This website is used to discuss music far more than it’s used to share about my personal life, but sometimes, those two topics collide in beautiful and undeniable ways. One such way was when I released a piano ballad titled “The Things We Can’t Plan” on July 9, 2021. The rushed release of this “single” (alongside its instrumental, piano-only version) was strategic, though, because I had very important plans for how those two tracks would be used the very next day. On July 10, 2021, the instrumental version played as Paige Williford walked down the aisle to stand by my side and take our vows. A few hours later, the vocal version of the song played as Paige Tremaine had her first dance with me as my wife.
It might seem a little silly (if not outright pompous) for me to use my own music for some of the most important moments in my wedding, but it was actually Paige’s idea. The song was brand new in the official/public sense, but I had originally written the song to use in my proposal to Paige. That evening was a blog-worthy story in its own right, where I managed to surprise Paige so thoroughly that, even a few minutes into the theatrics of it all, she still wasn’t sure if it was actually happening. (Maybe that points more toward my poor presentation skills, but still…) Part of my proposal was performing a short medley of songs for her, all of which she recognized until we reached the end, where I played “The Things We Can’t Plan.” After this, I popped the question and she excitedly said yes.
That was on May 4, so we had a wild two months laid out ahead of us to plan our wedding on a date that made the most sense, which turned out to be July 10 – a pipe dream that only came to fruition thanks to finding an incredible wedding venue that was serendipitously available that quickly-approaching Saturday evening. A healthy mixture of luck, minimalism, and DIY-attitude was necessary to make this wedding successful with only two months to plan everything, which led to me and Paige happily and hapharzdly taking large amounts of the planning process upon ourselves.
One of the most fun things we did was create the Spotify playlists that would be used for all the different portions of the ceremony and reception:
Special Dances Playlist
Many of the “special” songs were pretty easy for us to pick. Using “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow as my mother-son dance was something I’d figured out many years ago. Using “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” by Weezer as our walk-off song at the end of the ceremony was another easy decision, since this Weezer jam is an upbeat, romantic favorite of ours that had been used to start off the large majority of our road trips together.
Picking our first dance song wasn’t coming so easily, though, especially since the vast majority of the music that we mutually love and listen to together hails from genres that don’t exactly convert cleanly into “slow dance” material: post-hardcore, emo-pop, metalcore, etc. So when Paige had the idea for us to use “The Things We Can’t Plan,” it checked so many boxes for us: it was uniquely us; it already played an important role in our story, rather than potentially picking a song that wasn’t truly meaningful to us, merely because it’s pretty and romantic; I could tailor it toward being good for dancing; and as an added bonus, it would give me the opportunity to record and release a new song that I was really proud of.
So I contacted Sean at the Hilson Studio (who had recently produced my second album, Development & Compromise) to ask if he’d be able to squeeze me in to record vocals and to mix, edit, and master the final track. He agreed (not to mention he offered me an incredibly low rate as a generous wedding gift), and we were off! We were up against the gun, to be sure: I didn’t finish writing the final lyrics and piano parts until mid-June, so it was late June when I entered the studio to record vocals. I even did some research to find which distribution service could get the song released onto streaming services the fastest, to avoid any complications with not being able to add the song to my Spotify playlists in time for the wedding. (This fantastic article from Ari’s Take led me to go with Distrokid, which has been a fantastic decision thus far.)
All told, the wedding went off without a hitch. Well, there was one big hitch, i.e., getting hitched. Jokes aside, it was a blast, filled with beloved friends and family, vibrant dancing, song choices that largely went off better that I expected to, the most delicious cake we’ve ever had in our lives, and no major logistical errors or setbacks to fret over (except for one to sweat over, because the AC stopped working in the church where we were holding the sanctuary… but Paige didn’t pass out, so all was well!). Below, you can find the wonderful wedding video that beautifully documents the event:
Moving into our first few months of marriage, one of the first major events to take place was returning to the Hilson Studio to reimagine/remake my aforementioned sophomore album, Development & Compromise, which originally released in January 2021, a mere month before my life would be joyfully and readily consumed by Paige’s official move to Nashville, getting her setup with a new apartment and a new job, then proposing and planning the wedding. During that string of non-musical months, my initial satisfaction with the album was waning – and waning fast. Regrets were forming about decisions made during the recording process in order to save money and elements of simplicity in the songs that left them lacking the guitar riffs and harmonies that had characterized my first album, Unfall. I won’t go into further detail here, since that’s not what this post is about, but in the process of deciding to re-record D&C, I decided to add four new songs to the album, as well, with one of the four being our wedding song, “The Things We Can’t Plan.”
As previously mentioned, the single version that I’d released the day before the wedding featured solely piano and my voice. I didn’t want to change any of that, but I started practicing playing drums to the piano version, until I’d written (discovered?) drum parts that truly felt like they belonged in the song. I also practiced playing bass guitar to the song, matching the left-hand movements on the piano, which subtly adds body to the whole track without taking away from the piano parts. Lastly, and most importantly, we brought Paige in to record her voice over the song, turning it into something of a duet. It’s not a proper duet, since I spend the first two verses singing directly to her, but it made sense lyrically for her to come in during the third verse, and I think she absolutely killed it. Her singing elevates the song far beyond what it was when I sang it by myself, resulting in a lovely and unexpected denouement for the final moments of the album.
Fun fact: there’s an alternate version of “The Things We Can’t Plan,” where Sean (the album’s producer) played around with synths and atmosphere to fill out the landscape of the song. I opted to use a much drier version of the song, where you can hear merely piano, bass, drums, and our voices, without bells and whistles. However, some people have preferred the bigger alternate version, which can be heard only on Bandcamp. I released it as part of my second annual Commitments & Cover Songs volume, where I record cover songs and originals for Paige’s birthday. You can also hear us sing two Jesse McCartney covers within that collection. Most of the other songs on that “album” are covers of songs which played prominent roles in our wedding, such as “Together” by Steven Curtis Chapman, the processional song for the wedding party.
The collection also features my cover of “Twice as Good” by Sara Groves, an artist whom I’ve loved for years and whose music (which often deals honestly and emotionally with the ups and downs of marriage) has become very special to us. Sara’s music probably rounds out the top 5 artists that Paige and I listen to together (a list that almost surely includes Wolves at the Gate, Weezer, Thrice, and Paramore), with her albums Fireflies & Songs, Floodplain, and Invisible Empires holding especially dear places in our hearts. So if we skip ahead through the remainder of 2021 and past all the surprises and woes thrown at us during the first half of 2022 (which I’ll write about on another occasion, as I did for my 2021 retrospective), we arrive at our first anniversary (or annifirstary, if you will), on July 10, 2022. The main thing Paige wanted to do for our anniversary was to record a Sara Groves cover, specifically the song “Joy Is In Our Hearts,” with Paige singing and playing on her new cajon. The resulting cover performance can be watched below:
Our anniversary fell on a Sunday this year, and we were able to set aside the entire weekend in order to celebrate. It was an extremely special occasion for us, appearing like an oasis in the desert in the middle of a highly busy and stressful season of work for the both of us. Those two days felt like an entire week-long vacation. Alongside learning and recording the Sara Groves cover, we also played an embarrassing number of rounds of our current board game obsession Splender (which Paige won almost every time), finished watching the Bo Burnham miniseries Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, got dinner with my brother and his family, ate our year-old frozen wedding cake, and wrote some funny joke-songs that may or may not see the light of day eventually.
Speaking of those joke songs we wrote, one of the less expected outcomes from this first year of marriage was how little music it produced that included both of us. As of now, we have two versions of “The Things We Can’t Plan,” three cover songs, and a really cool rock song that our friend Kevin invited us both to sing background vocals on. (Coming full circle, this is the same Kevin who created the lyric video to “Things,” and his main musical project The Universal Donor is definitely worth checking out.) Naturally, for two passionate singer-songwriters, we’ve got high hopes for what could happen soon, for making music together and separately.
But there’s something much more important than the music that Paige and I could be making together, and that’s the marriage we’re making and the life we’re building together. For all of the bands we’d love to start and all the fun ideas that haven’t yet come to fruition, we can look back upon a year where the musical accomplishments were wholly overshadowed and outweighed by the accomplishments in emotional and relational growth. And I don’t say that to brag. We haven’t been perfect (or even close). We’ve messed up, we’ve hurt each other; I’ve been stubborn and cold when I should’ve been empathetic and tender. I know that we’ve got much further to go, through years that will be even harder than this first year was (seriously, 2022 has been a near-constant barrage of bad news and bad luck). Yet as I reflect upon these twelve months through the writing of this blog post, I’m left with one major takeaway: sometimes staying home to play a board game is more important than going out to play music. I didn’t marry a business partner; I married my best friend. She’s wife and friend 1st, bandmate and co-artist 2nd, and I hope it stays like that forever.
Besides, who can really plan anything, anyway?
Author’s Note: The reason I created this website and write these articles stems from my belief that artists should support other artists, in the same way that art inspires art. If you would like to hear my music, my sophomore album Development & Compromise and my debut album Unfall are streaming every or available for free/pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. To be the first to receive news and previews of unreleased music, sign up for my monthly newsletter.