Todd Thibaud’s “4th of July” isn’t about the holiday but it does capture an appropriate holiday sentiment, especially this year. As turbulent times swirl around us, sometimes it’s nice to find moments of peacefulness and contentment in our lives.There’s a guy on my street, he moves to the beat of a song
And he always looks down when he sees somebody comin’ along
I guess that everybody needs a place, somewhere they control the pace
Tonight the stars in the sky look like the 4th of July and I’m hoping for a little grace
And because it’s always interesting to learn about the songwriting process and how songs come to life, I’ve included Thibaud’s story about “4th of July” below the video.
“4th of July”
This seemed like a no brainer, and though beyond the title this song has no real connection to the holiday itself, it still feels like the right choice for today. I built this song around those opening verse lines. They provided me with a way in, and once through that door, I could begin to see where the song might like to go from there.
Sometimes songwriting is like following a series of clues. Often, you can’t see the entire picture at the outset. Instead, you patiently follow the crumbs until you find yourself at the proper destination. And you almost always know when you’ve arrived at the right place, or at the very least, that you’ve found the right path.
Those initial phrases came one day while I was thinking about the many late night shows we used to play at one of our favorite venues, Toad, in Cambridge, MA. These days we normally play earlier sets at Toad, but back then we’d typically take the stage around 10:30pm and play until close. Usually it was a three set night. Our dedicated fans would be there to support us, but over the course of the evening random people would often wander in for a drink and to check out the music.
I’ve always enjoyed observing the crowd from a stage, and as the night wore on and we got closer to last call, the cast of characters would invariably become more and more interesting. I remember on several occasions a woman I wasn’t familiar with would come in alone part way through our show. She’d sip on a drink and move to the music by herself near the street entrance to the bar. I don’t ever remember her speaking to anyone else, and I never met her myself. To this day she remains a complete mystery. I used to notice her there from the stage, and wonder who she was, and what brought her in. Was she a fan? Was the bar just a convenient stop on her way home? Did it bother her to be alone?
As a songwriter, I’m always curious about the story behind the person. Beyond the persona available to the world each day, we all possess a much more complex life experience that’s not so easily accessed or communicated. The place where we keep the intricate story of all our joys and disappointments, our dreams and regrets, our triumphs and losses, and that contains the intimate truths of our outward and inward journey through those events. It’s where the good stuff is when it comes to songwriting. It’s what I work to dig for and investigate in my own life, and what I try my best to empathetically discern when I imagine the life experience of others.
I hope you enjoy this track from my most recent album, Hill West. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. Be well, and be kind, and please wear a mask. More music soon.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.