The Story Behind The Song – Going to Chicago

We’re going to start a new feature each Thursday where we tell the story of how our songs came into existence. If you like to hear about the songwriting process and about the inspiration behind individual songs, this series is for you. If you enjoy the mystery of trying to interpret and understand a song and songwriter on your own, you probably don’t want to read this.


Song: Going to Chicago

Lyrics: Chris Holm, Casie Siekman

Music: Berek Awend, Chris Holm, Mark Larson

Going to Chicago was one of the first original songs we wrote as a band. Throughout 2009, Berek, Mark, and I had been getting together to jam, with one show thrown in the middle of it. During one of our jams, Mark put some old cracked cymbals on top of his snare and floor tom to approximate the sound of the drums in Led Zeppelin’s “Boogie With Stu”. We then began to jam, with Berek on guitar and me on harmonica. In the middle of the jam, Berek played a riff that Mark and I took notice of. We stopped the jam and worked out the riff into the final version. The next time we got together, I sat at the piano and began to work out an idea Mark or I had. Then Berek and I decided to switch roles since he was a much better piano player than me. I had been listening to a lot of early Carter Family around that time and borrowed part of the opening line of “Little Black Train” as improvised lyrics as we jammed on the song. I had also at the time been doing a lot of reading about the lives of blues musicians and the The Great Migration. I used the improvised lyrics as a starting point to build a story about how people were being driven off the farms in Mississippi by automation and were taking the train up to Chicago to start a new life. Around that time, Casie Siekman joined the band and we decided to give her the song to sing. She helped me finalize the lyrics into their current form by changing a few lines and polishing a few others. Once the lyrics were finished, we structured out the song and added in the Bo Diddley sections in the bridge section. In early 2010 as we were preparing to go into the studio to record our debut album we decided we should have female backing vocals on this song and River of Salvation so we got some female friends and relations together and the Lily Pads were born.

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