A Tender Lie

Album: The Best of Restless Heart (1991)
  • Heart-rending music wrapped in a universal chord; this song welcomes anyone who's ever been hurt to gather their tears and jump into the well. While not necessarily feeling sorry for itself, songwriter Randy Sharp's song is an impassioned plea for an antidote to the poison of pain, even if it's only a placebo.
    Drawing on a mix of personal experiences, Randy describes this song as "one of those snapshots, the whole art of a relationship" that's died a messy death. "Certainly I have felt that, more than once, where something has not worked, and you're so desperate for some good news, for any sort of band-aid - even lie to me. Just give me something. This is just too painful. This is too hard, I don't know if I can get through this without something. And it may be a feeling you only have for a few minutes, but it's a real genuine feeling for those few minutes. An hour later you may realize that that's a real stupid thing to want, and it wouldn't have done any good anyway, but for those few minutes, even if it's a lie, just tell me something that makes me feel better about the whole thing."
  • "As a songwriter, if you really are only writing about your own experiences, you'll run out pretty fast." Which is, according to Randy, why you have to "be a kind of voyeur, listening to your friends. I'm a good listener and a lot of friends kind of come to me with their aches and pains, and their heartaches. And I don't necessarily tell their stories, but I do carry those scenarios around in my head, and I carry my impressions of their feelings, and my own associated feelings from similar experiences." He compares song writing to acting in that, when a songwriter is going through his/her inner "catalogue" for characters to tell a story, "It's really easy to become that actor in that story line, and then try to imagine the words that come out of that person's mouth. I've written songs for the character standpoint that may be from a real sort of country boy s--t-kickin' sort of position, which I'm familiar with. I've a lot of friends like that; that isn't me. But it's easy to put that in your head, put those cowboy boots on and that hat, and put yourself in that scenario, and be that guy, and then remember from real experiences what that guy sounds like, and what his language is, and his nuances, and his concerns. So it's very much like acting."
  • Randy: "That's one I wrote by myself. And every night I would come in here in the living room, and I would work on that song. And that's the only song I can remember that was virtually written with everything but the title. The last thing I wrote on that song was the title, which is the whole song. I mean, I had a visual of the character standing there in his doorway, and the love interest, the woman in the story, leaving. And him just needing from her, 'I need you to do anything to make this hurt less.' Which basically is what I was working around, and the musical theme I'd had for a while. And finally one night I just said, No, I can't find it. I'm just going to put this away, I'm not going to finish this song. And I walked into the other room, and my wife Sharon was asking me what I was doing. And I said, 'I'm hanging it up. This thing is just beating me up. I can't find the answer to this.' And she basically said, 'No, you're not.' (laughs) 'I've had to listen to you every night banging on that thing now for I-don't-know-how-long, and you can't give it up. We're all too invested in this thing.' And she really liked the music and what I had so far. So with her prodding, I went back in there and it tumbled out finally. That thing all of a sudden snapped together, and 'a tender lie' was the solution to it."
  • Reggae artist Beres Hammond recorded this song, which was a nice twist Randy says he never saw coming. "With his taste and sensibilities, he heard it as a reggae tune, and made a great record. Not one that I was expecting; I always heard it as just a straight-ahead country ballad. So you never know. And actually, Dolly Parton cut that song a couple of years ago as a bluegrass song. And in all three cases, the Restless Heart version's the one that is the way that it was closest to the original and to the demo. But people hear them different ways, and that's exciting, if they can take your original intent and make it still an interesting project, and interesting sounding song, but move to their genre."

    Randy explains his style of writing songs: "I rarely set out to write a particular song. I mean, I'm always selfishly trying to write something that I'm going to be proud of when it's over. And that can go into any genre. I still write stuff purposefully in genres that I'm not comfortable in just to keep kind of fine-tuning the craft. I've written several things in a country swing genre, which very few people are even playing, but it's really a wonderful musical form. And it's that strange period in time when the Jazz players were playing in Country bands, so that stuff has a very basic lyric core that's very country, but a very sophisticated musical background. So that kind of stuff really intrigues me. And when I sit down to write with someone, unless it's a very specific artist with a very specific project in mind, I'd like to not even worry about those things. You marry your taste to theirs, and somewhere in the common area you find something you both are going to enjoy working on. And you write the song that comes from that. I've been with co-writers who will push for a certain style, and that's all right, I can follow. But typically I don't even want to think about it. If we get an idea, what best addresses this idea? What's the best package to wrap this in that makes it effective and emotionally connecting to the audience? So really that's the way I go about it. And consequently, I have a lot of songs that can't find a home, there is no immediate genre where they're gonna be taken in. But it's the only way after all these years that I can stay excited about being a songwriter, instead of trying to write the same song in the same format over and over again, which I've never done, and the times I've tried it takes all the fun out of it." (Read more in our interview with Randy Sharp.)

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