Amerikan Lyfe

Album: Time Capsule (2022)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • "Who can define an American life?" Micah Nelson asks on this track from his album Time Capsule, recorded under his Particle Kid moniker. A farmer in Pennsylvania has a very different experience than a computer engineer in Oregon, but they're both uniquely American, despite any political rhetoric to the contrary.

    Nelson started writing the song when he was part of his brother's band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, which was touring with Neil Young in 2019. "I remember my brother and the band POTR were in a meeting with their manager, Jeff Kramer, when I walked into the other room and picked up my acoustic for no particular reason and started playing these chords - and this melody appeared," Micah said in a Songfacts track by track. "Then I suddenly had the whole framework for this new song. It just sort of slipped out. It's funny how that happens."

    "Then later, we were on tour with Neil leading up to Farm Aid, I think it was Indianapolis (hometown of Kurt Vonnegut!) where I wrote the lyrics," he added. "The next year when covid hit, I was recording with Tony Peluso on drums and Aroyn Davis on bass with Steve Chadie engineering at Pedernales studio outside of Austin, Texas, so we were sorta quarantined in the studio for a bit."
  • Micah Nelson's father, Willie Nelson, makes a guest appearance, coming in at the end of the song to add vocals and acoustic guitar. At the end, Willie lets out a hearty laugh, which puts a stamp on the album, as "Amerikan Lyfe" is the last track.

    "It was very cool that my dad wanted to play Trigger [his guitar] and sing on it," Micah told Songfacts. "It's a notably weirder song arrangement than he's used to, and I could tell he had a lot of fun doing it. His laugh at the end was something that I immediately knew had to be the last sound we hear to end the album. It sums the whole thing up. Having these great memories with folks I love to help offset such darkness during what was an otherwise very stressful time is a true gift."
  • The song has a lot of spontaneous energy, as it was recorded in one take. Near the end, Micah and Willie Nelson, along with bass player Aroyn Davis and drummer Tony Peluso, chant the word "life" over and over, as if to get the bad juju out of their systems.

    "S--t was hitting the fan all around us in the world and there was an increasing existential anxiety about everything," Micah said. "There was an odd comfort in being not only stuck in a recording studio and able to focus on making new music as a sort of temporary escape from it all, but it was especially very cathartic/therapeutic to have a reason to collectively scream 'LIFE! LIFE! LIFE!' over and over again as loudly as possible."
  • Before recording a studio version of this song, Particle Kid performed it live from time to time, including at the virtual version of Farm Aid in 2020, and at the live one in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2021.
  • Where did the name Particle Kid come from? Willie Nelson uttered the phrase when he saw 14-year-old Micah playing Mario Kart on Nintendo. Micah had just returned from a school trip, and Willie was happy to see him. "Welcome home, Particle Kid," he said.

    Willie meant to say "Prodigal Son," but it came out as "Particle Kid" because he was stoned. Micah thought it was hilarious and always remembered the name.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Christopher Cross

Christopher CrossSongwriter Interviews

The man who created Yacht Rock with "Sailing" wrote one of his biggest hits while on acid.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete BlondeSongwriter Interviews

The singer/bassist for Concrete Blonde talks about how her songs come from clairvoyance, and takes us through the making of their hit "Joey."

James Williamson of Iggy & the Stooges

James Williamson of Iggy & the StoogesSongwriter Interviews

The Stooges guitarist (and producer of the Kill City album) talks about those early recordings and what really happened with David Bowie.

Harry Shearer

Harry ShearerSongwriter Interviews

Harry is Derek Smalls in Spinal Tap, Mark Shubb in The Folksmen, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons.

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired MenSong Writing

Bowie's "activist" days of 1964 led to Ziggy Stardust.

Brenda Russell

Brenda RussellSongwriter Interviews

Brenda talks about the inspiration that drove her to write hit songs like "Get Here" and "Piano in the Dark," and why a lack of formal music training can be a songwriter's best asset.