Flashback Friday: Happily Ever After

There we were sitting in a room together with one guitar.  Jason Deuman, a 14 year old kid and me a 26 year old wannabe.

Jason and I were part of the founding group Salt and we were working on songs for upcoming shows.  He was just learning the guitar and still figuring out his style.  This was perfect since I was just learning how to sing rock and roll. (I was still embracing the snarl in my voice but since I did it so well and people liked it, I gave up on the dream of being an R&B star.)

He played me the verse of a song he was working on. It was dark and in a minor key which I liked but guldarnit how do I put words to that chorus??  Since the verse was dark the only thing that came to mind was how dark Cleveland Street was in Redmond, WA where I worked at the local Pizza Hut.  There were kids hanging out to all hours of the night, the riff raff, hoodlums would just wander the streets.  So the song would be about Cleveland Street and the lost youth hanging out on the street…but what to do about the chords played in the chorus.

I know, what about…

Mmmmm yeah, Mmmmm yeah, Mmmmm yeah – What Would Jesus Do
Mmmmm yeah, Mmmmm yeah, Mmmmm yeah – What Would Jesus Do if He were you?

Not only did it work, it rocked and thus began our journey of writing unique songs.

The next song I remember we wrote with the full band.  This time the whole band looked over at Jason waiting for him to play what he had worked on at home.  Imagine the pressure this kid was under.  Four post college guys and his youth leader all looking at him to spark the creative.  Jason stepped up and played his C to Am I believe.  Over and over.

Smiley Kiley’s in his car
He’s got a fishy on his bumper
What does that little fishey mean?
I begin to think and ponder

The chorus went into what would be Salt’s most well received concert song.  I’m still bitter we didn’t put it on Songs from the Fishbowl.  Argh!  Listening to others when I should have been leading was my biggest mistake those years.  Anyway, I digress.  The chorus when like this…

Swim little fishey swim [swim swim swim swim]
Swim around the world [swim swim swim swim]
Swim little fishey swim [swim swim swim swim]
Go against the flow

Salt had arrived.  And we were riding the creative from a 14 year old braces smiling not very good kid guitar player and it was marvelous.  There were the ‘talented’ musicians that would frown upon our skill set but head to head on stage we destroyed them.  We were fun, edgy and fearless in professing our allegiance to Christ.  No matter where we were we brought it.

As the years past by I could see that Jason, like most of the other band members, wasn’t cut from the wannabe rock star cloth.  He was very smart and had a passion for speaking what God had laid on his heart more than playing.

In 2001 Salt released it’s third album but really it was the debut album after a couple of demos were recorded.  Jason was a big part of the soul of salt along with Darren our drummer and newly found bassist Bryan Wall the three of them were very comical.  That showed in our album.  Some didn’t like it, others loved it.

jasonsalt
Jason and Me in 2000

I’ll never forget telling Jason the news that Release Magazine (a magazine he was very much into) had chosen Salt the Band as one of their ‘somebody sign these guys’ band. They only chose 12 bands a year and from all the submissions they chose Second Wind.  Jason was shocked but stoked of the news.  That wasn’t enough as the inevitable had happened.  Jason gave notice that he would be leaving the band before our nationwide tour.

Even though I knew it was coming, I was crushed.  How could God allow this?  We had just released our debut album, I was getting ready to book a nationwide tour and now our guitarist was leaving the band.  Musically, we were the best we had been but we weren’t known for how skilled we were, we were known for how tight we were.  It was our chemistry and Jason was a big part of that.  What was God thinking?  Why would He do this?

I was angry.  Not at God but at the situation. I didn’t think it was fair.  This was our time.  When I feel this way I need to break away.  So I did.  Locked myself in my room and just started strumming.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t crying.  Jason wasn’t the best guitarist in the world and this forced us to find someone that could take us to the national level.  Still God, what were you doing?  The strumming got harder.  ‘SNAP’ the E string broke.  Ugh.

After changing the E string and tuning, I started strumming again, this time in a waltz feel.  I’ve always loved the waltz (I saw you I walked with you once upon a dream…) 1 2 3, 4 5 6 in the key of D.  Over and over again. Then the words came out…

How come it rained on my birthday
Didn’t you know there were games to play.

I was so mad, confused, disappointed, the song continued.

Sometimes I feel I lost your favor
And lately it seems like there’s unanswered prayers

But what would I do about it?  Surely I would never turn my back on my most precious love.  I would never turn from God.  Ever.

Well, I don’t know, but I’ll serve you anyway
Well, I don’t know, but I’ll serve you anyway

There it was.  The definition of everything that I had questioned God about in my life.  I didn’t know why things weren’t going my way but it didn’t matter.  I would serve Him anyway.  The chorus was the following:

And I will sing you a brand new song
And I will call you Lord over all
And I will serve you forever my king

Through my tears and my laughter, you’re my happily ever after. 

Now I was wheeping and after wiping away my tears I had realized I wrote my first worship song.  The hundreds of songs that I wrote in the past none of them were worship.  This song was written directly to God and I thought singable by many which was different then a previous song to God called “All to You. I had done it.  A real worship song or so I thought.

“A worship song?  Really?” My church friends and band mates would ask.  “You can’t have a worship song that starts with How Come it Rained on my Birthday” they would say.  This criticism ironically enough planted the seed of doing my own music which eventually branched off my new band TJR: once Salt called it quits in 2003.

Like the lyrics in the chorus state, this was a brand new song for me.  A proclamation that no matter what I would serve God.

TJR: recorded Happily Ever After on May 15, 2003, which was the day my daughter, Lorelai Mae, was born. So many new beginnings in 2003.

Happily Ever After was put on a compilation CD along with His Majesty in 2004 but we never got a chance to release it nationally.  The plan was to release it after His Majesty which had received heavy airplay on many independent radio stations across the US.  Things happened and doors closed for TJR: causing me to call it quits in August of 2004.

In 2007, Happily Ever After helped a make shift band I put together at the local battle of the bands contest at the Puyallup Fair.  Wouldn’t ya know it, people all around were worshiping with hands raised singing the chorus.

Fast forward to 2013 and I’m back in the studio where we will be rerecording Happily Ever After with some of the same musicians. If the kick-starter campaign goes through it will be the first radio release off the new album For We Wrestle.

God always seems to have a plan for our lives and although it may seem like it’s raining on our birthday, He will always be our Happily Ever After.

If you would like to hear the original version feel free to visit www.myspace.com/troyjonathanritchie

As for Jason Deuman, he is one of the pastors at Creekside Church, husband and father of two beautiful children.  You can read his blog at www.jasondeuman.com.

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