“Headin’ North” – the album

Headin’ North was my second album, released in 2009 through Beautiful Boy Records and available via CDBaby.  It is a concept album, a “mini-opera” if you will, about an unnamed man and his journey to find himself through music.

Track Info

1. Intro

2. August 16, 1977

3. Blackwood Drive

4. Dirty Little Secret

5. Headin’ North

6. A Million Miles

7. Walking Tall

8. One Last Shot

9. It’s Coming Up

10. Light of Day

11. Reprise

Plot Synopsis of the “Mini-Opera”

Set in San Diego, California, the story basically starts at childhood, where our protagonist is affected by the death of Elvis Presley (“August 16, 1977”), and as he grows older becomes disillusioned with “normal” adulthood (“Blackwood Drive”).  He decides to follow his dream to become a rock star but harbors this desire, keeping it a secret from his friends and family (“Dirty Little Secret”).  Eventually he can no longer contain this duality so he heads north up the freeway to L.A. to chase his dream (“Headin’ North”).  Once there, immersed in “the scene”, he gets a taste of the not-so-innocent life of a musician chasing the dream – the rejection that breaks lives is witnessed by our fresh-faced protagonist who feels young, invincible, but sympathizes nonetheless (“A Million Miles”).  However, he too finds himself in the sausage grinder of endless toiling, humiliation, and rejection – despite this he still resolves to press forward, head held up high (“Walking Tall”).  But time passes, and our protagonist, constantly faced with roadblocks, rejection, and defeat, finds himself at the end of his rope – he decides to go for broke and make one last major push for stardom (“One Last Shot”).  However, the end of the road is nigh for our protagonist, with nowhere to turn he knows his time is up (“It’s Coming Up”), but at his darkest hour he finds a bright, shining light of salvation, a higher power, and realizes there is more to life than earthly “stardom”.  The story ends with the protagonist beginning a new journey to find himself through spiritual means (“Light of Day”).

The Individual Songs

Now truth be told, these songs were all composed over a period of several years, standalone, and not connected in any way with each other; I wrote these songs as the inspiration hit me, most of them were written during the period of 2004 through 2007, with the exception of “Headin’ North” and “Walking Tall”, both written in 2002, and “August 16, 1977” which was written in 1987 (one of the first songs I wrote).

I began the process of recording these songs in November of 2007.  I really did not envision this set of songs becoming a concept album until I had completed the basic recordings in early 2009.  During the mixing process I toyed with several iterations of song orders.  Although I had settled on the album cover and the back cover months before, I kept switching the album name from “Walking Tall” to “One Last Shot”.  The album was going to lead off with either “Walking Tall” (if that was going to be the title of the album) or “Headin’ North” (if the album was going to be “One Last Shot”) and the plan was to make “One Last Shot” the last song of the album regardless of title.  In the end, I decided to nix both album names and opted to go with “Headin’ North” – it seemed a more positive title than the other two.  So I settled on that as the album title and this song order:

1. Headin’ North

2. Walking Tall

3. Dirty Little Secret

4. August 16, 1977

5. Light of Day

6. A Million Miles

7. It’s Coming Up

8. Blackwood Drive

9. One Last Shot

As I toyed with the various mixes, a fleeting notion passed through my head about concept albums.  One of my favorite bands, The Who, was well known for theirs, and other bands I admired like Pink Floyd and Rush used this artistic device as well.  So I started outlining a basic story and amazingly was able to cobble the story together using the 9 songs I had recorded serving as the basis.  The mini-opera was born!  To support the structure of the story, the song sequencing on the album was rearranged to the order listed in the “Track Info” section up above in this blog (songs 2 through 10).  I decided to keep the title of the album “Headin’ North” as a physical and conceptual metaphor for the story – the protagonist physically headed north to Los Angeles to “find himself” and his destiny (stardom through music) but in the end he spiritually ascended “North” and in the process truly did find himself.

It was still missing something in my mind – to me it needed some kind of bookends that opened the saga and brought it to a close.  Without any new music recorded (or songs on the docket) I chose to use pieces of “Headin’ North” the song.  Created were  two short snippets, “Intro” and “Reprise”, to begin and end the album respectively.  “Intro” was basically just the vocal tracks from the bridge of the song, and “Reprise” was the bridge vocal tracks once again, this time with the lead guitar track mixed in.  While “Intro” starts out with a startling blast of vocals, “Reprise” gently fades in with guitar, the vocals appear with the familiar refrain, and as the lead guitar symbolically races up the freeway, it fades into the sunset.

The refrain is basically the theme of the album:

Looking for the sun to break out of the clouds

Looking for a vision to see

Looking for a sign on the side of the road

Looking for a reason to be

~ mikelewismusic

Mike's second album. "Headin' North", released October 2009.

Mike’s second album. “Headin’ North”, released October 2009.


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