Gary Edward Allen cuts through the confusion with his warm, reflective new single and animated lyric video Understood – showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Featuring the steel guitar used on Gordon Lightfoot’s classic The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the Toronto psychedelic folk-rocker’s latest release is a jangly, melancholy journey through the years. It begins with a beautiful walk home, one that the narrator can still see vividly in his mind’s eye:
“The trees they dance and sway
The traffic rolls by
We live in complicated times
From the floor of an old friend’s house
Pictures hanging upside down
Halfway from me to the ground.”
When writing the lyrics, Allen flipped through his old diaries, settling on a time in 1993 when he had just moved to Halifax as a young man in his 20s. “I still have a memory of walking those streets near my apartment, no street lights in a lot of the city so it’s very dark and lonely,” he recalls. “The lyric ‘the pictures hanging upside down, halfway from me to the ground’ is also such a strong memory. It’s about arriving in Halifax and sleeping on a friend’s floor, staring up at the pictures on the wall. Feeling lost in the world, in a new city. Scared but excited.”
The song is philosophical about the ways in which we change (and don’t) as human beings. “It’s about just watching time roll by and trying to remain true to what you believe in, in the things that bring you joy, in the things that make you YOU,” Allen muses. “That’s a constant thing in life, not just specific to that time. Ultimately, ‘Understood’ is about having faith in confusing times.”
Most of the song was recorded in one session with industry veteran Tim Bovaconti (Burton Cummings, Leonard Cohen, Ron Sexsmith). “Initially, it was just two tracks of acoustic guitar and me singing. Tim put some piano on after the first verse and then added a track of pedal steel guitar,” Allen explains. “Tim owns the actual pedal steel guitar used on Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, played by Pee Wee Charles.”
It made for a very appropriate tribute. “Gordon Lightfoot passed away the week we were set to record Understood, so it seemed fitting for Tim to use it,” Allen continued. “Tim is a pro. His pedal steel track is the first and only take he did. He just nailed it immediately and it really makes the song.” The track also features Mishka Gogitidze on bass and Andrea Ciacco on drums.
Allen started playing guitar at seven years old before falling in love with it as a teenager after listening to Queen and KISS. By his early 20s, he was playing clubs. After taking a break and returning to music in his 40s, he recorded his first songs with producer Doug Fury before meeting AJ Ottaway and Jake Broder and recording their debut album Ottaway Broder Allen. He kicked off his solo career in 2017.
Watch the video for Understood above, hear more from Gary Edward Allen below, and follow him on Instagram.