Inside the Songs with The Woodpile: 'You Can't Force These Things'

The Woodpile are a six-piece indie folk band based in Laramie. The band is made up of lead singer and guitarist Evan Gwin, bassist Nolan Leibee, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brendan Ruwart, lead guitarist Jesse Twitchell and cellists Molly DeLau and Jessie Salas. At the time of these interviews, the lead guitarist was Caleb Childress who has since parted ways with the band and the cellists were not yet in The Woodpile. These interviews cover the band’s debut EP "Hunting Hearts," which was released October 20, 2017. The EP was produced by Will Flagg. Ruwart, Gwin and Leibee dive deeper into the writing and recording process of their release and reflect on the past two years as a band.

The Lyrics:

Come with me, why won’t you stay a while in this land of light?

I know the grass is brown, but I don’t mind if we stay inside.

Let’s take a walk amongst these subpar views and scattered thoughts.

And I know that you won’t like it when it’s cold.

You’ll wanna stay inside beside the fire - wrapped in smoke.

 

And you’ll say, it’s time to go, let’s move down to the coast where the trees are

high.

I know the water’s brown, but I don’t mind if we stay inside.

And I know that you won’t like it when it’s hot.

You’ll wanna stay inside beside the fan with a drink in your hand.

 

Come with me, we’ll go where we will go, to the sun or snow.

I know our hair is gray and we don’t mind if we stay inside.

And I know that I won’t like when you’re away.

And the second-hand moves faster every day.

But soon we’ll find a place where we can stay.

The Process:

“I wrote this back in the spring of 2015 apparently, based on my iPhone notes here, damn,” Gwin said. “This one, the perspective that you start with is someone trying to convince the person they love to stay in a place that they don’t like. So I say, ‘come with me why won’t you stay awhile, in this land of light, I know the grass is brown but I don’t mind if we stay inside,’ then it talks about the subpar views and scattered thoughts. It’s a perspective about living in Wyoming and trying to convince the person to stay in Wyoming. Then the first bridge is, ‘I know that you won’t like it when it’s cold, you’ll wanna stay inside beside the fire wrapped in smoke.’”

“Then the second verse is the other person’s rebuttal,” Gwin said. “They say, ‘let’s move down to the coast where the trees are high, where there’s a coast we can live by,’ and ‘I won’t like it when it’s hot,’ just like ‘you won’t like it when it’s cold.’ Then the final verse is just about accepting that we can’t force these things and that’s where the song came from and the title. I wrote that originally just with acoustic guitar and then brought it to the band as a song; the whole band arranged it. 

“We started the percussion on the Cajon as a simple bluegrass train beat and as we moved forward as a band, transferred the parts onto the full drum set,” Ruwart. “Caleb came up with the finger tapping [on the guitar] part first at the end of the song and didn’t do a ton. He kind of messed around for awhile at the beginning, but then one day, he came in and we were playing, and he came up with that little melody, riff that he has [at the beginning]. The arrangement came from different parts at different rehearsals at different times. It wasn’t like we sat down and it was there after one writing session, it was like we just kept playing and eventually we came to what we wanted to have out of the arrangement. Caleb usually plays it the same, but sometimes he’ll change up a bit what he’s doing. Evan sometimes changes his melody on the vocals, I usually keep it pretty strict on what I’m doing. Nolan plays the exact same every time.”

“The harmonies were interesting because we went through a lot of processes on how we wanted to do the background vocals and then during the recording process is when we figured out exactly what we wanted to do,” Ruwart said. “Then we were recording, I just sat out there and I would come up with a harmony on the spot and it’d be ‘like that’ or ‘don’t like that’ [with the band]. It was just a bunch of different takes of me trying to figure out different harmonies and then being like ‘we should add another one on top or another one on bottom when the harmonies come in’ and they just kind of stuck after that. We’ve just done them the same way since. It was a cool process because we would just come up with something and if we liked it, we liked it. He [Gwin] had to tweak his melody when we brought it together at the ending because we wanted to give it more impact. He made it higher and changed the melody up and then we added the harmonies on top of that because it just made sense.”

 “That was our first take of that track,” Ruwart said.

“We did the music in one take and then we had to over-dub the acoustic guitar and then vocals,” Gwin said. “We didn’t live track the vocals. I had such a hard time doing the vocals. That was one of the hardest things because we did all the music and it was awesome and then I had to come in on a separate day and do vocals. I was so nervous and inside my head about it. I would stand up on this little stage and then Will [Flagg] was all the way in the back of the booth and then I’d listen to it and start singing and I just f**ked it up. Finally, we moved the recording over to Brendan’s house, our house, and then it was comfortable. I could finally be safe. It was nerve-wracking [on the stage].”

“This is also our favorite song to open the set with,” Gwin said. “It’s chill but it also has a nice melody people can connect to, starts soft then gets loud and exciting.”

“It’s the most consistently solid track we have,” Ruwart said.

"The songwriting I’m really proud of,” Gwin said.