There’s a lot of my hometown in my songwriting. It’s not intentional; the songs just come out that way. It’s funny because the northern Maine mill town where I grew up didn’t seem inspirational during my youth. But now when I look back, the years that I spent there shaped me in more ways than I will ever fully realize.
There were the gray winter days and the sounds of logging trucks. There were the blue collar hands of men and women who spent lifetimes cutting trees, stripping bark, and grinding wood to be made into paper. And there was the constant worry that the once thriving local community would slowly melt away as the modern era rendered American industrial towns obsolete. That worry was realized in my hometown.
In the song “Another Man’s Rhyme” I write about my image of a man living in Millinocket, Maine after the mill closes. He’s lost his wife, he’s jobless, he struggles with alcohol, and he is filled with working class pride. Is this an accurate portrayal? Probably not. But it’s what I picture life is now like in my hometown.
In the song “Long Long Time from Home” I try to paint a picture of my Canadian ancestors who first came to northern Maine from Prince Edward Island to help build the mill. I imagine that Millinocket was not a hospitable place. I imagine that it was dusty, cold, and hard, and that people ached from long hours of labor. Little did they know that their work would lead to generations of paper makers and a local economy that would pay for countless mortgages and grocery bills. They also didn’t know that 100 years later it would be gone.
“Before She Closes the Door” tells the rough story of my mother making the difficult decision to move with her three young children from Toronto back to Millinocket where she grew up. The song portrays the few moments right before she leaves; her resolve is certain, but she pauses to contemplate the enormity of what she is about to do.
I moved away from Millinocket a long time ago. I went to college on the coast, lived in 3 different states, played in a half dozen bands, signed an independent record deal, released a handful of albums, and toured around the country. Nothing I’ve done, however, is quite as soulful as growing up the grandson of a millworker. It’s given me a lifetime of inspiration.