Jestem Krzywym Lasem Track By Track: Driveway

Following up on our blog about Jestem Krzywym Lasem, here’s our track by track breakdown of the first single from the record, track 2’s “Driveway”.

“Driveway” was really the catalyst for deciding that I needed to branch away from (ha!) the Crooked Forest name for this EP and put it out under my given name. But knowing full well that this was just another piece of me, and one that really wouldn’t have ever formulated without having first developed CF, I opted to call the record “I am Crooked Forest” to bridge the two projects together.

About the Track

This is arguably the most personal song I’ve written to date and the one that I was the most nervous about sharing in any capacity with anyone, especially my friends who are familiar with the story.

I wrote this song on the 10th anniversary of my friend Robert Nason’s death while sitting in the family room of my parents house, which is why the lyric “10 years” surfaces repeatedly throughout.

I met Robert while I was in high school, though he was a year older and didn’t attend the same school as us, he was best friends with one of my closest friends in high school. We spent a lot of time together in the years I was fortunate to know him; he was smart as hell. He was the type of person that could draw the entire world map from memory on a napkin, which he’d happily prove to anyone who wanted to see it. He was also one of the kindest people I’ve ever known, and one thing I always remember about him is that Robert never missed my birthday. He was always one of the first text messages I’d receive, and even when he was travelling abroad with our friend Mark in Europe, missing my annual cottage birthday bash, they both sent their own postcards and called me early in the morning (later apologizing for it, not that they needed to, and trying me again a little later in the day).

I’ve thought a lot about Robert since he passed away and the short time we spent together. We didn’t often see each other one on one aside from the odd movie or while waiting for other friends to join us somewhere, and I often wonder about what we might’ve talked about if we had.

Robert committed suicide while away attending university for engineering at Queens University. He took a portable BBQ into his car and sat inside it while the gas filled the space until he fell asleep.

Before he did this, he tried to reach out to a couple people, namely his sister and his best friend, our friend, Mark.

Robert never left a note nor did he ever give us any indication that he was in any way struggling in this way, and I always look back on this time wishing I had tried to get to know him better, because maybe then we would’ve seen it coming with enough notice to correct the course. A lot of people in my friend-circle from this time share this sentiment but none more, I’m sure, than Mark, who as we talked about this after the fact, often reminded me that he didn’t answer his phone when Robert tried to call him that morning.

Knowing how much I struggle just with having been a friend of Robert’s during this time, and not being one of the people he felt comfortable enough to reach out to, I can’t imagine the emotional toll living with that experience has been for Mark, or for Robert’s family.

I distinctly still remember walking into the funeral home for the wake to see Robert for the last time and seeing, among the sea of people, Mark sitting alone on the edge of a couch with his head down. I walked over and sat beside him placing my hand over his with nothing to say. Mark put his head on my shoulder and we just sat in silence for a few minutes.

Later, after viewing Robert’s body in his casket, my parents would remark how young he looked.

Well, yeah; He was 21.

Driveway is about reflecting on this experience from my own perspective, living with it and the remorse, pain and grief that comes with losing a friend who was so young. It’s not something my friends and I spoke about very much in the years that passed, and speaking less and less of it as each one did.

We were all blindsided by it, and that’s been one of the most difficult parts for me personally and makes me question how well I can know literally anyone in my life if I could’ve missed this entirely.

And how well I allow others to know me, knowing how much I’ve kept to myself for so many years.

There are many things I still to this day keep buried inside of me instead of sharing it, because for whatever reason the timing isn’t quite right, so you continue just to go through each day, thinking and re-thinking about things like this, “replace the breaks, oil the chain,” going through the motions and hopefully, eventually, finding the right people to confide in, who will sit in that car with you instead of having you fill the space with gas from a BBQ.

Official Lyrics

Ten years to the day
I hold it in
I keep it safe

An engine idles in the driveway
Upholstery still stained

Ten years to the day
I hold it close
I take it with me

Replace the breaks
Oil the chain
An engine idles in the driveway

Put pencil to the page
An outline to trace
Deep rest and a dotted eighth
Breathe it in here with me
Tell me what to say
I let it ring
I let it ring
Why wait
Why wait

Ten years to the day
I hold it in
I keep it safe
Ten years to the day
I hold it close
I take it with me
Ten years to the day
I hold it in
I keep it safe
Ten years to the day
I hold it close
I take you with me

Replace the breaks
Oil the chain
An engine idles in the driveway

The Original Demo

I moved to Barrie just a month after writing this song, and it would be a few weeks before I sat down with it to pair some chords to it. I ended up sharing it for the first time I think over an Instagram Live I did, which was sort of a personal challenge for me to see if I’d be able to get through it in a “live” atmosphere.

At that point I wasn’t at all sure how I wanted this to sound on record, but I knew I wanted to keep it pretty bare. This ultimately set the tone for the entire EP, to present the songs in the most intimate way I knew how, with just me and a guitar.

A Little More

I remember at Robert’s funeral we were all given the opportunity to speak if we wanted to, which is the only funeral I’ve attended where they’ve offered this. Being only 20 at the time, and still coming to terms with what had happened, I opted not to speak and instead stood at the far back of the circle with some other friends who also felt uncomfortable addressing such a large crowd.

And I remember listening as a guy that was new to our friend group, having recently started to date our friend Mark, took the opportunity to share his own thoughts and memories of Robert, someone he had only just met.

And I think about this a lot because to be frank, many of us were pissed that he had the audacity to do so (and I can say that freely now because that relationship didn’t last very long). He struck me immediately in that moment as someone who just loved attention at all costs, even if it meant speaking to the close friends and relatives of someone who had just committed suicide, to take centre stage for a few moments. And you can argue that he did this to show some sort of kindness to Mark, someone he was in some way interested in at the time, but this arrogant display showed me all I needed to know about this person and reminded me that sometimes the best thing you can do in a situation is keep your mouth shut; It came across as incredibly disingenuous and in that, disrespectful to those who really knew him.

That said, I look back on this a lot differently now 10+ years after the fact. I think it takes a lot of courage to address a room full of strangers and particularly to share any sort of personal anecdote with them, and I think it’s important to remember that some people have a way about them in which they’re able to create a long lasting impact on someone even when they’ve only just met. So instead, I choose to remember this moment in that way, that Robert had such a presence about him that even this person who had only met him a handful of times felt compelled to speak about his time with him on this day. It really is a testament to the type of person Robert was and will always be remembered as.

Instead of speaking that day, despite wanting to but being unsure of what to, I wrote something privately for Robert that I later shared to my Facebook page for close friends and family after getting the courage to do so. I’ve never shared it since, but here it is today.

Birthday Cake

I never understand why people get embarrassed about candles on a birthday cake. 

People are so worried about age, that they forget that they’re supposed to embrace life, not stifle it. It’s an incredible thing to be able to fill an entire cake with candles. 

It’s even more incredible if you need more than one. 

It’s amazing how ordinary days become significant after tragedy. 

How photo albums of memories require a deep breath just to open.

And how you can lose the will to speak, even when there’s absolutely nobody around to listen.

It’s funny how a day at the cottage transitions from just another story to a fond piece of history. And how overnight you can catch yourself saying, “I wish I knew them better”. 

It’s easy to get lost in your own thoughts when nobodies around for reassurance. 

And to take those thoughts to extreme without knowing any different. 

It’s easy to forget that it’s not supposed to get easier – it does get easier. 

My friend, today there’s a fresh cake with your name on it.

No candles.

For Robert Nason – 05.23.89-02.15.2011

I often say I have a thing about birthdays, and Robert is a big reason for that. They remind me that there’s always something to celebrate about yourself and your life, even if it’s just the fact that you’re here today, and even if all you want to do is eat cake.

And I always laugh when people complain about age, getting older, getting lines and wrinkles, and going grey.

I think I’ve thought about dying every day since my friend Mark died of leukaemia at 7 years old. And every year my birthday comes around, I’m just grateful I made it another year.

I hope more people start to look at life this way. It seems to me, with the ever growing popularity of social media, people are becoming more obsessed with image and more specifically, the idea of “looking young” when what we should all be obsessed with is just living the best life we can with whatever and whoever we have, and if you feel like you don’t have those things or those people, go find them, because they’re out there somewhere.

You can listen to “Driveway” on all streaming services today. Thanks for listening, and if you like it, please share it.

And if you’re able to, please support your local mental health facilities and suicide prevention networks.

Today I’d like to highlight CAMH, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health here in Toronto, Ontario.

If you have anything to spare please consider a donation today, they have many different ways you can donate.

And if you or someone you know is struggling, CAMH has resources to help you and please don’t hesitate to reach out because it can and will get better, and you matter.

Keep reading the blog series on Jestem Krzywym Lasem:

Track 1: Quiksand
Track 2: Driveway (You Are Here!)
Track 3. Without You
Track 4: Butterflies
Track 5: Such Great Heights
Jestem Krzywym Lasem Bonus Blog: Sean Gallagher

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