33: How Do You Get That Lonely?

33: How Do You Get That Lonely?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

How Do You Get That Lonely?

Story by Rory Feek

Song written by Rory Feek and Jamie Teachenor

Recorded by Blaine Larsen

I was writing one morning with Jamie Teachenor. It was the first time we had written together, and I met him at a building where he writes. We were just talking about ideas, our fathers, our backgrounds and different things, when my phone rang. It was the office at my daughter Heidi’s school, Zion Christian Academy, in Columbia, Tennessee. Heidi was 16 or 17 at the time. The lady said that a boy had committed suicide the night before. He was actually the boyfriend of Heidi’s best friend. The secretary wanted to know if Heidi could take the day off to be with the family. We had just seen this boy at a football game and he seemed like he was fine, so we were shocked.

I hung up the phone and told Jamie and we started talking about it. Then we started writing about it. We didn’t start with the title; we just started with the story. That boy went to Mt. Pleasant and their football team is called the “Tigers.” The Lawrence Funeral Home is the name of a funeral home close to where we live in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, and Mooresville Highway is the highway out where we live, too. So all of these elements came from close to home.

I tend to write songs from the very first line. We started with “It was just another story, printed on the second page underneath the Tigers’ football score. . ..” and it unfolded from there. We really didn’t know what was going to happen. When we got to the end of the chorus, the lines “How do you get that lonely, and nobody know?” just came out. It really floored us because it fit perfectly. It all just happened. We didn’t plan it at all.

We tried to get it recorded by several other people but my publisher said nobody wanted to record it because it was too sad. They even asked us if we would consider rewriting it so that it had a different ending and we said, “No. This is just a moment in time we were trying to capture, and that’s the way life is sometimes.” You can’t always end a song like that with “so if you’re feeling bad, then call someone” or something like that.

Later, a friend of mine and I ended up producing a young artist named Blaine Larsen. He was still in high school. We were referred to him through someone else and I heard his demo and liked it. We brought him down to Nashville and cut some sides with him and he ended up getting a record deal. Like a lot of people, Blaine had also been touched by suicide. A friend of his in high school had committed suicide. All we did was change the line from “a boy about my daughter’s age” to “a boy about my age” for Blaine, and he ended up having a hit.

It’s great to see people using that song on YouTube to memorialize people they have known. You never really get over losing someone like that. They still love that person and that’s why they want to keep their memory alive.

We live in a world that is moving so fast. It’s filled with things that are distracting us and none of it really fills us up. It’s easy to be empty inside even though your life is cluttered. I’ve had relatives who have committed suicide, too. It’s a terrible thing and it’s easy for me to ask those questions, too.

It’s really special for me as a songwriter to write something that touches people in their own way. It’s not our story or the one we wrote that moves them, but it helps them relate to their own stories. That’s what’s really great. I believe when you start writing, you should just start from the blank page and then write as a reader. You’re just turning pages and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. By the time you get to the end of the story, sometimes you’re in tears. Even though they are usually fictional characters, they really move you in what they do and what they say in the song. I’m a big believer in the magic of songwriting and so not only do they touch other people, they also touch me and cause me to stop and think and reflect.

One of my favorite memories is when Blaine sang this at the Opry. We were backstage with him and Lorrie Morgan was there with her son, Jesse, who was Keith Whitley’s son. They were both big fans of that song. As many people know, Keith died from excessive alcohol use and Jesse said he knew someone who had committed suicide. I remember listening to Lorrie talking to her son while Blaine was walking off the stage and she was having a real heart-to-heart talk with him. She was saying, “I want you to listen to the words of this song. Never, ever let yourself get that far down. You can always talk to someone or call me. You can always find help.” It was really a beautiful moment.

I can only hope that song has prompted other people to have those kinds of conversations.

How Do You Get That Lonely?

It was just another story printed on the second page

Underneath the Tigers’ football score

It said he was only eighteen, a boy about my age

They found him face down on the bedroom floor

There’ll be services on Friday at the Lawrence Funeral Home

Then out on Mooresville highway, they’ll lay him ’neath a stone

CHORUS:

How do you get that lonely? How do you hurt that bad?

To make you make the call, that havin’ no life at all

Is better than the life that you had

How do you feel so empty, you want to let it all go?

How do you get that lonely... and nobody know?

Did his girlfriend break up with him? Did he buy or steal that gun?

Did he lose a fight with drugs or alcohol?

Did his mom and daddy forget to say “I love you son”?

Did no one see the writing on the wall?

I’m not blamin’ anybody, we all do the best we can

I know hindsight’s 20/20, but I still don’t understand...

CHORUS

It was just another story printed on the second page

Underneath the Tigers’ football score...

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