Smokey Brights will be performing July 7 at Neumos
A lot went into writing your favorite song, but how much do you really know about


Tell Me About That Song: Ryan Devlin, Vocalist and Guitarist of Smokey Brights

Smokey Brights will be performing July 7 at Neumos
A lot went into writing your favorite song, but how much do you really know about it? This week Ryan Devlin, vocalist and guitarist of Seattle's Smokey Brights, delves into what it's like to live in a wizard house, stalking a Grammy award winner, and hustling everyday.

Song: "Beg Borrow and Steal"

Album: Unreleased. This is one of earlier tunes, which we recorded for our first release "Can't Rightly Say." It didn't come out quite right in that recording, so we left it off. You'll find it on our upcoming full length which will likely come out next spring, or perhaps on a 45 before then.

Release Date: The mysterious and not too distant future, sometime after the Mayan calendar ends.

When it was written: In lazy increments, over 2009/2010. Then in one furious burst on a sunny August day.

Where it was written: Mostly at Wizard House, the Ravenna rental home where the live video was shot. Wizard House is my former home and has been home to 20+ musicians, students, writers and miscreants. It has served as a practice space, home, and party pad for our group of friends over the last six years.

Favorite line in the song: "If the critics cry misconduct / You just call it irony / Let 'em know this shit ain't easy, son / But it aint brain surgery."

Which part was the hardest to come up with: The bridge: "Two weeks until we can get some rest / We're flush with luck but weak / In all the shit we need / Two weeks until we can get some sleep / We'll cash our checks and drink / To the way we used to feel." That part is a nod to how frustrating it can be to come home from a day job and commit yourself to the act of working on a song, or whatever your "passion" or "craft" may be. Often you want to just crack a beer and watch 10 episodes of Parks and Recreation. The two-week pay period, the feast to famine cycle, mirrors the creative act for me in some ways. Sometimes you're flush, sometimes you're strapped.

If you could go back and change anything, what would it be: I'd either have used more or less "swear words." Likely more, though.

Odd fact about song: Shortly after I finished writing this song, Mountain FM mega-crooner Ray LaMontagne won a Grammy or something for a song called "Beg Steal or Borrow." It was at once vomitous and fitting. (If you're reading this Ray, I'm coming for you.)

What was your inspiration for writing the song: Hustling, every day. (Everyday I'm hustling.) That, and learning some Mississippi John Hurt finger-picking techniques.

When was your favorite time performing it live: On tour in Redding, Calif., at this place called "The Eatery." It was a random weeknight, out of town show, in what is essentially a sports bar. If you've ever been in a non-famous touring band you know that's a recipe for weirdness. Fortunately for us, there was a dozen or so 20-somethings getting hammered together, doing their best to not watch one of the 30 flat-screen TVs in the bar. They insisted on like three encores, and started dancing on the tables when we played this one. Furniture was broken, Oakland Raiders Official Glassware was shattered, the shitty PA system was shocking my face every 10 seconds; it was beautiful.

What is the meaning behind the song: That one keeps changing for me, and I'm also a firm believer that the author doesn't actually get much say in what the piece "means." However, in a nut-shell:

I wrote this after America plunged into "The Great Recession." On one level it's about the idea of "credit." Borrowing to get by, borrowed money, borrowed time, borrowed personas. It's also about class and how it pertains to the arts. Music is no different than any other form of business: the rich kids get ahead. There is nothing "wrong" about this, it's just a

part of reality. ("Now these devils and these debutants / We all dress the same down here.") So, there is some frustration in there from someone like me, the musician of little means, towards a whole class of rich kids in ratty jeans playing pre-distressed Telecasters and calling it art. I turn that lens on myself too, and try and question if I am entitled to make art. But the venom is met with playfulness too, and that's the heart of the song: wordplay. I studied creative writing at UW. The fun of lyric and wordplay is what really excites me about music and language. Mainly though, it's about hustling day in and day out.

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