***This installment of #SongStories was written by Kim Carney
To tell my story behind the song “I’ll Never Come Back” by F.C. Westcott, I have to rewind to 29 years ago when a boy from Allegany, NY convinced me to leave my Colorado home and move with him back east. I was miserable there. Not only because I was 2,000 miles away from home, but I was a city girl stuck in the confines of a tiny, sleepy town. I felt so much bitterness & resentment towards that Allegany boy, it’s no wonder our marriage failed. I thought I’d never be happy again and then I met Eric. He was smart, handsome, compassionate and had a great sense of humor. He knew I was skeptical about love, so he just concentrated on being my friend. And what an amazing friend he was.We started spending a lot of time together. My kids adored him and after several months I finally gave in and we started dating. He was my best friend and I felt safe with him. I soon found myself falling in love. Three months after we began dating, he was diagnosed with cancer and just a few months after that he was gone. Between the demise of my marriage and losing Eric, the town of Allegany became haunted for me. I had to get out for my own sanity, so I moved to Chautauqua about an hour away. Close enough I could see my kids, but far enough away that I was able to put the painful memories of that town in my past
Over the years, that Allegany boy & I put the pain of our failed marriage behind us & we became friends again. We started doing things together with our kids and it was comfortingly familiar. In May of 2016, that Allegany boy asked me to give him another chance and I agreed. I returned to that town I thought I’d never go back to. I learned a hard lessen then – distance fades memories faster than time does. It was as if I had never left. I couldn’t go anywhere without bursting into tears. Just driving through town I would pass the bar that Eric & I used to shoot pool at, the church where my Allegany boy & I got married, the park where Eric told me he loved me for the first time and the hospital where we said our goodbyes. Those few months back in Allegany were extremely difficult. I was trying to rekindle an old love while the ghost of another was haunting me everywhere I went. So, when the call came saying my Mom was gravely ill and I needed to get home to Colorado immediately, I was relieved to be able to put Allegany in my rear view mirror once again.
In November of 2016, I came to Colorado for a 5 week visit, but my Mom still needs me, so I’m still here. My Allegany boy asks me every day if I’m going to come back. My family here asks me frequently if I’ll go back. And in my heart I’m constantly wondering if I ever really could go back. One day, last May my dad had asked me for the millionth time where I was going to go after Mom dies and it hit me – I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do or where I would go. I locked myself in my room and had a good cry. I kept thinking to myself, I don’t want to go back, there’s nothing but pain and heartache there.
After a couple of hours of sobbing, I decided to dry my eyes and do some scouting for the station to get my mind off of things. I went on ReverbNation and decided I’d check out the local talent here in Grand Junction, CO where I’m staying. F.C. Westcott was the first artist I clicked on. I skimmed the list of his songs and when I saw “I’ll Never Go Back” I thought to myself, sounds like a song I need to hear. I put on my headphones and listened. The music was hauntingly beautiful and F.C.’s voice was soaked in sadness. As I listened to the lyrics, memories flashed through my mind…
“I’ve been gone for three straight years, but that’s just too short you see. It makes you wanna break all ties when you’re cut with a wound so deep.” and I thought of the day Eric & I said our final goodbyes.
“I remembered that weekend in Colorado, the mountain walks and the breeze in your hair. I carved our name in that aspen tree. At least we’re still together there” My Allegany boy and I shared many mountain walks when we lived together in Colorado. And our initials really are carved in a tree on the banks of Trout Lake.
Five years after Eric died, I was still drowning in grief, so I decided to see a therapist. She tried her best to help me, but I wasn’t ready then. “Yeah she says she can bring me back, but there ain’t a damn thing she can do. Unless it’s a lie or some sick joke…and cancer never took you.”
When I heard those words cancer never took you, it felt like a punch in the gut. I wasn’t expecting that and it literally knocked the wind out of me. I sunk to the floor and dissolved into tears. “I’ll never come back, unless it’s you. I’ll never come back.”
I remember thinking, I don’t want to go back to Allegany, but maybe this song isn’t just about not wanting to go back to a place – maybe it’s about not wanting to go back to reality when your real life is too painful to face. That’s how it feels when you lose someone you love. There’s moments when you feel like you’re too weighted down in grief, guilt and pain to move on.
Since I started recruiting artists for Music Mafia Radio, I have listened to thousands of tunes, but never have I had such an honest, emotional and visceral reaction to a song. Although I was shaking and sobbing, I felt a great sense of comfort knowing that I wasn’t the only one who’s been through this. That I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I had to reach out to F.C. – not just because he is an extremely talented artist and he deserved to be featured on the station , but because of the connection I have with his song. I shared my #SongStory with him and asked him to share his story as the songwriter.
F.C.’s “I’ll Never Come Back” #SongStory is an interesting one. F.C. was at a Kevin Welch songwriting workshop. At the end of the workshop, he had a one-on-one session with Kevin. F.C. told Kevin he was in a writing rut and had not had a productive weekend. Kevin told him that he was impressed with the music he had heard and that F.C. shouldn’t be concerned.
To get out of his rut, Kevin suggested that F.C. try something different. Kevin asked him if he had ever written any story songs. F.C. replied, “Well, all of my songs tell some kind of story”. “I know” Kevin responded, “but really write me a great story”. So, F.C. took his advice and for the rest of the day, F.C. thought about what a story song was to him, He envisioned the song “Randall Knife” by Guy Clark. That is an evocative story!
When F.C. got back home that night, he sat down at the coffee table with a bottle of wine, his guitar, a notebook and the intention to write a great story. Almost immediately, the hook, melody and chords appeared to him from nowhere. F.C. says, “I have never believed in ghosts, but I wondered if that house was haunted. It felt like someone was talking to me, telling me their story. So, this song is mostly fiction, meaning it didn’t happen to me verbatim. However, various events and characters from my life did inspire and help “paint” the scenes throughout the verses.” (I think maybe one of those ghosts may have been my Eric – what do you think?)
“The story line continued to develop but I needed a twist – something to turn it from a good song into a great story”, says F.C. “What if this person is not talking about going back to a location, but is actually talking about going back to reality?” he thought. “I could reveal that at the end, but what would cause someone to be so far gone? To still be hurting after so much time?” F.C. explains, “A lifelong friend of mine had just recently been diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumor. I thought about him and his wife and the light bulb came on. This story was about someone who was still grieving and still in the denial stage after losing his lover to cancer. He believed that somehow she could still be somewhere on this earth, just out of his reach, yet his rational side knew it wasn’t possible. He was still indulging in what-ifs.”
F.C. says he finished the “story” that night in one session. He tweaked a few rhymes and improved some word efficiency over the next several months, but it was really written in that one sitting. “I had help the entire evening and it wasn’t just the wine”, F.C. explains. “It was truly magical.”
Several months have passed since I first heard this song and the meaning behind it has evolved for me. Now when I hear those words “I’ll Never Come Back”, it means I will never go back to that place of loss, confusion and grief. I’m finally in a place of acceptance and forgiveness for all that has happened and I have finally let go of the bitterness, the wounds and the sadness. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Allegany, but I do know I will never go back to that dark place.
That’s the awe-inspiring power of music. A song has the power to leave an indelible message or memory in your heart that you will remember every time you hear it. Music can move you, inspire you and change your frame of mind. You only just have to listen.