Behind the Music

Melissa Cox singer/songwriter

Growing up, I used to love watching VH1’s Behind the Music. The songs by my favorite artists – Tori Amos, Paul Simon, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan – are wonderful by themselves, but knowing the stories behind them makes them even more special to me.

Because I tend to write cryptic lyrics, I thought you might want to learn a little more about the stories behind each song. I’ve also included the lyrics, because sometimes you can’t understand what the hell I’m singing, LOL! (Like, did CCR sing “There’s a bad moon on the rise” or was it “There’s a bathroom on the right”? Two very different messages!)

“Amber” (Copyright 2013)
“Amber” came to me on an airplane in April 2013. I was headed back to the East Coast US after my tour on Oahu in Hawaii, and I was pondering a huge life choice: give up everything and move to New Zealand, or stay in the States. Eventually, and somewhat last minute, I decided to move. The decision was one of the most heart-wrenching and difficult ones I’ve ever had to make. The sacrifices that go along with such a huge change affected me for years, and still do to this day. I don’t subscribe to the “No regrets” mantra that some do; this concept, to me, requires a lack of conscience. Regret runs deep in me over my decision. But so do solace and joy.

Amber is the color of the sunset in the west.
Amber is the color of the pain inside my chest.
And Amber is the color of your eyes in the light.
All I see is Amber when I close my eyes at night.

Amber is the rock inside my guilty heart.
Amber is the sunshine inside my lonely dark.
When all the crystals of the sea have finally been won,
The only stone I leave unturned in the amber one back home.

Amber is the color of the fire inside my soul.
Amber is the taste of my tears as I go.
And Amber is the color of the rolling waves of grain.
Amber is my happiness when I come home again.
Yes Amber is my happiness when I come home again.

—–
“Don’t Be” (Copyright 2004)

This is one of my older songs, written in my early 20s as I was just hitting the college music / open mic scene in my hometown of Newark, Delaware. This was the first song I recorded with my band Mythica for our first EP “Dangerous Little Monster.” After the EP was released, the song was picked up in a major radio contest, which we won. First prize was an opening spot for Spin Doctors and Sister Hazel! “Don’t Be” is about the brutality of childhood. I was relentlessly teased as a kid, especially at my all-girls Catholic middle school. These girls were relentless. I didn’t endure nearly as much pain as some other girls did. Once, a girl got her period for the first time and was sent home early. The next day, she was horrified to find tampons and pads stuck to her locker door, with terrible things like “dirty slut” written in red sharpie. Another girl’s mom died when she was little, and her single father couldn’t afford to buy her nice clothes, so she was shunned by everyone in the school. I don’t think I ever saw her eat at a lunch table with anyone else. I felt sorry for her, but I knew that, as an outcast myself, if I befriended her, I would be committing social suicide and I would endure worse bullying. My empathy was overshadowed by my instinct of self-preservation. The pecking order in our 50-student school, reinforced by the strict patriarchy of the church, was so overwhelming that when I presented with the choice to attend a co-ed high school, I jumped at the chance and never looked back. The lack of empathy in our society is stark and dangerous, and has lasting effects.

Play your violin child
Send your spiral down.
Send it down, send it down, send it down.

Oh let it be new child
Send your spirit out.
Send it out, send it out, send it out.

Hold it down, hold it out.
Bring me to peace on my knees.

Don’t be a dangerous little monster.
It’s only here where you’ll save me,
Here in your dark, bright eyes.
Don’t be someone to carry over
Something that can’t be seen.
I’m not what I seem to be.

Oh let it be new child.
Hold it down till you can’t breathe,
Can’t breathe, can’t breathe my love.

Oh let it be new child.
An unfamiliar glance.
Forbidden romance to dance with him.

—-
“Vicarious (remix)” (Copyright 2007 & 2010)

“Vicarious” is one of those songs whose meaning is constantly changing. In the most simplistic terms, this song was written out of a need for a “title track” for my band Mythica’s second album “Vicarious.” We had already named the album that word, but we did not have a song or even a lyric to match it. A week before heading into the studio, I wrote this song partly out of necessity to lend some more context to the album, and also out of late night inspiration fueled by hearing new music like Radiohead and Cocteau Twins.

Years later I found myself revisiting “Vicarious” for my album “Harmonious Maladies” in a new context: the suicide of a beloved uncle, and the chaos and insecurity that ensued in my aunt’s life. I realized how unforgiving modern society still can be–despite our many advances–for a widow whose husband was the primary bread winner. The lyric “This stained glass ceiling, it’s falling down on me” took on new meaning — the “glass ceiling” that limits women’s power and financial means merged with the stained glass windows of the Church, and despite it’s beauty and protective qualities for a woman, once it is shattered, there is no more shelter for her. I re-recorded this song for my solo album “Harmonious Maladies” with this new meaning in mind and as a tribute to my uncle and my aunt who showed so much grace and courage in a situation no one should have to go through.

Carbon freeze takes away twelve degrees of me.
Water down your sea. Mission complete.

Now I understand what it takes to become a man…
Come in from behind, teach how to divide.

What difference can I make when all women mistake
Their lovelessness with hate?
This stained glass ceiling, it’s falling down on me.
So I’ll live vicariously.

Thinking way too hard. May this be my bard.
Sexton is my home. I feel so alone.

So when you go I know how to be your shadow
And your treasure full of gold.
We’ll fly away my love, out to that sea beyond.
I will live.
Vicarious.


Get these three songs FREE at www.MelCoxMusic.com.