In O.A.R. frontman and founder Marc Roberge's told us: "What this song's really about is these people in my life – or in anyone's life – you have all these people coming up to you, 'Man, if my boss wasn't such a jerk I'd be making… whatever.' Or, 'If my wife didn't hold me back, I would be a football player.' Whatever it is, everyone's always got these complaints they're blaming on everyone around them. And they're constantly saying, 'Man, I was the sh*t without you. I could do whatever I wanted.' You know, all these things. And the main line at the end where it says, 'I've gotta turn this thing around,' it's basically just saying it's not about all these other people. It's not about the people holding you back. It's really about you. So the 'I'm good without you' part is this guy is trying to convince himself, 'All right, I'm in the car, I'm outta here. I'm gonna go be a rebel, I'm gonna be a kid, I'm gonna have tons of girls,' all this stuff. And he always comes back because he realizes, 'That's not her problem, it's my problem. I need to fix what I've got here.'"
Songwriters tend to be particularly good listeners. Got a problem? Talk to a writer. Just don't be surprised when you hear your problems in lyrics.
Sometimes even the younger set can chime in, as happened in the case of Roberge's 5-year-old niece. Marc explains: "She really likes to write songs in her head, like funny songs or whatever. And she sat there and said this crazy lyric. And I was really inspired. I was like, 'That is so cool.' Straight from a kid's mind, unfiltered. I gave her this little book, I said, 'Any time you have an idea just write it down.' (laughing) 'Call Uncle Marc and we'll talk about it.' You've gotta open up your eyes to what's around you. When you're a writer you've gotta be inspired all the time. And sometimes you'll hear this one word, like in the song 'Shattered,' the word 'pattern,' 'Let me make my own pattern.' And I remember we were in the studio and I was writing that down, and I was just going through words, 'I've gotta make my own way,' and I said, 'pattern,' and everyone's like, 'That's an interesting word.' It's a normal word, but I don't hear that often in songs. And we were like, 'Oh, put it in there, man, that'll throw 'em.'" (laughing)
This is O.A.R.'s biggest hit with mainstream radio listeners. Marc describes how the song came to life: "'Shattered' always had something about it that we really liked. I wrote it with Gregg Wattenberg, who's a friend of mine. We just like to write songs. I have a lot of buddies like that, who I just like to sit around and write songs with. He came up with this piano-driven song that sounded like the finished product is now, but not very close. So I took it with me, we went on the road, we started writing songs for the record. And then I kept listening to this thing that we'd written, and I came up with this melody, this one line, 'How many times can I break 'til I shatter.' And that was all I had for a couple of weeks. But I just kept coming back to it. And by the time we were ready to press 'record' on the album, this was the absolute last demo that was approved by the band. Not because it wasn't good. It just wasn't finished yet. So they said, 'Let's give it a shot,' and we recorded it. And I was always positive – I always knew this was gonna be a good song. Because it flowed, and it felt really good. So when the lyrics came in, we said, 'Oh, this is definitely the one…' The same day, we knew that this was gonna be the first single."
In the 1990s, the TV show Beverly Hills 90210 was the show to watch. When Ian Ziering's character, Steve Sanders, showed up at an O.A.R. concert during a taping of 90210, it was one of the more surreal moments in Marc's life. "I was so psyched," he laughs. "I'm looking out and I see Steve Sanders, and I'm like, What the f*** is going on?"
So the fact that this song has been played in the trailers for the re-vamped 2000s version of 90210 is really special to him. "I always said, 'Man that would be cool to get our songs on this show.' And ten years later we're on there. Better late than never. So it's kinda cool."
Most of the time the band doesn't even know right away when their song has been picked up for a TV show or commercial, unless they happen to see it. "It's funny, because somewhere along the line you find out," explains Marc. "It may be anywhere from like a week to a month before we'll get an e-mail from our management saying, 'Hey, we said it's cool for your song to be on such-and-such.' Because we control our publishing, we basically act as the publishing company with clearances and all these things, as opposed to signing up on a publishing deal and them just putting your sh*t everywhere and you really don't even have any control. So I always know about it. And I rarely catch it on TV the first time, because I'm a little spacey."
O.A.R. achieved initial success on an independent label. When they signed to a major label a few CDs into their career, many cried "sell out!" But the band's integrity has remained intact throughout the furor, and the deal they made with their label is admirable.
Says Roberge: "When we came up we were doing really well independently with our own label. And then when we kept selling records, I mean, we were getting to the point where we had great distribution, everything was really cool, and our touring was growing. We started getting offers from major labels. And every meeting we took was very similar. But there was this one guy at Lava Records who basically said, 'I don't want to change what you guys do. You obviously know what you're doing. Let's just make a deal that is cool and we'll sell more of your records.' It was very honest and wasn't one of those, 'We're gonna make you stars
' things. It was like an imprint with a big label. And then Lava, unfortunately, caved or something before we put out our last record. They came in and fired everybody, and we had to put our album out early. And it was a big thing. But all along the way, honestly, the management we've had, these people really treat us right. So we made the decision based on a leap of faith, 'I hope these people don't try to change us.' And they haven't. They're just cool. I think they know what we do works for us. And we're not really easily styled, so I don't think they're gonna be able to do that. (laughing) We dress all right already." (Check out our full interview with Marc Roberge