By Ashley Lucas
One of the best things about attending Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association meetings is getting to hear the incredible songs that come from local musicians. Last month, SVSA member Randy Williams, brought a song to get critiqued by the group, and it’s so beautiful, and perfect for a special Father’s Day edition of Story Behind the Song.
Williams began writing songs as a teenager, but didn’t start focusing on songwriting until after his kids were grown. Crediting Angaleena Presley, Shawn Camp, Jason Isbell and Richard Thompson as some of his songwriting heroes, he writes to inspire others to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. His only real goal with songwriting is to be able to share an emotion or struggle that people can connect with. And with the song, “Look Up”, he truly accomplishes this goal. He recorded the song at Summit Sound with Jake Dempsey, who Williams said was crucial in bringing his songs to life.
While the initial concept for this song came quickly to Williams, he spent years hashing out the precise wording. In listening to the song, you can hear the time he spent living the lyrics. I personally teared up multiple times when I first heard this song, and each time I’ve listened to it since. It’s a wonderfully touching story of a father and son, and just how fast time can slip away. Listen to the song, take some time, look up, and enjoying reading William’s Story Behind the Song:
“I don’t usually start a song with an aim toward a hook, but in this case I guess I did. The idea came one day as I was walking a trail near my office. I used to walk every day at lunch and I had gotten to know this particular path pretty well. I was typically focused on my immediate surroundings; I knew where every blackberry vine and every bird’s nest was. But on this day, as I topped the hill, I happened to look up at the horizon beyond. I said to myself, “wow, what a view, I need to look up more”. As soon as I said it, I thought, “wait, what did I just say?”
Although most parents can relate to this song, the sentiment really struck a personal chord with me. Upon graduation from college, I immediately started my own residential construction business. I wouldn’t really recommend this route for most, but I was just hard headed enough to believe I could do things my way. In order to minimize overhead, I took on a tremendous number of tasks. I was a designer, cost estimator, marketer, site foreman, carpenter, payroll administrator, tax accountant, counselor, and anything else you got. I was lucky to have an invaluable right hand man and good buddy in a fellow named Dennis Miller. We worked like horses for about twenty-five years. The business was successful and we made some money. But Dennis became ill and passed away with lung cancer in the Fall of 2012. His departure really shook me. I began to consider that there was more to life than working so hard. I even wondered if the constant striving had contributed to my buddy’s illness. I started looking for ways to ease out of the daily grind. Fortunately, I had developed some rental properties that generated enough cash flow to keep the bills paid. I decided to make a point of picking up the guitar every day. I always enjoyed putting words together, and the more I slide in behind that guitar, the more the lyrics come. Regarding the featured song ‘Look Up’, I was familiar with the old expression, ‘I’m so busy I can’t even look up’. Then I thought about the notion of looking up toward the heavens. I realized I could combine these two phrases and maybe make a song. The images in the verses are just memories of my boys as kids, as well as my own childhood. Everybody talks about how children grow up fast, but it’s hard to realize, until one day you look around and they’re gone. So, I hope ol’ Dennis is up there listening. And I hope our story can be a blessing to young and old alike to take a moment now and then and just look up.”
Hear Randy Williams perform at Lucy Monroe’s in Christiansburg on Wednesday nights.