When it comes to songwriting it’s pretty common for me to write a song and not really know what it’s about for a while. Sometimes years. Recently I found myself humming a melody over and over. It took me a few days to realize that it was actually an old one of MY songs – Tidal Wave. When I realized it – I had kind of an “ah-ha” moment.
I wrote Tidal Wave so long ago it feels like another lifetime. I held onto it for years because when I initially wrote it it was “too big” to play at the coffee shops and such that I was frequenting. It wasn’t until Mike and I teamed up and formed Sit Kitty Sit – and even then not until our second album – that I ended up digging it out of my old notebook to see what we could do with it.
And that’s when I truly saw it come to life. It was glorious.
Tidal Wave is probably one of my favorite songs we’ve ever done. (Don’t tell the other songs) It’s off of our “Beautiful/Terrible” album released in 2012.
When I wrote the song I was going through a big life transition. My first marriage had ended recently and I moved out on my own for the first time ever. I was living in a studio apartment in one of the worst neighborhoods in San Francisco. I had to build a whole new working career to financially support myself. I had been in an unhappy relationship for so long that I had lost myself and had to go back to basics with a lot of things to re-discover who the hell I even was.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Sometimes you need to break down in order to break through” and I was discovering that first-hand for the first time. Ahh – remember the first time you had a giant life crushing/altering horror storm? Remember that? Yeah. It was like that.
The transition was, of course, horribly painful. Everyday was a struggle. But I got stronger, and smarter, and, also of course, I’m a much better person having experienced all of it. Even at the time I knew I WOULD be better off, even if I absolutely did not feel that way at the time. And that’s when the lyric of the chorus started going through my head:
“Broken upon the rocks
but when the water recedes
you are a vessel
formed strong from the holy debris”
To this day I love those lyrics so much. So. Much.
Which explains why it’s been running through my head recently.
I’m going through another big transition at the moment – a much less violent but intense one – where I’m truly learning to see, love, and dare I even say RESPECT myself for the first time ever (gasp!) Which is – you know – horrible. It’s bringing up a lot of demons. I’m having to face a lot of old emotional scars. It’s requiring a lot of my attention and energy every single day – that part is very similar to where I was back when Tidal Wave was originally born. I had to teach myself to think differently – and it’s all conscious effort until it becomes the new normal. The process itself IS Beautiful and Terrible – which is also where the title of the album Beautiful/Terrible came from.
(If you’re not sure how something can be both beautiful and terrible at the same time, then you’ve never been to Narnia. 😉 )
Tidal Wave is about healing. About letting yourself break into a thousand pieces so you can put yourself back together. It’s about seeing beauty in the process, even when it’s awful and every cell in your body is screaming. It’s about the first steps you take the next day. It’s about the first time you truly laugh again after grief. It’s about the sun rising again and again and again – every one of them a fresh start.
No wonder it’s been on repeat in my head.
Here’s a lyric video we released for Tidal Wave in 2018 (written lyrics below):
You can stream the entire album, Beautiful/Terrible, here:
Tidal Wave – by: Kat Downs performed by: Sit Kitty Sit
Language more familiar than you
Trial more forgiving than true
I dropped my shingle
See it’s frozen half way down
I am suspended
But my eyes are upside down
Matching and smiling this
Glorious Tidal Wave
Movement of clarity
Moments are swept away
Broken upon the rocks
But when the water recedes
You are a vessel formed
Strong from the holy debris
Riches more deceiving than cruel
Kisses more yellow than blue
Some color crayon
Maybe a burnt sierra red
I scrawl a smile across my face
And climb back into bed
The flower grows with all her might
Kat seems distracted, boys
But her reflexes are tight
Waiting for the one who
Keeps on climbing
In the sun and rain
A rainbow’s hiding
Waiting for the one who
Keeps on building
Even when it’s cold
The sun’s still showing
Looking out for all the world to see
She wears a green dress
And it’s like a dream
She wears a green dress
And she’s inside of me
Copyright 2006 Kat Downs