The Story Behind the Making of “My Precious Limp”
I was raised Christian. Then I rebelled. I got married way too young and things were fine for a few years but after awhile due to a stubborn and hard heart towards God and my wife, I “fell.” For me that meant a shameful affair which lead to a divorce. That lead to a lifestyle of sowing my wild oats and doing whatever I wanted. During that time, I even slept with my friends wife. More shame. More distance from God.
Cue the partying, experimenting with drugs, and debauchery. Cue the car being repossessed, the credit score in the 500s, and the dingy one-bedroom apartment behind a fast food restaurant with only a mattress on the floor and my clothes in trash bags. Fortunately — indeed, very fortunately — I lost everything. So in 2003 I crawled back to Christ where I got a second chance.
When I sat down to write this third album, I had a choice. I could very easily have stuck to my usual song themes: innocence lost ala “Kid Heart” songs, New Testament inspired narratives like “When Love Comes Riding By (Hosanna)” or “We Will Win” triumphant songs designed to get the heart pumping, the stadium cheering (in theory), etc, etc… But something about going that route seemed like a lost opportunity. An opportunity to tell the truth. The real truth about what I’ve been feeling. And when I say “I”, I mean Todd, the middle-aged father of two, on his second business, second marriage, and on his second lease on life — not TODDZERO the wannabe rockstar playing the sweaty Viper Room on the Sunset Strip or Austin, Texas’ SXSW wearing (barely) fitting skinny jeans.
There’s a lot of wreckage in my story. And most if not all of it was self-inflicted. There’s a million songs out there about being the person who was “done wrong.” But very few songs from the perspective of the person who did all that wrong. So that’s what I decided to write about.
Introducing my new album “My Precious Limp.” These are 12 songs about my journey of how during my 20s I threw everything away and generally lived a base, self-loathing existence as far away from my moral, Christian upbringing as you can imagine. If you do it right, facing those kinds of ugly truths about yourself is both brutally humiliating and painful but also freeing. I think it was Jesus who said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Still, opening up about major character defects and lies from your past is not for the faint of heart. Along the way I wrote songs with not-so-subtle titles like “I Knew That I’d Get Caught,” “My Best Friend Wants To Kill Me,” and “Yeah, I Lied About It.”
There’s no real way to atone for all the destruction I caused. It’s not like a fender bender where you can repair the damage and make the other person “whole.” You can’t write a check or do jail time to pay this type of debt. Even an album of 12 “I’m ashamed and sorry” songs is meager recompense. Speaking of… I wrote a song called “Sorry is a Stupid Word” with exactly this helplessness in mind:
“There’s one thing that I am sure / And I know it’s not a lot / Sorry’s stupid but it’s all that I got”
It’s now 2016. About 15 or 16 years have elapsed since I made all those horrible character choices. And on this side of things, having become a prodigal son of sorts, having miraculously received the forgiveness of both my ex-wife and ex-best friend, I have a new perspective on what grace — real world grace — looks like. To me it looks like this: more blessings and less justice than I ever deserved. Songs spring from this. For songs like “Glory Glory Glory” and “The End of the World” I wrote lyrics like:
“Your love’s enough at the end of the world /
fear forever was my home, my bed of thorns /
But love’s my shelter I have learned / At the end of the world.”
And through it all, I have learned a number of things.
First, there are certain things one can do that can never be undone. Tread lightly. My pastor says we are all just one or two bad decisions away from destroying everything. He’s right. I speak from experience. So stay close and stay clean. Close to God; clean in your heart.
Second, certain things will never be “okay” or “fine.” The knife in the back may have been removed, the wound may not be an open bleeder any more, but there will always be a scar. Always. It’s my job now and forevermore to live with the realization that I caused that scar on another person. It takes a certain amount of faith, I’m finding out, to not allow self-condemnation to sabotage my own healing. It really does nobody any good if I just retreat under a pile of shame. Which leads me to point number three…
Since there’s no way to pay this debt back, the next best thing I can do is simply get better. Be better. Be a better father, husband and human being. As I mentioned, I have been on this “better” path for a decade and a half. So how about another decade. Then another one after that. This thought inspired the lyrics to “Time”:
“Seven billion branches on God’s family tree
So there’s a good chance my son will turn out like me
Wish there was something that I could do for you
But there is nothing except maybe improve (and soon)”
Finally, I’ve learned that forgiveness is the best gift one human being can offer another. I am the grateful recipient of that gift from at least two people who I hurt. And I’m still astonished and grateful for it each and every day.
Why the title “My Precious Limp”?
When Jacob wrestles the Lord in Genesis 32, he comes away from the experience with a new name (Israel) and a blessing. But it’s quite an unexpected blessing — a wrenched hip socket — forcing Jacob to hobble along with a debilitating and painful limp. The timing couldn’t be worse either. All this happens on the eve of Jacob reuniting with his long lost brother Esau who last vowed to kill him — which probably had something to do with how Jacob had cheated Esau out of his inheritance 14 years prior. Jacob had been on the run ever since. And the early reports about Esau bringing 400 of his men were not promising. Jacob being injured and in an exhausted state was not promising either; or was it?
Maybe God’s ways are not man’s? Maybe God wants us to admit and embrace our weaknesses. Maybe the only way to receive God’s blessing (and survive a meeting with a brother who wants to kill you) is through humility? Step one of the 12 step program involves ownership of one’s powerlessness and admission that life is unmanageable. For Jacob, that means facing his brother head on, but from the humbled position of being crippled. Maybe that’s why Esau has a softened heart towards him? I don’t know. But somehow — miraculously — the brothers reunite in a beautiful way: “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”
For me, rather than hiding my past, what if I embraced it openly? Could God do something unexpected in my story too, just like he did for Jacob? I’m not as put together as I’d like the world to think. Maybe showcasing my “limp” in this very public way declares to everybody and to myself that I’m trusting in God’s mercy and believing Him when he says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
01 EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A ROCK STAR
Drums: Matt Arcaini / Orchestra: Brandon Jung / Keys: Todd Griffithe / Production help: Brad Lodge / Mixed: Craig Alvin
Everybody wants to be a rock star / Everybody wants to be a god /But everybody sees … eventually / They’re just gods with little “g” / Yeah my brain explodes / As I watch this whole thing unfold / Cuz I’ve gotta get this story known /Before they call the end of days, days, days / From coast to coast /I looked for someone who loved me most / And I knew I’d found the Holy Ghost / Cuz These words I heard Him say, say, say / Rock you, here I am I’m gonna rock you / Whooooooooo / Hey you, let me show you how I rock you / You’re a little messed up / with a heart of gold / with a little bit of love and some rock and roll / Yeah, I’m gonna rock you, here I am I’m gonna / Rock you / Whooooooooo / CHORUS / Gonna let it take me / Gonna let it change me / Gonna be ready / Gonna be steady / Gotta hear the sound / Gotta hear the sound / CHORUS
Matt Giella: Trumpet / Mixed: Chris Steffen
I heard my wife will outlive me, is that true? / My only daughter probably marry a fool / The universe expands much faster than it should (not good) / So my conclusion is life is misunderstood /(but) time is a miracle / It points the mirror till it shows you (the real you) / Time waves a magic wand / reveals everyone’s motives (oh no!) / Seven billion branches on God’s family tree / There’s a good chance my son will turn out like me / Wish there was something that I could do for you / But there is nothing except maybe improve (and soon) / CHORUS / No matter what you do / time has its way with you / (ooh ooh) / No matter what you hide / time shows what’s inside / inside you / CHORUS
03 ONE MILLION WAYS TO BURY IT
Bass & Accordion: Silvano Pagliuca-Mena / Mixed: Craig Alvin
A field / I need a field / to bury this ordeal / where it’ll never be found / Dirt / and the blood on my shirt / covers my hurt / at the burial ground / Oooh Noooo / There are … one / million ways / To bury it, bury it, bury it in the graveyard / Love / (what I call love) / Feels more like a shove / down a rabbit hole / Pills / Jack ‘n the Jill / Zoloft refills / I dream in chemicals / Food / I’m eating for two / at a table for one / makes the pain go numb
Drinks / couple more drinks / who cares what ya think / I think I’m fat and dumb / Oooh Oooh / CHORUS / I’m not dead yet don’t bury me / CHORUS
04 YEAH, I LIED ABOUT IT
Drums: Paul Atkins / Background Vocals: Tamra Dozier, Ronnie O’Hannon, Jyvonne Haskin / Vocal Arrangement: DeReau K. Farrar / Mixed: Craig Alvin
I “stole” / quote unquote / A soul / worth more than gold / I disavowed devotion / Which is how I broke in / Oh, how I fought / To make all these sorrows / Stop, running from truth / Stop, spinning / Stop, running around / Every hidden thing is found / Yeah, I lied about it / Yeah, I lied about it, I’m a liar / I walk / with a limp / And talk / with a glitch / This is guilt unanswered / It’s like being filled with cancer / Oh, how I fought / To make all these sorrows Stop / CHORUS / Nothing hides forever and ever / Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever… / CHORUS
05 I KNEW THAT I’D GET CAUGHT
Drums: Paul Atkins / Mixed: Craig Alvin
I’m tired / cuz there’s something that I been hiding: My heart / You’ve only ever known my disguises / At night / it’s not that I turn into a monster / But sometimes / I play the leading part of the harlot / Today’s a great day / Cuz today I knew that I’d get caught / I knew that I’d get caught /I knew that I’d get caught / I destroyed / for the very worst of reasons: Cuz I could / that’s the only reason I ever needed / But I swear / I’ve been meaning to ask this / My prayer / is please give me your forgiveness / Today’s a great day / Cuz today I knew that I’d get caught / CHORUS / Just a few years ago / I destroyed a beautiful home / Just a few years ago / I destroyed a beautiful home / CHORUS
06 MY BEST FRIEND WANTS TO KILL ME
Background Vocals: Ruby Olivas, Ryan Olivas, Jennifer Schroeder / Bass: Silvano Pagliuca-Mena / Mixed: Bryan Cook & James Berish, Assistant
There’s a voice mail on my phone / it’s a broken heart and soul / Says he’s coming over soon / with a baseball bat or two / Oh no / Oh no / There’s a doorbell that is sounding / there’s some bare fists that are pounding / There’s a too late sorry in my heart / Oh no / On no / I know why / No surprise / My best friend wants to kill me / Hello and welcome real life / Can’t blame ‘em / don’t hate ‘em / my best friend wants to kill me /These are the rules of real life / On the count of, two, three four / I open up the door / There’s a demon in his eyes / who lets me say my last goodbyes / Oh no / Oh no / There ain’t no hope for me / I’m my own judge and jury / And I gladly fall upon my sword / Oh no / Oh no / CHORUS / I’d like to explain everything / But I can’t think of anything / Since I made my own bed / Gotta offer up my head / And I’m waiting for the whack / of his baseball bat But he’s too / decent for that / CHORUS
07 SORRY IS A STUPID WORD
Background Vocals: Jennifer Miller / Mixed: Craig Alvin
From across the table / I see you rebuilding back your life / I caused your wreckage / But I’m here to make it semi – right / There’s one thing that I am sure / And I know it’s not a lot / Sorry’s stupid but it’s all that I got /For all the pain and the hurt / And all the healing you deserve /Sorry’s such a stupid — stupid little word / Sorry! You deserve much more than this / Sorry! For everything I did / And all the hurt … / And sorry’s a stupid word / Now this place is closing / Gotta tell you something before we leave / I didn’t mean to screw you / (Gotta love my lame apologies) / CHORUS / Everything I have said here / are understatements of the year / I really did you wrong / and all I offer is a song… / A stupid song / CHORUS
08 BLACK CURTAINS
Background Vocals: Jennifer Miller / Mixed: Craig Alvin
I was afraid of you / for reasons / forgotten / I ran away from you / from feelings / from Gardens / I hide beauty / within me / with fig leaves / And never mind the rustling / in back of certain / black curtains
09 IT’S A MIRACLE
Nylon String Guitar: Lionel Tortolero / Mixed: Pat Dillett
I was made in the holy image / a slave to human limits / I’m broken / I know it / just like everyone / I fell in a hole that I dug / left a note right there for my love / in darkness / the heart gets… / the heart gets emotional / It’s a miracle / that brought me back from hell / It’s a miracle / to stand up where I fell /When my back was against the Red Sea / and the odds were stacked against me / I admit it / I said it / I kinda liked it / I was a million miles from heaven / You began to slowly beckon / You were pleased / and the seas / simply divided / CHORUS / It’s a miracle / a simple miracle / It’s a miracle / a simple miracle / CHORUS
10 I FOUGHT LOVE AND LOVE WON
Background Vocals: Jennifer Miller / Production help: Brad Lodge / Mixed: Craig Alvin
Maybe fighting’s not my thing / But something happens in the ring / My opponents come round after round / And I’m the champion who knocks ‘em all down / But there was One / Who I never beat / I went the distance before I succumbed / I fought love and love won / I remember three things from that fight: The glove, the mat, and then goodnight / CHORUS /Knocked my lights out / I’m counting fingers / The world was spinning / The winning was over / The crowds all scattered / I lost my title / My title meant nothing / Cuz nothing mattered / Except One who caused my defeat It was the best thing that I’d ever done / When I fought love and love won
11 GLORY GLORY GLORY
Piano: Todd Griffithe / Background Vocals: Colleen Keene, Ronnie O’Hannon, Jyvonne Haskin / Vocal Arrangement: DeReau K. Farrar / Production Help: Deakon & Tom Dobrzanski & Brad Lodge / Mixed: Chris Steffen
The Lord gets the glory / Love is His story / He made me again better than I was before / The Lord gets the glory / Love is His story / He made me again better than I was before / Sing glory to the Lord / Glory glory / Sing glory to the Lord / Glory glory / Glory, glory, glory, glory, glory Lord / Glory, glory, glory, glory, glory, glory, Lord / CHORUS
12 THE END OF THE WORLD
Background Vocals: Tamra Dozier, Ronnie O’Hannon, Jyvonne Haskin / Vocal Arrangement: DeReau K. Farrar /Mixed: Chris Steffen
If I woke up and I heard / the end of the world / was soon upon me / I’d be nervous I can share / I’d feel empty, I’d be scared / Would I be ready? / Tonight’s the night / It’s time / To hold you tight / I need your love at the end of the world / Your love’s enough at the end of the world / Fear forever was my home, my bed of thorns / Love’s my shelter I have learned / At the end of the world / All the love that I withheld / All the sorrys I couldn’t tell / Well, I was wrong / I’d list the victims of my crimes / But I might miss my appointed time / Cuz the list is long / Tonight’s the night / It’s time / To hold you tight / CHORUS / After the world is gone /Beyond the sun and kingdom come / There will be you and me / After the world is gone /Beyond the sun and kingdom come / There will be you and me / Yeah I need you / I want you / I want to spend every eternal moment with you / Only you, only you… / I … need you / It’s wonderful / it’s wonderful / it’s wonderful / It’s wonderful / It’s terrible at the end of the world so wonderful, it’s terrible … / And wonderful at the end of the world so wonderful, so wonderful / It’s terrible at the end of the world so wonderful, it’s terrible … / And wonderful at the end of the world so wonderful, so wonderful / It’s terrible at the end of the world so wonderful, it’s terrible … / And wonderful at the end of the world so wonderful, so wonderful / Fear forever was my home / my bed of thorns / I know / / Love’s my shelter I have learned / Here no matter where I go / I need your love / I know / Forever at the end of the world / REPEAT / I need your love at the end of the world
Mastered: Hans DeKline
All songs words and music: ToddZero