Few things in life go according to plan, a lesson that inspired many of the songs on You Can Hold Me Down, the solo debut from singer-songwriter William Tell due out March 13, 2007 from New Door Records/UMe.
"When you're a kid, you have clear ideas of how you want your life to be, and then you start growing up and realize you're becoming something totally different," explains the Southern California native. "For someone like me who over-thinks everything, that was a scary experience, but making this record helped me accept that sometimes what life gives you is better than what you originally had in mind."
Growing up in Orange County, California, Tell was born into a gospel music family and learned to play guitar from his father. His parents divorced when he was young, and Tell says spending half of his high school years living with his mom and the other living with his dad helped ground him in a unique way. "My mom got remarried and lived in the wealthy part of Orange County you see on TV. My dad lived an hour away in a very different part of town and money was tight; he was a minister and sometimes school teacher," he says. "From church potlucks to ritzy Laguna Beach parties, having both experiences taught me a lot about life. I lived literally in two different worlds, sometimes in the same weekend."
Tell attended college for music business while playing guitar and writing his own songs between classes and parties; he quickly left school behind to pursue his dream full time. Playing in numerous coffee shops and clubs throughout LA and Orange County he soon met and began playing with other local O.C. musicians who were also chasing the same dream. He joined them in the band that would become popular alt-rock group Something Corporate.
Written shortly after leaving Something Corporate, "Sounds" captures Tell at a crossroads in his life moving forward and embracing the future. "I wrote that song almost stream-of-consciousness. I didn't realize what it was about at the time, but looking back I realize it's about the mixed emotions I had about leaving the band. It was hard, but I felt like this was something I needed to do to grow. I'm still friends with everyone in the band and they've been really supportive. Brian [Ireland] played drums on the album and Andrew [McMahon] even played on a track."
Ever since Tell penned his first tune in eighth grade, he has been driven by an intense desire to write, sing and record his own songs and has dedicated his life to music. You Can Hold Me Down fulfills Tell's lifelong dream and represents the start of a new chapter in his life. "I've been building up to this moment ever since I can remember. Growing up, if I wasn't playing music, I was thinking about music. I'm pretty much the same way today," he says. "If my time in Something Corporate was my college education, then this album is my diploma."
Recorded over nine months, You Can Hold Me Down's ten tracks capture Tell's love for pop hooks, which was inspired by his fascination with The Beach Boys and The Beatles growing up. And while the songs ripple with alt-rock power, they are anchored by Tell's admiration for the emotionally honest songs crafted by singer-songwriters of the 1970s. "I'm a guitar player, but I'm a sucker for great songwriting more than big riffs. I'd rather pull a song apart to see how it's put together than figure out someone else's riff."
The introspective tone that informs much of the album reflects the mix of excitement and apprehension Tell felt while striking out on his own. "Writing these songs was my way of processing those experiences," he explains. "I like to analyze everything, so songwriting sometimes is a way for me to look back and see things from other perspectives."
The piano-driven title track focuses on the role that control plays in relationships with the lyric - "I want to hold you the way you hold me down." "Sometimes when you want to be with someone badly enough you'll surrender yourself completely. You know it's wrong, but you're okay with it." Tell says.
In contrast to much of the songwriting Tell did for the album, he says "Jeannie" came to him all at once in the middle of the night. "I woke up with a riff in my head, which is strange because I'm not really a riff guy, and the song just fell into my lap," he explains. "It's one of my favorites because it came about so naturally."
Exploring the dark side of human nature, "Young At Heart," is a poignant story song that charts the path of troubled girl who resorts to suicide to deal with life's frustrations. Tell says the character is a combination of people including himself. "I'm not suicidal, but I'm a lot like the girl in the song because we're both constantly searching for what's next instead of appreciating the now," he says. "On a subconscious level, I probably wrote the song to remind myself to enjoy the ride and not worry so much about where it's taking me because I can't control it anyway."