Americana Highways brings you this premiere of The Miners’ song “Without You,” from their album Megunticook, due to be released on October 22. The song was written by Keith Marlowe. The album was produced by Keith Marlowe; engineered and mixed by Cody Cichowski (MilkBoy the Studio) and Keith Marlowe (Match-up Zone Studio); and mastered by Joe Lambert at Joe Lambert Mastering.
“Without You” is Keith Marlowe on lead and backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars; Brian Herder on pedal steel guitar and dobro; Vaugh Shinkus on drums and percussion; Gregg Hiestand on bass; Joe Kille on fiddle; and Bob Lowery on backing vocals.
This song is an earnest love song written by Keith Marloew in the face of real gut wrenching challenges. His writing somehow manages to be both sincere and poignant, yet charming.
This song has nothing to do with experiences during COVID-19!
I wrote “Without You” about my wife of 28 years, Lise, after she revealed to me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I wrote this song to help me cope with the fear, sadness, and other emotions I was going through when I learned of my wife’s diagnosis.
I couldn’t imagine a life without Lise. We first met in 4th grade when Lise was “dating” (to the extent 4th graders “date”) one of my best friends. Though we lived in the same neighborhood, we attended different schools until 8th grade. We became close friends in high school (though outside of one date, never dated) and eventually we began dating the day after our senior prom (which we attended with different dates) and have never been apart since. So obviously, a scare like this, in which I could possibly lose my best friend and life partner, shook me to my core.
Writing songs to express emotion to deal with often times sad experiences is what artists do and I am no different. When I lost my yellow lab of 13 years, I dealt with the loss by writing “Doggone” off The Miners 2012 EP, Miners’ Rebellion. Similarly, I have two other songs on Megunticook, The Miners forthcoming album, that deal with loss and sadness including “Natalie”, written about the loss of my last surviving grandparent, and “Day the Drummer Died”, written about my friend and drummer who was killed in a car crash in high school. However, Without You is the most emotional song I have written to date as its subject is the closest to my heart and expresses the thoughts going through my mind if I were to lose the love of my life.
The song’s lyrics are not readily apparent that I am dealing with my wife’s cancer diagnosis. A listener could easily interpret the song as a breakup song but not for the line in the first verse “when I heard that you got sick, like a candle without a wick, my live would be so dark without you”. This contrasts one of my favorite songs about loss, “Elephant”, by Jason Isbell, which deals directly with the subject matter of someone battling cancer (who unfortunately dies of the disease); I literally could not listen to “Elephant” for a year after learning of Lise’s diagnosis, and had to skip it anytime it came up on my playlist.
My writing process is typically music first, lyrics second, but “Without You” seemed to come together as a combo of the two as I knew he wanted to write about how I was feeling after learning of Lise’s diagnosis. I typically record demos of the songs on my own before presenting them to the full band. The original demo, recorded in the summer of 2016 in the key of D, has full drums throughout the song and features electric guitar from start to finish, with electric country inspired licks played throughout, including the tag lick ending the song (which is played on acoustic guitar on the Megunticook version). I played all the instruments on the demo (electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass) and used software to program the drums. I recorded only lead vocals and no backing vocals. Once the band started rehearsing the song, I realized the vocals were a little low in my vocal range, especially for live performances, and moved the song’s key up a step to E. Additionally, the song seemed to gravitate to more of an acoustic focused song, with me starting the song with me singing and playing acoustic guitar unaccompanied and then slowly building as in the version off of Megunticook.
The song on the album is similar to the feel captured in The Miners’ live performances of the song. The Megunticook version of “Without You” begins with acoustic guitar and dobro and then Marlowe comes in with the first line “Never thought you wouldn’t be here with me”. Fiddle the compliments the dobro until the first chorus when along with the dobro and fiddle, bass, sparse drums (just hi-hat and bass drum) are added along with a vibrato electric guitar playing some twangy low-register licks, which continue for the rest of the song. Starting in the second verse, the dobro is replaced by pedal steel guitar and fiddle moves to the background for the remainder of the song. The drums become more prominent with rim shots on the snare and the bass moves from whole notes to a more traditional I-V type bass line. Finally, beginning in the second chorus, everything kicks in with drums moving to full snare and backing vocals supporting my lead vocals, which continue through the song’s end.
I produced “Without You” (along with the rest of Megunticook) and like most of the songs on the album, the song was recorded in stages beginning at MilkBoy the Studio in Philadelphia by engineer Cody Cichowski, where basic tracks of drums, bass and the main acoustic guitar were recorded during the first session for the album in November 2018. Overdubs were recorded over several months by me at my home basement studio I call Match-up Zone Studio where I recorded my lead vocals, backing vocals and the electric guitar parts. I brought in The Miners main pedal steel player, Brian Herder, to record the pedal steel and dobro parts and local musician Bob Lowery to assist on the backing vocals. Miners’ drummer Vaugh Shinkus also recorded some percussion parts. Local fiddle player, Joe Kille, recorded the fiddle parts though they were done back at MilkBoy. After the parts were recorded, Cichowski and I mixed the song back at MilkBoy over several sessions. Joe Lambert of Joe Lambert Mastering, mastered “Without You” along with the rest of Megunticook.
Although a scary diagnosis and a terrible disease that unfortunately claims thousands of women’s lives every year (including several of Lise’s friends), fortunately, Lise’s cancer was caught at an early stage. She was able to get through her treatments, is officially cancer free, and can be found attending almost every Miners show. However, the impact I felt from my wife’s cancer diagnosis didn’t end with me penning Without You. After Lise’s initial treatment was over and her prognosis for beating the disease was good, I decided to do something to help other women going through similar experiences with breast cancer and proposed the idea to Lise of holding a benefit to raise money for breast cancer charities. This resulted in me organizing an annual benefit concert at World Café Live (upstairs) in Philadelphia, PA and having Lise direct which charities would receive the proceeds from the events. We held the first benefit in 2015, and it has been a huge success, selling out almost every year and raising well over $10,000 for Living Beyond Breast Cancer and other breast cancer charities. Though cancelled last year due to COVID-19, this year’s event will be held on January 8, 2022.
Find the Miners’ music here: https://theminerspa.bandcamp.com/