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  • Writer's picturecatecartermusic

Behind the Lyrics: "Wish I Believed You"

This was the first song I wrote for the EP (though I had no idea I would ever release music at the time). "Wish I Believed You" is a song about lacking a profound trust in yourself and in others. In short, I felt like it was impossible for anyone to have feelings for me in any substantial way.


I had just left a very difficult summer as a supervisor at a sleep-away camp and was back at college. The previous semester, I had come out and was really exploring my newly public sexuality. I went into camp that summer still identifying as bisexual publicly, but inside, I was fully convinced that I no longer was attracted to men at all. I couldn’t see myself ever dating - muchless being intimate - with a man ever again. At the end of the summer, however, I had been spending considerable time with another counselor at the camp, who was a man. Much to my surprise, I started to develop real feelings for him. We were both musicians and both queer so he made me feel safe and comfortable; And he understood my confusion with my sexuality. We finally got together at the end of the summer and left things on a “maybe next time” note.


Back at school senior year, we had still been texting and there was a huge hurricane that shut down his school in the Gulf forcing him to come back to the East Coast for a time. Excited at the prospect of seeing him again, I invited him to be my date for an event at school. The following lyrics from the second verse detail this:


Rivers flowing through the streets / your song’s been playing on repeat / you’re making plans to come and meet me on the East Coast


In the first verse, I remember why I liked him and our time together from the summer, while still letting my fears creep in:


Autumn creeps through August air / run my fingers through your hair / didn’t think that you would care / for me like you do


With his visit impending, I began to have anxiety about the two of us being together. I was pretty badly traumatized by the last man I had been with and was so scared to open myself up again to something like that. I wanted so badly to believe that his feelings for me were real, but I was just so insecure from the past and, honestly, my childhood. The chorus goes,


Baby, save me / didn’t know that I need you / I wish I believed you / baby save me / holding back from you / I wish I was fine too


It wasn’t his fault that I had been hurt, but I knew this was a sort of pivotal moment where I could be proved wrong. The lyric “didn’t know that I need you, I wish I believed you” really captures my feeling of needing him to prove me wrong and wishing that didn’t have to be the case, that I could have enough confidence in myself to believe him, and that there wasn’t that pressure on our relationship.


The bridge really expands upon my anxiety:


Right words and late nights / tell me it’s alright / settle my internal fight / resisting out of spite / count down, hold me tight / tell me it’s alright / bring peace to my sleepless nights / and kiss me at twilight


These lyrics detail the pressure I was putting on this visit and on him to teach me how to believe that someone could love me - an unfair pressure accidentally placed. Though the relationship was short, I was right about it being a pivotal moment. He did prove me wrong, so much so that I wrote “Bass Line” when we ended things. I don’t think I could have been open to future relationships if it weren’t for the kindness, patience, and affection he showed me.


In terms of production, this song is cinematic. My producer and I played around with the song being live in the studio, but with how big the song could be, just me and my acoustic guitar didn’t do it justice. The first pass at the song was, honestly, epic. We had crazy low pianos creating almost a roaring sound and called it “Wish I Believed You (Goth Version). Then, we tried a synth-y pop beat just to see, but the subject matter and vocal was too intense to be lightened by a synth. We landed on lightening the goth version to a rock ballad. I think we killed it.


This is a song meant to be sung - to be belted. In the car is probably ideal. It’s catchy and fun to sing, and it’s highly relatable to anyone who’s ever felt unlovable. If boys were mean to you in middle school, this one’s for you.


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