Ever had your heart broken? I mean, just absolutely shattered, utterly smashed to pieces to the point where you can't tell up from down and it's all you can do to find the strength to pick yourself off the floor? In "I Can't Stop Crying," one of my all time favorite songs, Sam Phillips once sang the words, "I know that this heartache is a speck in the sky of love, but it's all I feel around me." Gospel. Been there. Woe is me.
Whether or not Eric Shiveley was in that darkest of places when he wrote this song, it's hard to say. Bygod, though, it sure feels like he was. Although his emotion is unrelenting throughout the song, his anguish is particularly palpable towards the song's coda. As the music swells to a crescendo and then gently resolves into itself and Shiveley sings the lines, "Whatever you say/To make it okay/You don't know me at all/If you think I'm lonely/Guess you showed me/You don't know me at all," you can't help but be chilled.
You might recognize the gal in the above clip. That's Shiveley's real life ex-girlfriend Jenna, whom we watched him fall in love with over the course of Everyone But You, the stirring documentary he produced and directed in 2008.
The song, which is presumably inspired by their relationship, is from Eden's Light, Shiveley's new album, which took him an excruciatingly long time to finish. If you ask him, he'd tell you, matter of factly, that he wanted to hold off putting out another record until he had something worth releasing. And he'd be absolutely serious.
That's the thing about Shiveley: The guy's fiercely talented, but often riddled with self-doubt. If you've ever seen Everyone But You, then you're familiar with his notably semi-defeatist outlook and pervading knack for self-deprecation.
This past spring, for instance, after several periodic inquiries on my part, as he was putting the finishing touches on the album, he sent me a song ("Baby Can't Sleep," which is freaking fantastic, BTW, and consistently leaves me with a stupid smile every time I hear it) from the record, which he wasn't even certain he'd be pressing, along with the following note:
"While mixing the last song I realized I can't sing. My voice is thin, nasal, off-key and the aural equivalent of a drill with a broken, wobbly bit going into your brain.
So suddenly I have no desire to duplicate the album and send it everywhere. I saw this girl sing at an open mic a few weeks ago and everyone was floored by her voice. I realized if I were good enough to get anywhere it would already have happened. And it felt like I was back in 7th grade standing naked in the lunchroom. Don't read too much into that. Just get the sense and look away.
That's where we are anyway. Attached is the last song I mixed. The one that made me realize I'll never have the kind of voice you need to get from nowhere to having any considerable following -- no matter how hard you work it (don't get me wrong, I understand that part of the equation well).
By that point, I got the unmistakable sense that Shiveley was finally raising the white flag, essentially giving up on his music. But since I'd kept after him, he indulged me. He ended up pressing the record and sending me a copy. I was just starting to wrap my head around it, when he sent me another note last month letting me know about his inclusion in the upcoming Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons in a few weeks, confirming earlier suspicions: "In April," he noted, "when I finished mixing my new album I knew I was done with music."
Ah, but thankfully, he wasn't. Music, it turns out, is a lot like love: When you stop pursuing it so earnestly, the right one just seems to come along. "Since I gave up hope, I feel a lot better," I believe is how Steve Taylor once so eloquently put it. Such is the case here. Shiveley, who I've always been a big fan of, has really hit the mark on Eden and put out the best album of his career.
Despite the fact that he has no plans to host a CD release party, and has no real plans to do anything outside of playing the Folks Fest showcase on Friday, August 13, I have a feeling that Shiveley is finally going to begin gaining the notoriety he so richly deserves. This notion is bolstered by the fact that the rest of Eden's Light, like this song, is just as striking and carries a similar lived-in feel to it. When folks hear it, I suspect they'll be as moved by it as I am.