Great Woods, the project of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eric Ryrie, blends a wealth of warm, powerful alt-Americana sounds that over-score his vivid storytelling. His debut EP, Strange Lives, brings that all to the fore and runs the gamut of styles as Ryrie examines the feelings that come with uprooting yourself physically while continuing to develop emotionally.
Today, we’re featuring Strange Lives which we had Ryrie break down for us track by track. Check it all out below and be sure to keep it locked here for more from Great Woods.
“Strange Times In The City”
This is a song I wrote not too long after moving to NYC. It’s a partially fictionalized account of someone making a choice to change their physical environment in hopes of gaining happiness or improving their relationships. While definitely inspired by my real life move, it’s not exactly autobiographical.
I think any story can be improved by a bit of fiction.
“Poison In The Well”
The music to this one is years and years old. I wrote it while I was still living in Boston playing with my old band The Shills. It was one of those songs that you write and love but never know where it fits or what to do with it. So it sat dormant in my head for ages until I found myself in the middle of a Stephen King binge. I think I was reading “Duma Key” when I started writing the words. So it ended up being a mashup of a few different stories I read which got twisted up together and came out as something new. I’ve often found books and movies are a great place to borrow ideas from for lyrics.
I wrote this one up in Woodstock. When my girlfriend heard it she asked if I was gonna break up with her! That’s not what it’s about. It’s about cutting the things out of your life that are toxic. Sometimes if you don’t blow up a personal relationship completely or entirely & irrevocably remove yourself from a situation, it’s impossible to escape. Musically, I tried to take as patient an approach to the track as possible. It was an exercise in restraint and an attempt to present a song simply and let the melodies speak for themselves. I’m particularly happy with how this one came out.
This one is about loss. It as an attempt to say something as directly as possible. I’m a big fan of David Bazan and have always been impressed with the way he is able to say something in a song so plainly and still have it have a great emotional and intellectual impact. If you can get it right, when there’s nothing to unpack in a lyric, I think it can be stronger than a cleverly poetic line. It’s a tough thing to do but this was my attempt and I had a lot of real life experience to draw from, which helped. And it helped me to say it. Also, it made me practice piano more.
“Over The Moon”
I was watching The X-Files when I wrote this. My brain just saw aliens and went, “ok, we can do that,” and the song wrote itself. I’m a bit obsessed with the supernatural so this wasn’t the first & I’m sure this won’t be the last sci-fi song I write.
“Married To The Tide”
I’m not sure exactly where the story in this song came from. It’s about a character we’re all familiar with, a bullshit artist. In this case, he’s a preacher of some sort. These people are the problem with our country and the world… blah blah blah, but it’s true. A solipsistic salesman in a public leadership role that couldn’t give a flying fuck about the people he “serves”. Sound familiar? But never mind that, you can dance to this one.