Behind the Lyrics: "The Photo On Your Desk"
What a cold open to an EP am I right? This is probably the angriest song I’ve ever written… and for good reason. Let me set the scene:
It’s February (but before Valentine’s Day) and I was helping my boyfriend unpack his groceries in his apartment. I walked into his room and saw a photo of him and his ex-girlfriend just lying on his desk. The lyrics are quite literal in this way,
Dirty clothes on the floor / coats hanging off the door / helping you put groceries away / walk past this mess / and see that photo on your desk / do you even notice I’m not okay
I honestly could not tell you whether or not I’m naturally a jealous person, but in this relationship I definitely lean more jealous than not. So this photo, fully a 4x6 CVS printed photo, is just lying on his desk validating all of my anxiety thoughts and insecurities. I didn’t say anything to him in the moment but needless to say, I was furious.
As we drove back to my apartment, I texted my roommate and best friend, Caroline, and prepared her for my truly terrible vibes I’d be bringing into our home. My boyfriend’s previous relationship had been a significant and long-term one. Considering that our relationship was fairly new, I was always comparing myself to her and our relationship to theirs. As in “Women Always Know” this was a point where I was still scared he would leave before we really fell,
Do you love me like you loved her / will we ever be what you once were / it’s times like these I’m not convinced you’ll stay
The verses of this song are very literal - what I was doing or looking at - while the chorus is psychological. It discusses the feeling of driving yourself crazy over one thing “going in circles” to be exact. Constantly replaying what happened (or in my case, what I saw),
Cause I’m going in circles thinking of you two on that beach / thoughts consume my mind of how you’re always slightly out of reach / circles spinning round and round of those voice memos on her phone / and wishing away all my doubts of calling you my home
“Slightly out of reach” is both a lyric and the title of this EP. Something in every song is slightly out of reach whether it be my partner, my trust in myself, or my happiness. Though unintended, this short lyric nicely sums up the through-line of the project.
A final note on the chorus - something (again) my mom would always say to me is that your partner should feel like your home, and that’s how you know it’s right. When I was at this stage in our relationship I wanted nothing more than to feel that way, but I felt like there was something blocking that next step - jealousy on my part and fear on his. There were moments when I saw that as a possibility and then something like this would happen and I’d be questioning all over again.
Before I get to the next and most intense lyrics, I wanted to share a little tidbit about the guitar solos. My partner and I listen to Boston all the time. The guitar solos on that record inspired the ones we wrote for this one. We, being me and my boyfriend - yes, about 6 months later - we sat in my car together and wrote most of the guitar solos you hear in the song.
This brings me to the bridge. This bridge is incredibly anxious and angry - not the most fun pair of feelings to feel. I was so afraid because our future was already so fragile with us about to graduate college that I didn’t want to throw my insecurity into the mix of things that could break us. But keeping it in was so incredibly painful. The following lyrics are incredibly honest, raw, and intimate. To accept these feelings to myself and then to express them in lyrics was a big step towards moving forward.
Can’t let you see this insecurity / scared it will tear us apart / when you say her name I feel insane / thoughts of your past love break my heart / how can I express this numbing distress / and how can I confess what I wish I could address / that fucking photo on your desk
This is a block of writing, painful as it may be, that I think is really relatable. It really hurts to think of your partner calling someone else beautiful, or saying “I love you,” or even taking a road trip. Things like the sound of someone’s name physically hurting or wishing you could talk to your partner but not wanting to make the situation worse happen in many relationships. Though finding that photo really sucked, it gave me what I needed to articulate these universal feelings in a very specific way. And I find these rhymes to be extra fun…
I refer to this song as “the closest I will ever come to writing my ‘You Oughta Know.’” That’s what I told my producer when we started working on it. The writing and vocals are inspired by Alanis Morissette and though I hope I’ll never write my own version of it (as amazing as it would be), the anger in that song informed this one.
“The Photo On Your Desk” is fun and angry and a great one to scream in the car. It’s also fairly different from the other songs I release and that is why it’s the first on the tracklist. I want listeners to know from the moment they start listening that there’s a lot more to hear than what I’ve already shared. I hope you burn some photos and scream this song at your boyfriend xo