The Story Behind the Song

I tossed and I turned, hoping to see the stars softly burn

The Story

I’ve written before how I was never comfortable with lyrics and had been looking for a lyricist to collaborate with me soon after I moved to the Los Angeles area from San Diego back in the ’80s. (See the“Into the Night” and “Going Solo” entries in The Story Behind the Song series for details.) Like “Into the Night” and “Going Solo,” “Arrival” was first recorded as a solo piano track (a mix of classical and jazz) — but unlike “Going Solo,” it was always very melodic with almost an American Songbook feel that was begging for lyrics.

At times, I would catch myself singing the melody —unconsciously adding nonsense words to it. In the back of my mind, I always knew it would eventually become a full fledged song. The structure alone lent itself to A-A-B-A-C – followed by a more elaborate A section that seemed perfect for an instrumental – leading right into another B, and finally a last A. For those of you who don’t know what all this means: A = verse, B = chorus, and C = a type of bridge that breaks free from the verse/chorus into its own tangential section and always leads back into A or B – usually only occurring once in a song.

So the full mapping of “Arrival” has always been A-A-B-A-C-A-B-A.

The Instrumental

A s mentioned in Into the Night: The Story Behind the Song,” my instrumental album, Reign of Fire, was a concept piece that connected the lifetime of a human being to the cycle of various stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The album contained four suites (think Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons)but each encompassed a “season” in a human life. Each suite contained four pieces — and each of these contained the name of a star as an alternative title.

Although the album’s concept was envisioned on a star-gazing trip to Sapello, New Mexico, some of the instrumental pieces were still in my head from that short stint I spent looking for lyricists. “Regulus (Arrival)” became the first piece in the Spring Suite on Reign of Fire — and the very first piece on the album.

Here’s the instrumental as it appeared on Reign of Fire:

Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo (“lion”) — signifying “lionheart.” The video depicts an image of the Leo constellation from Johannes Hevelius’ 1690 star atlas, Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia.

As mentioned above, “Regulus (Arrival)” has a unique combination of classical (Beethoven is clearly an inspiration), jazz, and semi-contemporary ballad (almost in American Songbook showtune territory). The piece also has a soaring arc that just felt like a beginning — a kind of “birth.” This made it fit perfectly into the #1 spot — a herald for Spring. Since my birthday (March 20th) is often the first day of spring (depending on the year), “Arrival” has a special place in my heart.

The Song

During my burst of lyric-writing energy in 2019, not only did I start completely from scratch — writing words and music in what could only be termed a songwriting “frenzy” — but I also went through my instrumental music and wrote words to some of them. This is how “Regulus (Arrival)” became simply “Arrival” (piano/voice). References to being born appear throughout the song; this was my attempt at trying to see the world through brand-new eyes … and to meet my mother, father, and other human beings for the very first time—feeling scared, confused, and exhilarated all at once. It’s also written from the perspective of knowing that “this is how we met, it’s a moment we’ll forget.” It could also apply to meeting anyone who might end up being special to you in the future, embarking on a brand-new relationship — or simply “coming to life” metaphorically. When possible, I like to perform “Arrival” first during live performances (whether song or instrumental)!

Here’s the vocal version of “Arrival” on Spotify:

And the YouTube video from the unmastered version — released during #CelebrationOfLifeMonth and featuring ballet, which complements the original instrumental’s classical roots:

And finally, the lyrics:

It will now begin
Pull the curtain, let me in
I am choking, bleeding, with nowhere to turn
Around me I feel life pouring in

This is all brand new
Pull the blinds, but if you do
Know I’m breathing, sharply, reaching for you
Waiting for your arms

Hold me
While I get used to this
Everything is shiny and bright
Save me
Until I see again
There is no more light

It has now begun
And my fingers feel numb
But I’m trying, grasping, playing for you
With eyes that smile anew

I tossed and I turned
Hoping to see the stars softly burn
Bringing me life
Just in time, I revived

Hold me
While I get used to this
Everything is shiny and bright
Save me
Until I see again
There is no more light

This is how we met
It’s a moment we’ll forget
Now I’m thinking, slowly, looking for you
As music rushes in
I have now arrived, and you’re beside me
I’m alive

© 2019, 2021 Jeannie Novak



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Jeannie Novak

author/editor (short fiction/novellas/poetry, game development essentials series), musician (piano/voice), photographer, entrepreneur (novy | indiespace)