You’d think that people would’ve had enough of silly love songs

But I look around me, and I see it isn’t so

Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs

And what’s wrong with that?

I’d like to know, ’cause here I go again

–Paul McCartney

Valentine’s Day may be a few days gone, but love songs have no season. In Switchback, we have written love songs over the years: Give You Love, End Over End, Rock Your Heart, One Heart, My Baby, Whistlepot, Looking At Love, Stellar Jay’s Wing and many more.  

But as McCartney sings, there are love songs and there are “silly” love songs.  What exactly becomes silly about love?  

I was happy to see during the Super Bowl that one advertiser actually went through the definitions of love that I am about to offer now.  According to the Greeks, there are four sorts of love: Eros, Storge, Philia, and Agape.

Eros is the sort of love that most songwriters write about.  One could argue that this is where the Silly Love Song has its home. Eros is the physical love between two people.  And it is easy to see how this very-awkward-at-first type of love is easily made all the more awkward in song. Switchback pokes a bit of fun at this type of love when we wrote “her love hit me like a twister in a trailer park.”  Sort of that physical “wow” that some of us vaguely remember.  

Storge is love of family, love of friends.  In songwriting, this is seldom made into a Silly Love Song.  However, there are some wonderful exceptions. In this category for songs, I would say from the musical Gigi is the great “I Remember It Well.”   Here, two old lovers turned friends reminisce quite inaccurately about how they were when young. It is a beautiful example of Storge love.  For Switchback, an example of a Storge song would be “Simple Benediction.” We don’t mention love by name, but refer to the familial love, encouraging us to “join our hands together, for we never know the next time we will look in each other’s eyes.”  

Philia. Perhaps after Eros, this is the most written about love.  Love of belonging and sentiment. Think of “God Bless America” or Lee Greenwood singing “I’m proud to be an American.” Very few Silly Love Songs when it comes to these, even though after Eros songs these can be the most maudlin and syrupy.  Perhaps one that comes to mind is the well written “I Got Friends in Low Places” performed by Garth Brooks. Does Switchback write Philia sort of songs? Not many in my opinion. Again, the idea is to stir loving sentiment on a general level.  So the closest I think we get is perhaps, “Bolinree” which asks, “Why did we ever have to cross the sea?” That sort of longing, sentimental tune is perfect in Irish music.  

Agape can be described as spiritual love. Unconditional love.  Seldom silly, this is the sort of love that in the Abrahamic religions refers to the love of God.  This love of God is emulated in a person’s relationship to another person. You might not feel Storge for someone, but you choose to practice Agape.  This is the love that helps little old ladies across the street, fetching the neighbor’s damn cat out of the tree for the 15th time sort of love. Agape is also the powerful love of people who lay down lives for others.  Perhaps our best Agape work in Switchback can be summed up in the song “Falling Water River,”: “Private William Henry made it on the evening news/ by the morning he’s forgotten by the likes of me and you.” Private William Henry, it is assumed, is practicing Agape love, laying his life down in service, striving to reach that All-love, that most people refer to as God. 

So then, what exactly are Silly Love Songs?  In McCartney’s case, he was referring to the Eros songs that he loved writing or as he describes them “soppy” songs.  He says that as people grow older and have kids, they become more tolerant of the “soppy” songs, so perhaps here he feels that even though they are “soppy,” the Storge side of us will forgive the Eros “why don’t we do it in road” sort of song because we will feel nostalgic.  Let’s face it. Not many middle-aged people choose to do it in the middle of the road, unless it refers to picking up after their dog.

When it comes to writing songs about love, I personally am very aware that my song should become a song that transcends my own viewpoint and can be assimilated easily into other’s lives.  I think Brian and I try to keep the Eros to metaphors. For example, “She’s the hearth of my heart, the rise of my soul, Baby’s got lovin’” or “My baby, when she gives me a kiss, makes the water in my kettle hiss.”  Fun with words like that can easily be described as silly. But I think we choose not to fill the world with just Eros, but the other elements of love as well.

Perhaps the most important thing about songs is that at some point, they do touch on one of these four elements of love.  The need for love, the quest for love is essential to our existence. 

I give McCartney a lot of credit for writing Silly Love Songs.  While some of his songs miss the mark in my opinion, most hit true, like Eros’ arrow.  A good, catchy love song is something we all eventually find ourselves humming. Those are hard to come by, unlike depressing sad, broken heart songs, which I believe are easier to write.  So, c’mon, let’s just fill the world with love songs, even the silly ones. What’s wrong with that?

By Paul Schneider

Ah, the life of a musician. Getting paid to create, to entertain, to pursue a passion armed with talent.

Practically stealing money!

Yeah, right.

Want to know a day in the life of a musician? Let’s follow a fairly typical day in the life of Switchback, shall we? On this particular Thursday not too long ago, Marty McCormack and Brian FitzGerald set about on one of their outreach programs, playing to four schools in one day, followed by a private concert after that.

Now, to be fair, five gigs in one day is a bit excessive. Switchback is usually doing three or four, but when kids are involved, what’s another show, yeah?

And to put everything in proper context, we actually have to back up a couple of days. You see, after spending 11 days playing shows in Arizona, Marty and Brian arrived back at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at midnight Tuesday. The pair then dispersed to their respective lodgings for the night, Marty arriving in Rogers Park around 2 a.m., while Brian headed for Oak Park, a suburb west of the city where he has family.

Wednesday morning, Brian drove back to his home in Iowa for a doctor’s appointment – he’s still on the mend from a broken leg – then returned to Oak Park later in the day, where Marty picked him up and the pair drove to Macon, Illinois, some 3 ½ hours away, to play an evening show at a retirement home.

After staying overnight in Springfield, the pair were awake and on the road by 7 a.m. the next morning to grab a Starbucks and begin the five-show day, playing for kids between the ages of 3 and 15 during Catholic Schools Week, before ending the day in front of a more contemporary crowd.

First stop – St. Aloysius in Springfield. The pair arrived at 7:45 to set up for an 8:30 a.m. show for a group of grade-school kids, unloading their equipment, checking to see where they’re actually going to play, etc. A 50-minute program included songs and fun interaction with the kids, who asked myriad questions about being a musician.

One down, four to go.

Pack up the equipment and head down the road to St. Joseph the Worker Church in Chatham. An easy, non-stressful 25-minute drive down Route 4 – unless you’re stuck behind a Driver’s Ed vehicle.  At any rate, it gives the passenger some time to conduct the business of the band – making phone calls, trying to schedule other gigs because, after all, it’s music, but it’s show BUSINESS. And who knows, maybe another song gets written between shows.

Brian and Marty finally pull up at St. Joseph and find the classroom that will serve as today’s concert hall. Another 45 minutes, this time acoustically in front of a mix of enthusiastic younger kids who can’t wait to tell the band about some family member or imaginary friend who plays an instrument, as well as some older students who perhaps are a bit more sullen about all this, to say nothing of the teachers and administrators who have stopped in to listen and make sure they’re getting their money’s worth.

Then it’s on to Our Lady of the Lourdes Catholic Church, about an hour northeast in Decatur, Ill. Along the way, more calls and band business and trading about of song ideas, working out structures and finding new chords.  Once at Our Lady, it’s time to unload the van and set up again for another group of K-8th graders. Repetitious? Boring? Hardly. As every concert in an auditorium is different, so it is with different schools. Brian and Marty are constantly challenged with understanding the depth of a school’s music program – if the school even has one – as well as trying to strike a balance between educating and entertaining, connecting not only with the kids, but with the faculty.

The gig at Our Lady deemed a success, it’s three down and one last school to go. Pack up the van again and head for Holy Family, a mere 15 minutes south on SR 51. Here, Switchback does something different – leading a worship service, featuring original sacred music – for a group of students, teachers and whoever else from the community decides to wander in.

That task finished, the schools wrapped up, the pair get a well-earned break until they arrive at a private residence at 7 p.m. for a one-hour concert, followed by a meet-and-greet that finally finishes around 8:45 p.m. Then, it’s off to Marty’s brother’s house in Decatur, where he and Brian will sleep it all off until… well, the next morning, when they do it all over again for more schools during Catholic Schools Week.

Beats working, yeah? Maybe. Maybe not.

by Paul Schneider

Just because they’ve been songwriting and musical partners for 35 years doesn’t mean that Brian FitzGerald and Marty McCormack think alike. In fact, talking to them recently about their New Year’s resolutions for Switchback for 2020, you’d think they’d never heard of each other.

“I think Switchback should re-establish themselves in 2020 as a rockin’ duo who can also provide the full spectrum of folk, jazz, blues, country and, of course, Celtic music,” Brian said.

“I think Marty and I should double down on our songwriting. Our musicianship flourishes when fueled with new melodies, harmonies and ideas to share with audiences.”

Brian added that his recovery from his broken leg is healing quickly, perhaps faster than he anticipated, and the band will be back on the road in a month. At the time of our conversation, he said he just finished doing some driving for the first time since the accident. He also added a little insight into a new way of making music. “We are in the process of trying to establish ‘New Tunes Tuesday,’ where we would work together on hatching new material in the same room or remotely.

“We have yet to Facetime each other in the songwriting process but we should do everything we can to further the nurturing of the new stuff.”

As for Marty, after spending the last three months of 2019 worrying about the future of the band, putting the finishing touches on a Airbnb space from a converted barn and schleping his 5-year old daughter around to school and extracurricular activities, his initial thought was, “First of all, I’m so grateful for the support for Brian and us in general; people say they miss our music. In the 35 years we’ve been together, this is the longest we’ve gone without working together.”

So, the next step is to reach out.

“I think we’re not that good at asking for support, “Marty said. “So for 2020 my goal is not to be so shy about asking for support. I feel like our fans, our followers, our friends, we need them to be good advocates for us.

“It’s really gotta be a group effort, and that means our friends, for them to introduce other people to our music. Something as simple as if you’ve got Pandora or Spotify at work, leave it on all day playing Switchback music.”

“I just want to invite people to get involved any way they can. Just remember, we’re two guys struggling against the world.”