Other People's Lives

by Terra Spencer

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1.
Brooklyn 03:41
I met a girl named Brooklyn standing by the schoolhouse door With blue eyes like her mother’s that could start or stop a war And she loves her baby brother, and she’s written him a song And I have a funny feeling that I’ll hear it before long The beauty of a skyline, the promise of the world Are just a few things you might find in the eyes of a little girl I took the bus to Brooklyn where I spent my younger days It was where I earned my war wounds and I faked my way to A’s Flannel shirts and blue jeans were a suitable disguise from the eyes of guys around me But then one day, one found me My heart was taken by a boy who had a band We had a fight on prom night so my friend and I went dancing I had no ambitions, nothing I was dreaming of beyond a moment’s worth of love The beauty of a shoreline, the promise of the world Are just a few things he hoped to find in the eyes of a high school girl Flip through the yearbook that I found down in the basement And I pause on certain pages, and I wonder where a face went Twenty years seems like a short time when I look over my shoulder But it feels like a lifetime for a young girl who can’t wait to be older . I met a girl named Brooklyn standing by the schoolhouse door With blue eyes like her mother’s that could start or stop a war And she loves her baby brother, and she’s written him a song And I have a funny feeling that I’ll hear it before long The beauty of a skyline, the promise of the world Are just a few things you might find in the eyes of a little girl
2.
Cotton Mill 03:37
We left the high school early, he drove me into town We noticed on the smokestack all the bricks had been torn down He was my friend and teacher, I was eighteen years old The textile mill in Windsor hadn’t yet been sold The mill survived the fire that had turned the town to ash Making clothing out of cotton until the town ran out of cash A century of workers sweating in the heat Now faded like the cotton, ghosts wrapped in white sheets Sometimes dreams go nowhere but I feel like I’ve been travelling When I try to trace the thread but the stitches come unravelling Sometimes there is no ending, just something standing still On a long-deserted island with an empty cotton mill Someone had a vision that rose out of the steam To bring the place to glory, a developer’s dream They changed all the windows, but the new ones have gone blind From staring at the highway with nothing on their mind Sometimes dreams go nowhere but I feel like I’ve been travelling When I try to trace the thread but the stitches come unravelling It takes time to make it work, it takes work to make it right It takes both to keep somebody warm for more than just one night The sky was grey and heavy remembering the storm Soft and thick like sweaters that had kept the farmers warm It’s been twice a lifetime since I was eighteen years old My pockets lined with secrets that haven’t yet been told
3.
White picket fence, three kids, two dogs, one car sitting in the yard Long days of working hard, we pay off our credit card Nobody asks me why you’re never home at dinnertime Or why I buy so much wine, they know that we’re doing fine I don’t have to wear my shades on rainy days to hide that I’ve been crying No dirty laundry on our line, just flowers and a Welcome sign Down at the grocery store I don’t have to ignore the talk wherever I go I can look them in eye, ‘cause everybody knows Driving to hockey practice and keeping our act up for the kids Do all the things we always did before everything hits the skids I think it’s great that you can stay out late with your high school friend I don’t count the nights you spend running ‘round and playing pretend When you don’t hurry home I don’t worry over things like one-night stands I know that you’re a real good man and that you are in good hands Neighbourhood grapevine’s buzzing, including her husband, as the story goes You might as well face it tonight, ‘cause everybody knows When you don’t hurry home I don’t worry over things like one-night stands I know you’re a real good man and that you are in good hands But if the door is locked and outside there are boxes of your books and clothes You can ask anybody why, ‘cause everybody knows The light’s on at her place tonight, and everybody knows
4.
Satisfied 04:37
On a hill overlooking the town We spent ten years looking down Built a home, and let it fall to the ground No love left inside On the floor laid with our four hands Stands the latest of your one-night stands Remind her to water my plants And keep them satisfied After all of the ink has dried After all of the tears are cried After you undo the knot we tied I hope you’re satisfied I know the kids don’t want to be In this cramped, damp apartment with me They miss their friends and their cable TV To keep them occupied They say they’re really angry with you Given time, they’ll likely hate me too But there’s only so much I can do To make them satisfied After all of the ink has dried After all of my tears have been cried After you undo the knot we tied I hope you’re satisfied Divide all the times that we shared Subtract acting like you cared Add a dash of life’s not fair Our troubles multiplied No matter how we do the math You always get the better half I’d never seen our lawyer laugh Instantly gratified After all of the ink has dried After all of the tears I cried After you undo the knot we tied I hope you’re satisfied At the end of the day I can say I tried To keep you satisfied
5.
I call with your appointment hoping you’ll pick up the phone Trace the letters on your casefile when I work late alone You sink into the sofa and you tell me you’re not sleeping And you talk about your parents and the company that you’re not keeping You tell me you’ve been dealing with anger and frustration And you can’t feel if you’re healing and you stopped your medication And all the while I’m thinking that a doctor should be selfless I’m a shrink but I am shrinking, I should help but I am helpless And we know that we can do this, and we’ve had this conversation There’s a happy ending to this if we both have patience But loneliness is vicious and I know that this is scary And I can’t grant your wishes but I’ll be your one hour fairy I chew on my pencil and you share your secret fears We sit awhile in silence drawing blanks and moving nearer For once there is no question we both know that this is wrong But when therapy’s in session love is sixty minutes long A moment’s hesitation at the pictures on my desk A dozen pink carnations that were sent while they were fresh And when we reach our conclusion I smooth my wrinkled skirt And we book your next appointment and you button up your shirt And we know we can’t undo this, and we’ve had this conversation There must be an ending to this, we can’t both be patients But loneliness is vicious and I know that this is scary And I can’t grant your wishes but I’ll be your one hour fairy
6.
Transmission 04:50
I have a heart in need of a traffic cop Because it doesn’t know when to start or how to stop I can hear the new noises it’s been making It keeps on beating faster when it should be braking My poor body is broken down and rusted Ignoring all the signs I should have trusted Taking one-way streets in wrong directions With the windows down, littering affection I can never let a good thing last Slipping gears, driving way too fast The same old parts in a new position A stick shift heart with a bad transmission On this trip I will take the driver’s side You are strapped in shotgun for the ride I don’t know why you put your faith in me Distracted by the highway scenery Chorus You don’t know all the roads I’ve chosen The bridge between us is already frozen They sing about it on the radio Parking lots where the dark hearts go Burning their rubber and squealing tires Nighttime collisions and engine fire+- I can never let a good thing last Slipping gears, driving way too fast The same old parts in a new position A stick shift heart with a bad transmission
7.
Not the One 05:48
To hold your hand through good times and the rough To make you smile when the going gets too tough To be there in the darkness when the hardest day is done We both know that I am not the one To be as sweet as icing on the cake To erase the lines when you make a mistake To fill your glass with gladness at the setting of the sun We both know that I am not the one I’m not the one you reach for in the night She looks like me but the timing isn’t right She's someone I’m not free to be Who can love you unconditionally Who can mend the damage done with a goodbye I tried, but you know that I am not the one When I met you I could tell you were a catch And you didn't see the strings I had attached We lit a fire while trying to hide a spark Only we can see the ashes and where they left their mark I’m not the one you reach for in the night She looks like me but the timing isn’t right She's someone I’m not free to be Who can love you unconditionally Who can mend the damage done with a goodbye I tried, but you know that I am not the one When another pretty girl catches your eye When you’re ready to give love another try Let her in and hold her, do the things we couldn’t do And remind me that I’m not the one for you I’m not the one you reach for in the night She looks like me but the timing isn’t right She's someone I’m not free to be Who can love you unconditionally Who can mend the damage done with a goodbye I tried, but you know that I am not the one
8.
Another breaking day of more heartbreaking news The legends on the a-list being asked to pay their dues Brothers and sisters taking shit and abuse So we can be amused Throwing sticks and stones breaking bones with dirty jokes Fighting little fires with mirrors and smoke They’ll still be cashing cheques even in the aftermath Of us throwing all our babies out with the bath Do we wipe the writing off the wall And keep eating these rotten apples as they fall Another line is crossed every time somebody gets hurt But the lines are all buried in industry dirt Do we pull all of our punches to hang on to the hits That we loved when we were kids Or will we wipe the writing off the wall And keep eating these rotten apples as they fall Will we listen, will we learn, lay down conditions and terms Spit out all the poison, and get rid of the worms Hollywood Boulevard’s got a lot of dead wood tonight Snuff out the stars and turn out the lights How low will we go for the sake of the show Will we give up what we feel for the sake of what we know Or will we wipe the writing off the wall And keep eating these rotten apples as they fall
9.
Once I was the apple of your eye Though I couldn’t win your ribbon if I tried Happy eating sugar from your hand Didn’t feel the burning of your brand It was easy to believe you really cared The gentle touch, the way you’d brush my hair Didn’t feel the saddle on my back Didn’t hear the whip until it cracked And I don’t know why I let you take the lead Or why I thought you’d be a different breed Now I know it was all for show And you never needed me So tonight this one-trick pony is running free This old grey mare’s been carrying the load And I’m tired of dragging baggage down the road Maybe I’ve done everything I’m able Go find some new ponies for your stable ‘Cause the young ones can jump higher and run faster Leave me here to grieve in greener pasture With a lesson for the new ones that come ‘round On the fate of pretty ponies when they go down And I don’t know why I let you take the lead Or why I thought you’d be a different breed Now I know it was all for show And you never needed me So tonight this one-trick pony is running free Maybe it would kill you to be kinder If you could see the damage through your blinders Lose the race before you even start You can mend your fences, but you can’t mend broken hearts And I don’t know why I let you take the lead Or why I thought you’d be a different breed Now I know it was all for show And you never needed me So tonight this one-trick pony is running free
10.
Age 38 05:31
It’s midnight on Sunday, I should be in bed But I filled up my teacup, busy thoughts in my head I’m not one for wasting my nights at the club But there could be more than laundry, lunches, and Netflix, and a soak in the tub I go to a spin class that I can’t afford Changing gears, making up for the years that I spent doing chores When you’re looking to date at age 38 Single mother at home and up late Looking for love or just a friend on the phone Try to find each other, try to not spend this night alone How can I compete with age 25? I was almost in high school, when these girls weren’t even alive It’s like watching a pageant of self-made beauty queens Flawless and glossy, on the cover of Women’s Health Magazine I look at my body, examine my scars And wonder if anyone out there still makes love in the dark When you’re looking to date at age 38 Single mother at home and up late Looking for love or just a friend on the phone Try to find each other, try not to spend this night alone My little guy's sleeping in the bunk bed we built My whole world wrapped up in a SpongeBob quilt I say he’s my whole world but there might be space For this newly-divorced dad from Newport with a kind smiling face So I’ll send him a message, see if I break the ice He likes long walks and movies, a night out would be nice When you’re looking to date, at age 38, A single mother at home and up late Looking for love or just a friend on the phone Try to find each other, try not to spend this night alone
11.
You love to act, but I can’t act my age And I’ve got no taste for curtains unless they’re hanging on a stage I’ve got no mind for fashion and I don’t do my hair I’m not the kind of girl inclined to care I don’t know the names of garden flowers And I don’t make good coffee, I don’t have those superpowers Dust and dishes settle ‘round our place And your work shirts have more wrinkles than my face I know I'm not like other people’s wives With supper set to simmer as they work their 9-to-5 They don’t waste time writing songs about other people’s lives I know I’m not like other people’s wives I never feel I am where I should be My woes and worries would be through if there were two of me One to work out in the cold burying the dead The other making love and baking bread I know I'm not like other people’s wives With supper set to simmer as they work their 9-to-5 They don’t waste time writing songs about other people’s lives I know I’m not like other people’s wives I can’t hold a mop and broom While I play guitar down in the music room Get the groceries, change the bed No, I’m no use to you when there’s a song stuck in my head Darling, I won’t blame you if you go If you want to buy a ticket to another woman’s show But before you do I ask one little thing Just sit a while and smile when I sing I know you’re not like other people’s men Who only say I love you every now and then Although there is no contest you’re still a perfect ten I know you’re not like other people’s men
12.
Windmill 04:12
I played my granddad's old guitar when no one was around I studied Chet and tried to get close to that gentle sound The piano keys were company in a world of black and white Broadway shows and Billy Joel in the glow of basement light Over time the tunes and rhymes became my greatest joys Felt I belonged in the world of songs making stories and making noise I get to spend my time with friends spread all across the land Who helped me write, way late at night, and welcomed me into the band When you find the thing that makes you sing and gets you out of bed That takes away cares of the day and leaves a song instead Give up the race, find dreams to chase and follow where they lead Don’t waste your time waiting like a windmill for the breeze Noah waited forty days, it took me forty years To find the courage and the words for the music in my ears No one’s getting younger, but it’s not too late to start If you can find a beat that moves your feet and lines up with your heart When you find the thing that makes you sing and gets you out of bed That wipes away cares of the day and leaves a song instead Give up the race, find dreams to chase, and follow where they lead Don’t waste your time waiting like a windmill for the breeze
13.
Clementine 00:21

about

Other People's Lives is Terra Spencer's debut record of relationships held together with nylon strings and Scotch tape.

credits

released January 7, 2019

All songs written by Terra Spencer.

Terra Spencer: vocals, guitars, keys, accordion, bass, percussion
Jake Smith: electric guitar, bass, drums, percussion, vocal on Transmission
Stewart Legere: vocal on Cotton Mill
Steve Reid: trumpet on Satisfied and Other People's Wives
Sarah Kasprzak: French horn on Other People's Wives
Mike T. Kerr: vocal and old-timey guitar on Windmill

Co-produced with Jake Smith at Moe's Place in Windsor, NS.
Windmill recorded and engineered by Mike T. Kerr in Bedford, NS.
Everybody Knows, The Therapist, and Age 38 recorded at Terra's house.
Mastered by Dario Lozano-Thornton.
Artwork layout by Shayla Obrigewitsch.
Cover photo by Sarah Kasprzak.

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Terra Spencer Windsor, Nova Scotia

Terra Spencer's songs are crafted from autobiographical details woven with gentle instrumentation on piano and guitar. Her debut album, Other People's Lives, is a collection of complicated relationships, told with a warm wistful voice.

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