SMSM started when I moved up from Nashville to Cincinnati. I was starting a church, so at the time I had no job, and except for the person I was partnered with, had no friends or family in the area. Broken Watch wasn't the first song I wrote when I moved up here, but it was the first time I felt that I needed to do more than play guitar in my apartment. I don't have many songs I don't almost immediately hate upon finishing, but Broken Watch is one of them. This was what I would have used for my first single if I were a single kind of guy.
The story goes like this; I was at a Punch Brothers concert. Christ Thile was doing his typical stage banter. He mentioned a broken watch. I don't remember much after that because I started thinking about a story where something seemingly insignificant like a watch keeping bad time can completely change your life. What would that story be?
I don't usually write breakup songs about anyone in particular (ok maybe they are always about somebody). This one was kind of a combination of the girls I had dated seriously. Not that I was heartbroken or anything, but I tried to draw on the remembered emotions of the time. The story I came up with was simple. The love interest was leaving for good. I had a time to meet her before she left. My watch didn't keep time that well, and caused me to arrive right as she was driving off, and thus my last memory of her is her headlights fading. She goes on to get married and live a happy life, and I'm stuck wondering if she remembers me fondly, or if she's forgotten me, turning me into a footnote. There's no lyrical chorus. I wanted a traditional folk ballad feel with verses telling a story. I wanted an instrumental chorus to pull out the emotion of the song.
If you listen to my music, you'll hear a couple styles and themes start to emerge. Broken Watch was really one of the first songs that helped me define what would later become my "styler." The first thing you'll hear is in the chorus. The guitar carries the melody and the rhythm. I didn't have a and at the time so to break up the monotony of me just strumming along, I tried to develop a style of playing that would let me play chords so I wouldn't lose any volume, but also play individual notes to create a defined "riff". The cello, piano, and guitar all play on this riff in Broken Watch. The other style you'll here in this song is a lyrical style. I don't one dimensional songs. I try to avoid "I'm sad and that's it" stories. I really like to create hope, if not realized, then potential. The song ends with "I guess, maybe, it's for the better. But now it's too soon to tell." I write sad songs because people are sad, and like to listen to sad songs. At least I do. But I want to give the listener a glimpse at the end of the song that while it hurts now, there's more later. Broken Watch was the song that started it all.