Questions about “Airplanes”

I’ve been writing lately on how much I favor lyrics that are metaphorical and that allow listeners to attach their own stories to the song, however they do it.  Sometimes I get asked direct questions about a lyric in particular, and despite my resistance to answering it for fear it might take away valuable interpretations of others, I’ll honor the question with an answer.

And I get asked about “Airplanes” a lot.

Thanks Evan,
I’ve been listening to Airplanes a lot. Sad song, is that about someone losing their wife and kid?
I looked on your blog for more info on it, sorry if I got the meaning wrong.
I love how you mixed in the child and jet engine at the end, then the song abruptly ends.
Let me know your PayPal and Ill send you the $$ for the songs.
I’d rather support the artist directly instead of paying Apple.

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I wrote the lyrics on a layover in an airport thinking about an ex.  For me, the song is about healing from a breakup and being able to maintain a connection despite splitting.  The idea that the airplane that takes us away is the same one that can bring us back, isn’t always the most obvious thing, especially when you’re in the middle of it.  “Dreaming over your shoulder and seeing that your safe” is a protective notion and I can understand the parental reference, but it just isn’t the case.

I dream of airplanes
Take me around your world
Show me everything
Everything I missed before
When love has gone away
Take me to the place I dream over your shoulder
And see that you’re safe

“Loyalty” (the recording that “Airplanes” originated on) was the product of 3 years of work in which John Cooke, Phil Antoniades, and myself went around and around and around on production and ideas, so much that there was a pink floyd style headache because it took so long to get 6 songs together -the 7th “White” had already been written and recorded the night after the Boston Marathon bombing and in a single sitting).

When the mixes (in layman’s terms” the part when an engineer balances/adds/subtracts “stuff” to the song) came back from Chicago our mixing engineer had added the airport, the kid, and the airplane to the mix in the name of his “artistic stamp.”   Everyone agreed it was creative and so we left it in.

There’s an acoustic version of “Airplanes” on “Renegades and Healers” and you can A/B them below.  I had debuted “Airplanes” as early as 2014 at the Larcom Theater concert, so the acoustic version was more the original thing, but I do love them both.