24pm (edited)

Variations on Mr. Barclift’s name that have shown up in the comments: Mr. Cliffbar, Mr. Bartlet, Mr. Barfchin, Brett’s dad

nick March 8, 2023 12:06pm

my guy, this chorus is absolute butter. no second thoughts from me, just second listens ayye. but seriously, this is like top three all time ryan choruses for a sucker like me. dont care dont know about kick samples. banjitar is a big win between these ears of mine. musical composition is prime. for the line “that i knew once before”, i would skip the little tudey bend into “once.” just keep that chit straight as your whiskey. i do not dislike the talkyness, but for some reason im giving the verse vocals like an 86. certainly like the lyrics. would be interested to hear a singier version where the only “talked” line was “was told i couldnt sing”. wait is that stupid maybe i dont know who the hell am i. incredible submissh.

oh and for that stiff-kneed Mr. Barfchin, he can choke on his own tongue

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:33pm (edited)

Wow, top 3 chorus in your book, huh? You might say this is a huge day for me.

Yeah the verse vocals are Grade B, you’re right! I think the whole song would ideally be bumped up a half-step or two so that the verse vocals are in my sweet spot, and then the delivery would be better. Was a tricky one both range and rhythm-wise.

nurphgun March 7, 2023 10:18pm (edited)

Love this so much Ryan. Cool to hear you singing in a different style, the lyrics & melody are held back, controlled, intentional, well chosen. It moves along nicely, has great motion. I feel like you usually achieve that effect with soaring guitars and soaring vocals, but you managed to achieve it here with very different instrumentation & vocal delivery, bravo.

“Was told to stick to my day job/six years before I had one” is a graduating-into-a-recession-in-2012 vibe.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:31pm

I was told to stick to my day job when I was 18 and heading INTO college by a DIFFERENT friend’s dad (shout out suburban Massachusetts and its ability to produce kind-hearted fathers). Couldn’t believe it. One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

Glad you dig the song. I always appreciate your observations.

atalinkay February 27, 2023 11:36pm

This is splendid listening! Perfectly complete if you ask me.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:30pm

Thank you!

juliapiker February 27, 2023 8:32pm

This is a great song. Super super easy to listen to and I don’t even know if i’d call this a talky vocal but it is a range I don’t normally feel like I hear you sing in?? I like it and it also gives room for you to maybe sing an octave up in a little head voice and double it. I hear another bridge as well. Obviously instrumentation is phenom. The mix is a little dirty but not too thick. Pretty mid thick. I often feel that my ears are itching for brightness and ear blowing low end- this feels relaxing to listen to. Very nice work.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:30pm

Oo! Can you say more about what you hear for another bridge? I swear the chords made more sense before I added that uneccessary slide solo lol.

EliasSZ February 27, 2023 7:52pm

Your talky voice is great. So are your other voices, but this works very well for this tune. “This is where I leave you in the only way I can” is such an excellent line. I feel like the chorus lyrics are almost right but could be tweaked slightly to reach total perfection – they’re definitely good as they are but I wonder how some small changes to them, maybe even just a change for the second time you hit the chorus could help really land the song.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:29pm

Funny you should say that — originally I had two completely different sets of lyrics for chorus 1 and chorus 2, partly to aid the fact that verse 1 and verse 2 take place in 2 different locations. But the song ended up feeling so dang SONGY that I was like, y’know, let’s let the chorus be a chorus. I agree with you that the lyrics still need just a few small changes, though.

Z February 27, 2023 5:07pm

I’m imagining a focus group of perplexed people screaming in confusion about what this could possibly be about, eventually smashing through the two way mirror and killing the moderators.

No I think this all fits super well together! The comedy of you “talking,” to Mr. Barclift, the country instrumentation primes the listener for that type of humor too, it’s great. I bet you thought about it a lot though when you were trying to figure out how you’d deal with the range issue – but the “talkiness” is a great solution to the problem and built around it so well.

I was struck by the entrance of every. single. voice! Each appears in such an unexpected and delightful way it’s like friends starting to trickle in at the beginning of a party, then suddenly we are at a chorus without it ever having been telegraphed and it feels so welcome.

Banjitar sounds great.

Kick = Rob’s problem.

Jelly that you can do something so complete in just two nights, muy impressivo Kershag.

Ryan February 27, 2023 6:11pm

Ah, thanks for mentioning the entrances of each voice! That’s one of the elements I’m happiest about.

lizzie February 27, 2023 4:53pm

you sound so great in a talksing!. it feels like the cresting of an emotion that’s been knocking at your door for a while. you’re familiar with it so it’s more like opening the door for it rather than it flooding the gates. “it’s not because i love you, it’s not because i don’t” is lyrical perfection. love the twang. this is gorgeous.

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:28pm

Thanks, Lizzo! That line was one I was happiest with myself!

Tengo February 27, 2023 2:42pm (edited)

Oh my sweet sweet Ry. What a sweet sweet tune! Sounds like a deep cut off “Wildflowers” and you know it don’t get no better than that for me. So excellent dude. TP and MC would be proud.

Talky vocal works super well. Do it more!

Kick don’t bother me a bit. Ask Robin.

Slide and banjitar are woven in so well.

It all feels good!

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:27pm

All-time compliment. Tattooing this on my frontal lobe.

froebusiness February 27, 2023 1:39pm

Really sultry stuff here, Kershaw. I like the tone and panning on the guitar a lot (or is that two tracks?). That intro harmonic is so simple but so effective. All those ornamental choices add a nice, subtle complexity to the track. “This is where I leave you” is such a strong opening chorus line lyrically too, really opens up the emotion while the tune opens up with it. Mr. Bartlet can kick rocks! Great story.

Ben February 27, 2023 3:22pm

agree about the “This is where i leave you”

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:27pm

Heck yeah, thanks Joe. Was worried about that line but you’ve helped me come around on it.

alechutson February 27, 2023 12:49pm

Your vocal delivery is perfect for this song. Giving me Noah and the Whale vibes. Fuck the haters

Ben February 27, 2023 10:09am

Sounds like a good guy.

This is great for a lot of reasons. First of all, the mix is good. Sounds finished to me. Sounds full and listenable and I think I can hear some of the good mixing decision-making.

Loving the underlying irony of managing to prove the guy who said you shouldn’t sing wrong by… not singing.

(But then you actually did sneak some nice singing in in the harmonies.)

Also sidenote: some of the best singers are notorious singtalkers (talksingers?), from Dylan to Kurt Vile to Leonard Cohen to Zappa to Billie Eilish etc etc.

I always like your drum samples and programming. Every time I hear one of your NCBC songs i’m always like fuuuck did ryan suddenly become a really really solid drummer (maybe you are; i don’t know if i’ve ever seen you drum) or did he maybe have nick come over and track these or something? and does he have his own home studio with a kit and really nice mics?

They sound just hazy enough to be real. I almost never try to program “real” sounding drums because they always live in the uncanny valley, so i either opt for just playing real drums or programming clearly digital beats. But this works well. this song calls for real drums, and your samples do the job well. not really hearing kick flab.

the music video for this is just you walking slowly through the city with a guitar talksinging.

i can go on and on here because i think this is one of your best, but instead of rambling, i’ll just leave you with a similar Well Look At Me Now story. In third grade chorus class a classmate (she’s a cop now in our hometown) told me that i just talk through all the lyrics and that she hates standing next to me because i make it hard for her to sing. i assume i probably told her that i sing the song at whatever rhythm, harmony, timbre, and style i damn well please because i’m a misunderstood musical genius. But the truth is that decades later i’m still hyperaware that i can fall into pitchless talk singing.

Looking forward to hearing all your tunes this session. Great great start, man.

nick March 8, 2023 11:50am

hazy is the right word

Ryan March 8, 2023 2:27pm

Love that the drum samples are working for you! I think I’m getting a little bit better at layering percussion and treating each sound a little differently so that they’re more believable.

Sam Pearce February 27, 2023 8:49am

Mr. Cliffbar can go fly a kite. I’ve always really liked the way you sing; I think it’s easy to listen to, nicely unaffected, and one thing I just realized is I can always hear all the words, but it’s also not pronounce-y (like Ben Gibbard, for example). I’m not even sure I would’ve thought of this style as “talky” if you hadn’t said so, since you’re talking notes in tune, but I do notice how it’s distinct from what you often do, and I like it.

The top layers, that harmonic, the banjo, the slides after the chorus, add a lot.

To your point about having to do it in a short period of time, even though I’m a perfectionist at heart, I think that sometimes having to rush leads to the truest choices. I only left myself an hour for mine this time, and its gnarly, but I was happy that it all felt like what I actually wanted to say. Granted, my personal approach to NCBC projects is mixing schmixing, it’s all about the song, but I do respect the way in which others view the mix as part of the core expression. For what it’s worth though, I think this mix is pretty easy to enjoy; doesn’t take away from the song at all.

TylerK February 27, 2023 12:16am

Your speaky voice is great, I’ve never heard this style from you. Emotion has nowhere to hide. For a two day mix this is great, get outta town. In context of the assignment, it’s earthy and fits the song. A flashy mix don’t always mesh with slide guitar (spittoon sound effect). Good work on this song, you simply don’t miss. I knew Brett’s dad was going to be involved in all of this but just didn’t know how.

nick March 8, 2023 11:46am


Ryan March 8, 2023 2:21pm

Earthy mixing just might be my thing.

agasthya February 26, 2023 10:21pm

i think the delivery works! and the backup vox in the chorus add the necessary body. If you have RC-20, I like to use the “cassette 1st generation” preset with the noise down on my kicks. makes them super punchy.