Life’s For The Living
So much of this album was written in Australia .
I remember writing this song in Melbourne which is a wonderful city for music and one of the best in the world for busking . I’ve had some amazing times there .
I had a couple of great regular spots - one outside an art store on de graves street and another down by the Yarra river in front of the casinos …. although I’m not sure the casino’s enjoyed me being there as much as I did . A hairy English guy in flip-flops playing folk songs not being the calibre of clientele they were gunning for I’m sure ….
On this particular day however it had been tough . When playing music in the street you need a few things to go in your favour - weather being one of them .
Crowded house weren’t lying - Melbourne has a very changeable climate and I remember it being a wet and windy day so I decided to pack up my stuff and go and sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by .
It’s amazing what happens when you do that . When you choose to actually be present and engage with whats going on around you rather than bury yourself in the millions of distractions that are available to us .
Especially as a songwriter . I’ve often found that some of my best songs have been hiding in the most “normal” places . You just have to be awake enough to find them .
You start to see people . Really see them . Not just absentmindedly taking them in .
You start to notice the business men and women or “bus stop crows” waiting at the tram stops in the rain . The hipsters in the coffee shop talking about vintage books and vinyls (there are plenty of these in Melbourne …. ) You notice the pigeons pecking around in the gutters and the old woman walking alone .
The most striking image on this day , and the one that lit the touch paper for the song , was a young disabled kid running out in to the middle of the street and dancing around in the pouring rain . much to the amusement of the onlooking crowd . he had a big raincoat and a rucksack on - I still remember it so clearly .
I found it so sad and jarring to see him mocked . A good example of the cruelty in the world . And in the original song I wrote a lyric about it which was designed to be as jarring as the moment itself but later on I understood that it was also very offensive . Perhaps the only lyric I’ve ever truly regretted ….
To anyone that has ever been offended by it over the years please accept my sincere apology . i can see now how inappropriate it was and glad to have omitted it from the new recording . Just know that it was only ever intended to be thought provoking - however misguided that might have been .
Life is a journey - one that we learn from all the time - and in a way it ties in to the sentiment of the song . Which now that I listen to it , years after writing it , feels like the tussle and churning of being young and out in the world . To be seeing its beauty and chaos and hypocrisy and disparity and trying to make sense of it all .
The chorus - “dont cry for the lost , smile for the living , get what you need and give what you’re given , life’s for the living so live it , or you’re better off dead “ to me feels like an acknowledgement of all of the madness and an understanding that the best way of dealing with it is to not resist it . Not to spend your time bemoaning the past or dwelling on missed opportunities but instead to swim out and meet the waves head on and more than that - enjoy it .
These lyrics , perhaps with the exception of “let her go” , are probably the ones that have resonated with people more than any others . The amount of “life’s for the living” tattoos that I’ve seen over the years has been incredible and humbling .
It has been a staple in the live set ever since it was written as it offers a wonderful moment of togetherness and camaraderie which to be honest is what live music is all about .
If there is anyone I know - artist or otherwise - that encapsulates this way of living life then its FOY VANCE .
Foy is a true master of his craft . A real songwriter’s songwriter . Every songwriter who approaches writing in an authentic way seems to love him . he reminds me of the late great John Prine in this way .
As a person and a writer he’s disarming and honest . He’s wickedly funny and doesn’t let you get away with anything . anytime I hang out with him I feel invigorated by his lack of bullshit and his ongoing pursuit of creating beautiful , tasteful and brilliant music . There are not many like him .
I first met him around the time that this album was first released . We were both opening up for ed Sheeran on his tour of the uk in 20 …. 12??
He was a wonderful tour companion and an incredible person to learn from . We’ve been good friends ever since and I can’t think of a more perfect collaborator for this song .