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  • Writer's pictureIan Galipeau

Creation Stories: Passenger

I wrote “Passenger” around 2015, just as my band Honest Thieves was coming to an end. The initial prompt came from my very good friend (and Honest Thieves drummer) Justin Gregory, who would often ask me if I could write a certain kind of songs - a challenge I truly enjoyed. In this instance, he asked if I could write a song with a ‘bouncy rock’ feel, citing a song by The London Souls. I started exploring guitar ideas and came up with the main riff, which I then recorded so I could start working out a vocal melody. At the time, I was expecting it to be an Honest Thieves song, so I would have played bass. I wasn’t thinking about trying to play the guitar part and sing at the same time… which is good, because I never would have written the song if I’d been trying to do both at the same time. It turned out to be quite difficult to perform solo, to the point that I didn’t even attempt it in front of an audience for a few years.

Subject-wise, I didn’t start with any ideas, but at the time I was fascinated with dark character study songs – Randy Newman’s “In Germany, Before The War” was one I specifically remember obsessing over. I was also listening to the first season of the podcast Serial, which was a pioneer of long-form true crime podcasting, and definitely the first time I remember a podcast becoming a widespread cultural phenomenon. I decided to mash those interests together, and made this upbeat blues-rock song into a character study based loosely on Adnan Syed (the subject of Serial season 1). The narrator can't let go of his obsession with his lover, to the point where he becomes increasingly unhinged over the course of the song. It cycles through 3 metaphors - the train as self-destructive obsession, the fire as consuming passion that overflows into violence, and the hourglass as the world of lies he builds for himself in the aftermath of being caught. The song title is a reference to the first line, but also an intentional nod to the show Dexter, in which the titular character refers to his violent urges as his "dark passenger".

If the actual origins of the song weren't dark enough, I released it as a single in February 2022, just a few weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine… and then as I was playing it one day, I thought “This sound like it could be Putin’s love song to Ukraine…” which it isn't... but it could be, without much of a stretch.

As far as the recording, it's a fairly simple arrangement - 3 verses and refrains, with a solo section. Justin did end up playing drums on it, and I played everything else. The banjo is a fun touch. This song is the lead single from my new album Like We Were Never Here At All, which will be released in September of this year.

So yeah... that's "Passenger". I truly apologize if ignorance was bliss and I ruined this one for anybody.


darling, I’m a passenger caught inside the rhythm of your train

laying on the rails just to feel your lighting humming through my veins

and it seems like a dream as your wheels draw close

‘cause i finally lost my grip, but i can’t let you go

baby, i am burning at the pyre that you built inside my soul

my mama told me not to play with fire but now it’s out of my control

so i’ll sweep up the ashes and blow away the smoke

‘cause i finally lost my grip, but i can’t let you go

now you know I'm trapped inside the hourglass of who I used to be

counting down the minutes til I finally find a way to make you see

so I’ll keep on believing the lines I wrote

'cause I finally lost my grip but I can can't let you go

Listen to it on Bandcamp or on any streaming service.

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