The writing of “4th District Court of Bristol County”
Well the lyrics to “4th District Court of Bristol County” (the hidden track on Schoolbus Window Paper Heart) were written in one shot, which is a rare thing for me. It happens sometimes, but usually my songs go through some versions of edits. But this was written while I was sitting in the basement of a courthouse (you got it, the 4th District Court of Bristol County in Attleboro, MA). I remember I was listening to Elliott Smith's last record on my headphones (cd player…didn’t have an ipod yet), while reading US Weekly magazine and watching people as they sat in the jury waiting room, walked around the courthouse, etc. If that's not a recipe for a strange song, I don't know what is!!!
It was just a very strange and surreal scene for me and one that I found very interesting. I thought it was a great glimpse at the stranger side of how people interact with each other and also a chance for me to kind of step outside myself and write a song as if I were another person. I normally subscribe to the John Lennon philosophy of songwriting, which is writing from your own perspective because that's what you know best. Not sure how this fits in with that philosophy. Did I use the song as an opportunity to escape and write it from a different character’s perspective? Did it come from a strange place inside me? I don’t know and I don’t want to know! But Tim Bradshaw (my producer) and I liked the song, but knew that it was very, very different from anything else on the record, which is why it ended up as a hidden track. I've gotten some great feedback on it, though.
Some lines, verses, or images I'll highlight, not in any order…..
---"There's a woman in the courthouse passing out mints..."
We were sitting in silence in the dark basement room when an older woman broke the silence asking "would anyone like a mint??!!!" Then she started passing mints around to the strangers in the jury pool. It just struck me strange and funny.
---being on a date with a hairdresser
I had recently gone on a date with a hairdresser and about halfway through had this fit of panic, thinking "my God, she must be staring at my hair the whole time! I should have spent more time on it at home!”
---"Its refracted hatred, its contempt in disguise, like Christmas fruitcake and regifted pies."
With my sincere apologies to those who give out fruitcakes around holiday-time, I always thought it was a bit disappointing to get one and felt like it meant that the person giving it to me didn’t like me.
---"Same shirt same jeans for days and days, when I do it I'm disturbed, when you do it, its lazy."
I had been working on writing this album for a few months and found myself wearing the same clothes day after day. I thought to myself that someone could consider me very disturbed because of it....or just very lazy.
---"They make me walk through a booth and put my bags on a belt."
Tight security at the courthouse!
---"a lawyer with no stage"
Watching the lawyers in the courthouse thinking to myself "jeez, they really think they're on stage. Its like they need a stage!" Well these lawyers at least. Maybe not all lawyers…..
---"help is on the way, but its just a port in the storm on the 39th
Too little too late.
---"I'm a genuine hearthrob, read that word again...heart....throb.
Sounds like a great word, but when you break it down, it says something totally different from its intended meaning.
---“Just a guy from Cleveland with preliminary sketches”
Preliminary sketches of what??? Hmmm......
---“There’s always someone looking over my shoulder, telling me to be bolder and older and colder”
When you're a musician or a songwriter, everyone tells you what they think you should do! I hate that.
---"I'm kissing strange girls like Family Feud"
Actually not sure where this came from, other than my memory of Richard Dawson kissing all the women on that game show. This is actually my favorite line in the whole album…
So there you go….a partial, possible explanation of the song. Is it real? Is it true? Maybe……