The coolest part of networking with other artists is finding music that reaches to you. That’s what music is for, right? I met Candace Griffin through Twitter. She’s friends with another artist who let me post a song back story. I checked Candace’s music link and immediately fell into the sound of her voice and the quality of the recordings. She is a singer-songwriter from Wisconsin. Click to play “If You Knew Then” and read about the song.
The Story Behind The Song
In the words of Candace Griffin, step into the perspective of a songwriter.
When I write my songs, I write the date they were completed and I keep those papers with me. According to the date, “If I Knew You Then” was written in January of 2014, yet I remember the lyrics being in my heart for a while before that. Once I put pen to paper on this one, I found it was probably the easiest and quickest song I’ve ever written. I use only three or four chords, which I’m a fan of since I’m not terribly great at guitar. I remember these words coming to me months before January 2014.
A few months prior, I had formed a band with a group of singer-songwriters I’d gotten to know through a song sharing group, and our friendships were growing as well as our writing and performing skills. At this point in my life, I had gone through some difficult times. I had dropped out of college, changed jobs, grown apart from friends, suffered some bad heartbreaks…you know, rights of passage for any girl in her 20’s. Starting this band, Pancake Riot, was an important step for me. I grew as a writer and as a collaborator. I got to know these people who shared a lot in common with me. We formed a kinship. We became a tribe. This was one of the first positive changes in my life that had come along in a while and I was happy. I was and still am truly thankful for these friends coming along, as well as the handful of tried-and-true besties that had stuck with me through some rocky times.
When I was a kid, I was kind of weird. I know all kids are weird in their own way. I know everyone says this. I was an only child raised by a single mother. I was the only girl among my first cousins. I was very sensitive and highly imaginative .I was either too loud or painfully shy. I was bullied a lot in elementary and middle school and I had low self esteem partly because of that. When I was 13, my mother and I moved from Alabama, where I had been all my life, to southern Wisconsin. Middle school continued to be awkward, as it usually is, and the first couple years of high school were equally painful. Slowly, I began to see which friends were going to be with me for the rest of my life.
Friends have always been super important to me. I got to know my band mates, and hear the times they were lonely or sad, and I wished I could go back and time and hug them and keep them from ever being alone. And it made me wish I had these guys around for much longer than I have. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so sad when I was a kid.
The song is full of references us 90’s kids would appreciate, though I think the line that gets to me most is: “If you knew me way back then, you may not still be around.” There’s not a single kid that I was friends with in elementary school that I really talk to now, except for my cousin Caitlin who has always been a sister to me. (You can hear us both on the recording in the beginning of the song. It’s from an old cassette we used to make our “radio shows.”) It got me thinking that if I HAD known my band mates a long time ago, they, like most other kids I’d known may have gotten sick of me and we may not be tight now. I’m always scared deep down of losing people I care about. I was scared to write this song and perform it, thinking it’d be too sappy for my friends. Yet, one day I sat down and wrote it. Not long after, I performed it at an open mic for them.
A lot changed between the time I first wrote this song and to summer 2015 when I recorded it with my friend and former Pancake Riot member Danial Monson-Bergum. A lot of people had left the band, all for their own reasons. Most of us have stayed pretty tight, though, and Danial helped me record a seven song album called The Way Home, which I’m very proud of. When this album was being completed, I knew that I would soon be leaving Wisconsin to relocate to Tennessee. I was scared, I was sad about leaving the band, and I was grateful more than ever of the good times I’d had with them. I knew this song was important to include on my album because of how I felt about them.
Danial is a great producer. He’s really good at capturing whatever sound you’d want, which is great for me since for too long I’ve been armed with naught but an acoustic guitar and a dream at how cool my songs could sound! For “If I Knew You Then,” however, I knew it’d be best to keep it simple, and that’s just what we did. The cassette we used for the recording in the beginning is a treasure to me, Dan was able to digitize the part I wanted to use (I had to stop the tape quickly before I got to the SUPER embarrassing bit of 8 year old Candace singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time”).
This song has continued to touch my heart, and the hearts of others. I’ve had people who hear the song online tell me how much they relate. When I performed my last open mic in Wisconsin before moving, my friends made it a big deal with flowers and encouragement and sing-a-longs. I was already feeling mushy by the time it was finally my turn to play. After a duet with Dan, I played this song. I was crying by the time I was done. I didn’t happy-cry a lot until now. I’m so lucky to know the people I do, and this song will always remind me of that.
Candace Griffin Links