photo by Zac Woodside
by Michael Todd
When you think a songwriter made a great discovery, think again. Especially when that songwriter knows the Bible better than you.
Often, art draws on the past, and isn't a wholly new invention. For one thing, Orion Walsh's latest EP, First By Water Than By Fire, states outright that the verse 2 Peter 3:5-10 is a cornerstone of the work. So when I asked Walsh over the phone how it felt to write a line comparing natural disasters and war to birthing pains, I should have known. Walsh didn't write that line. The Bible did.
Nonetheless, Walsh talks candidly about the personal changes that led to "In One Day," which closes First by Water Than By Fire, and the effect he hopes the song has on listeners. Read on for explanation of the song's message, and learn it yourself with chords and lyrics below.
Walsh plays Lincoln Calling next Wednesday night, technically Thursday morning at 12:30 a.m. at the Bourbon Theatre. He will make a stop Omaha's Barley Street Tavern the Tuesday night before with Gayle Skidmore, and will continue on the road after Lincoln Calling to play Oregon, Washington, California and Arizona shows through the end of October and beginning of November.
jump to THE SONG
Orion Walsh: Basically, “In One Day,” it hints at the second coming of Christ at the end of the song. It is about that. Of course, in scriptures it talks about it, so it’s based off that. The beginning of the song is pretty personal to my own life. It speaks about some dark subject matter, demons waiting beside my bed, the chains it talks about. But it goes on to cover a wide gambit of things going on in the world.
HN: When you write a song like this that goes from looking inward to covering the world, how long does it take to craft what you want to say?
OW: On this particular song, it came out pretty quickly. A lot of times, the first couple lines are the hardest, no matter how simple they might turn out to be. Once you get the first verse, then the other stuff starts to flow quickly.
HN: Spoken from a second-person perspective, the song can come off as if it's speaking directly to the listener. What do you hope your message accomplishes?
OW: Of course, the whole album is apocalyptically themed. This is the closing song. The message is that bad things are happening, and from what I understand, the scriptures say they will get worse. Even though all this is happening, there is still hope. That goes along, too, with the scripture 2 Peter 3 that says there’s still hope for repentance.
As someone who lived contrary to what the scriptures say, coming back to them definitely has helped to write more about these subject matters. It’s a little deeper than what I've done in the past. The point of the EP, of this song, is to make the listener think, "Could this be true?" It's also meant to spark some hope. I guess the hope that if you believe, there is still hope.
There’s a lot of people who wouldn’t call themselves Christians, people from all beliefs might have heard that song or hear it in the future. But I'm just trying to get the listener to have hope and believe in a higher power, to love other people. That’s now that I’ve grown older what I’ve realized is most important. The point of this EP was to get that out.
HN: How did writing this song and this album help you cement that change for you personally?
OW: For a long time, my old band was on a Christian label, Tooth & Nail. I grew up as a kid in a church. I had Christian beliefs, but some go through a time where they do whatever they feel like. I did stray from my beliefs. I lived as it felt good. Most people that know me in Nebraska would say Orion does what he wants.
Those original beliefs that I had, though, came back to me. I think the music was inspired by the scriptures, God was urging me to write about this. It hasn’t been easy either. People come to shows. They say this has changed, I want to hear songs about drinking and traveling. I just want there to be more subject matter within the lyrics. In the future, I want to write stories. I enjoy writing storytelling songs. "In One Day" tells a story. It's about my beliefs in the scriptures and also about some of the darker personal struggles.
HN: Did you write and record the instrument parts played by the others?
OW: On "In One Day," I recorded the song. I recorded it on my own home computer. (The song was mixed by Matt Hovanec and mastered by Doug Van Sloun.) Then a cellist who plays with Skypiper, Connor Giles. I just tracked him at my apartment. Brian Brazier from Bolzen Beer wrote the horn parts. Connor wrote his part, too. Both Brian and Tommy Van Den Berg played the horn parts.
It turned out better than I had intended (laughs). I was pretty happy with the way that turned out. I don’t do a lot of my own recording, and I'm pretty self-critical, so this was a good result I hadn't expected.
HN: I think the line “these are merely birthing pains” marks a crucial turning point. When you write a line like that, what does it feel like?
OW: It refers to what we’re seeing with the weather, the obvious signs. There are people in denial with the state of the world. It gives me an eerie feeling. I know I’m not supposed to be fearful, and I try not to be. But it brought that eerie feeling to me when I wrote it: To deny the truth is wrong.
And that line, that’s from the scriptures in the gospel of Jesus, the end times, how we would see earthquakes, hurricanes, wars. It’s right in there. The song evokes quite a few feelings throughout, though. "Can you feel your freedom slowly slip away / Those boyhood dreams you had now have you chained." That's me being chained to music. Sometimes it’s discouraging for musiciains. We put a lot of work into our writing or music, and we don’t see a lot out of it. Ten years later, we’re still broke. So that refers to me being chained to what I’ve been doing, wondering if there’s something different that I should be doing. Still, though, when people hear a song, that could mean a million things. That could mean different things to different people.
No matter what you believe, it’s still worth listening to. I’m not saying to believe anything, but to present what was on my heart. I hope it gives others some hope.
jump to THE INTERVIEW
Capo on third fret
C — Em — F — Fm throughout
Can you feel your freedom slowly slip away
Those boyhood dreams you had now have you chained
What do you have now to show
Than to turn to dust and fall down below
Can you feel the pain inside of my head
Or see the demons that wait beside my bed
The nightmares and catastrophes
Well, I pray the Lord, He rescues me
Can you feel the world’s love growing cold
It seems hate it’s now all that we know
Theft, murder, adultery
Can you feel it moving closer toward the end
Each day another step toward that ledge
Wars and earthquakes and hurricanes
But all these are merely birthing pains
Can you hear that loud trumpet sound
Or see that white horse now heading down
They say no one knows the day or the hour
But he’ll return in glory and power
In one day, in one day
In one day, in one day
Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. He apologizes to the Bible. Reach Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.