Burned It Down March 2023

Like a lot of the rest of the world, our band discovered Drive-By Truckers with 2004’s release of The Dirty South. We were floored. It was the first time these upper midwest boys had heard songs like these. Three guitarists, all tuned a full step down. Three extremely competent songwriters, each singing about subject matter that seemed just so foreign to us, and in a genre that was at once country, rock, and folk... or something like that. It was like visiting another country for the first time. What is southern rock to a near-Canadian? Who the hell was John Henry?

And for the longest while, a good portion of the songs from this era on sounded like Drive-By Truckers. This was a bit of a problem for a band that didn’t want to pivot to that genre. We had an established sound, and these songs just weren’t fitting on the records we were making.

Burned It Down is one of those songs we never could fit on a record. It owes so much to Drive-By Truckers in both aesthetic and subject matter. It’s about a family trying to outrun a reputation, how reputation is inherited between siblings, and how a town can shape the narrative of one’s identity—guilty or not.

The first version of Burned it Down was captured an acoustic demo in 2009. It has a bit more swing in the choruses, which I have absolutely no memory of. This version featured a key change at the end, but not in the bridge.

This full demo was the first to feature a four-piece instrumentation. It also discovered the key change as a bridge that almost sounds like an OK Computer b-side. The melotron choir really sells the effect.

After workshopping with the band, we fell into some parts and decided on a final drum groove.

We brought this song to Erik Koskinen, an amazing country musician in our neck of the woods. We thought his studio near Mankato would be the perfect place to setup the band and capture it live in the room with minimal overdubs. He matched the aesthetic of the song perfectly, pretty much popping up the mics and pressing record and not fiddling too hard with things.

Erik mixed the song and we shipped it off to Justin Perkins for mastering. And now for the finished song.

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There’s a house on the other side of town
They burned it down, they burned it down
And soon an officer’s coming around asking hey son,
Where can that brother of yours be found?
And you just stare at your shoes
And you think of all you had to lose
And all those people up in city hall
And how they can’t wait to take it all

Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?
Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?

Some things you just can’t explain
A brother’s love or what remains
Probation and a stolen gun
A list of felonies you can’t outrun
And soon the news at five o’clock broadcasts your pain
On every side of every town
Two years of laying low and living right
Come falling down as ashes to the ground

Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?
Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?

Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?
Where will you be running?
Where will you get your money?

Now, a quick aside about the artwork for Burned It Down. This was my first attempt at using AI to generate the album artwork. No matter which prompt I did, they all looked the same. I wanted a miniature wooden house on fire. It was all junk like this. This was in Stable Diffusion v2, and Midjourney v5 was basically the same.

It just wouldn’t do, so I built my own little house and lit it up. Just a little basswood house. With the AI-generated results, the architecture was never right. I wasn't happy with the resolution either. None of these could decide what a freakin’ roof looks like.

As always? Here’s to doing things for real. ✌️