Updated: May 9, 2020
The journey to the polished recording of “Whitehaven” holds parallels to a literal trip to the beach on Whitsunday Island, Australia after which the song gets its name. Part spontaneity and part long-drawn-out planning process to make the idea become reality, resulting in the soothing, soul-cleansing, mentally-refreshing, and revitalizing experience of something beautiful.
True to the beginning of an adventure and the roots of its real-world namesake, “Whitehaven” was not born of a single, focused thought toward an island-jam track, instead being an afterthought tacked onto the end of a studio session to fill out some time and provide a means of much-needed decompression. At the time, the ukulele was a relatively new instrument to me and, with my lack of knowledge specific to the instrument, I began to play it like a guitar – fretwork, strum style, and all. I found great satisfaction in coaxing sounds not typically associated with the ukulele out of the sweet-sounding little thing. Darker sounds, sometimes more rock-heavy sounds. The session for which I had initially been in the studio with Chris (tracking the songs “Lost at Sea” and “Calypso” for the project Mongrel Collective) provided the opportunity to blend some of the more melancholic tones with the traditional upbeat sounds of the instrument.
And it was from that place of inspiration that I returned with new eyes to a chord progression that had been previously jammed on extensively. It retained my appreciation of somber sounds with an emphasis on a minor chord in what would prove to be the verse, this time taking on the feeling of nostalgia rather than sadness. However, it also incorporated lighter, sweeping brush-like strums to maintain an airiness reminiscent of a calm ocean breeze. The resolve to the outro progression completes the song, washing away the longing for times past with an appreciation for what was and how it will live on in what is to come. That sentiment rings true in a literal sense with the chords from the intro essentially being played in reverse order. This nuanced return, with new understanding and a slightly evolved interpretation acts as a moment of epiphany and release, arriving at the realization that, “in the breeze, we are free.”