On my first album, "A Sea Of Empty Faces," I have a song called "Neat." It's about an outlaw at the end of his career. His life was ruined, and he resorts to alcohol to forget his trouble. I wanted to write the other side of his life. How did he get into his life of crime? I liked the idea that he never wanted to be an outlaw in the first place. His life just continually forced him into it. "Figs From Thistles" is about that.
"Figs" started from two directions at once. I was trying to learn some cool guitar licks, and I had an unusual capo that didn't touch the outer E strings on either side of my guitar. That allowed for some weird riffs that simply tuning differently wouldn't enable. So I came up with this really cool lick. I also stumbled on a verse in Scripture that said, "By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?" The idea is that you can identify what people believe and their motives from what they do. Your fruit reflects what you are. I wanted to turn this idea on it's head. In my experience, people often try to force good things out of bad situations. They stay in a toxic relationship because they think they can fix the other person. They throw their money away thinking it'll make them rich. They self medicate thinking it'll fix their problems.
So, how do I take the theme of trying to find a fig in a bunch of thistles and combine it with a dirty outlaw country guitar riff? Well let's right the story of someone who kept trying to live on the straight and narrow but couldn't.
The first verse sets up the origin story. This man was a young boy living with an abusive, alcoholic father. He couldn't handle it. One night he stole his father's gun and ran away. Unfortunately, with no training or skills, he had to resort to stealing just to survive. The second verse shoots ahead in time. This man is now an adult. One night, while he's sleeping, he wakes up to discover a young boy trying to steal from him. This boy clearly looks like he's been on his own a while, and isn't trying to get rich. He's just trying to survive. This obviously reminds the man of his past, so he takes the boy alongside himself and they continue to steal to get by. The third verse fast forwards yet again. Years down the road, the boy begins to doubt their way of life. He wants more than just stealing to survive. He doesn't want to become what the man is. This leads to a bridge section where our tragic hero responds with telling the boy to go. He recognizes that this boy has a lot more to offer the world than he can provide. But, he also knows that this late in his life, he's stuck in his ways. He can't change. It ends with him hoping to find a fig at some point in the thistles of his life.
This is one of the bands favorite songs to play. It's just good ole rock and roll. We typically end shows with this one because we just vamp out and tear up the stage. It's also unique in that it's the first song we bring in an instrument that isn't acoustic. My keys player plays organ. I was worried it would stand out too much, but I don't feel that it does. And I like having songs spread out across albums that relate to each other. A St. Mary, St. Michael extended universe, if you will.