In 2015, I brought Will Robertson, Bill Titus, Jordan Katz, and Mathias Kunzli out to Jono Manson’s ramshackle studio in Chupadero, NM. To get to Chupadero, you typically fly to Albuquerque and then drive up through the desert into Santa Fe. Then you leave town and head for the hills. It’s very quiet and very dark up there. The only sounds you hear are from the wind, the summer rains, and the coyote. 

This record was recorded mostly live. By that, I mean, Jono set up mics in front of all of us, and we recorded the songs as we played them. Unlike some of my previous albums, most of these songs were new to us. We worked out arrangements on the fly. Bill, Will, Jordan, and I had performed a lot together. But Mathias was somewhat new to our ensemble, and his palette and sensibilities informed the feel of many of these tracks.

All of these songs pair with stories in my book The Free Brontosaurus. Each song is from the perspective of one of the stories’ main characters. I would summarize the story before we’d record so we could channel the character’s struggle a bit. 

Writing this record was different than all of my other projects as I tried to embody the issues the characters had. Of course, I made those characters up. So I suppose they were still incarnations of my own emotional world. But I wanted to distance myself from the intimacy of my previous book/record combo (140 Goats and a Guitar and Some Kind of Cure). That project felt very confessional and exposed. The songs on Cardboard Boat are just as confessional, but they are more veiled. Still the stories I created gave me a new language to draw from and new experiences to refer to. Sometimes I was stuck on a lyric, and I’d go back to working on the story, and somehow I came up with something in the prose that then could be used in the lyrics. 

Once the basic tracks were down, I got a few other friends to lay other parts down and invited Sara Watkins to sing backup on each song that pairs with a female character in the book. Actually, I saved the female part for Broken Crown for my wife, Sarah. 

I don’t like picking favorite albums. Like choosing between your children (kind of). But I think Cardboard Boat is my best album.

Characters
donald-face
suzie-face
hobbes-face
sheila-face
harvey-face
eliza-face
rose-face
martha-face
george-face
lucy-face
LYRICS
Setting Sail

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

Oh I’m setting sail again
The seas are high the winds are strong
Don’t know how long I’ll be gone
Or if I will be back again

 I guess that I was wrong
I need to see the open sky
It’s not like I didn’t try
I know when it don’t feel right (and it don’t feel right)

 Oh, but my heart is calm tonight
and the moon is burning bright

 Tell me what is there left to lose
and what is it we're chasing here

It’s a phantom fish I fear
And some things aren’t worth the fight
(aren’t worth the fight)

 Oh, but my heart is calm tonight
and the moon is burning bright

 There is a river running through my bones
Straight toward the open sea
I wasn’t meant to live on either shore
That’s not the place for me 

 so I’m setting sail again
the seas are high the winds are strong
going back where I belong
where nothing’s fixed or tight too tight

 Oh, but my heart is calm tonight
and the moon is burning bright

Colored Birds

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2002

I haven’t seen you for some time
Have you been hiding? Have I been blind? For some time

I was flying but then I fell
Through the branches, no farewell Then I fell

In the morning, light is cold
The heart is heavy dreams untold, light is cold, sometimes the light is cold

Show me some thing that won’t change, won’t fade away
Is it a fair price to pay? That’s how we’re made
Oh it’s the strangest parade

when I was little nothing was hard
running barefoot across the yard it wasn’t hard

mother mother, where did you go
when I was little I didn’t know that you would go, where did you go?

Show me some thing that won’t change, won’t fade away
Is it a fair price to pay? That’s how we’re made
look at the flags that we waive what we display
Oh it’s the strangest parade

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

Have I told you what I’ve found
Frozen frightened, without a sound What I found

Maybe the birds are coming back
Crimson gold and purple and black
They’re coming back they’re coming back oh…

Show me some thing that won’t change, won’t fade away
Is it a fair price to pay? That’s how we’re made
Look at the flags that we waive, what we display
Hear how the trumpets they play, through wind and rain
Oh it’s the strangest parade

Cardboard Boat

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

I’m on a cardboard boat
And the water is high
When you’re on your own
Feels like there’s nowhere to hide
I’m on a cardboard boat
Tonight

Been looking back again
feels like I’ve lost everything
I know I’m older now
Feels like the tide’s rushing in
Been looking back again tonight

So Please leave the light on
So I can find my way back to you
Leave the light on, for me.

It’s like a carnival
after the weather has changed
Even the carousel
Don’t want to turn in this rain
I’m at a carnival Tonight

So please leave the light on
So I can find my way back to you
Leave the light on, for me.
Or let a ladder down
So I can climb my way back to you
Let a ladder down For me.

Are you still listening?
Cause I’m still talking to you
Cause when the curtains drawn
Tell me what else should I do?
I’m on a cardboard boat tonight

Broken Crown

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2002

Sweeping all the leaves up off the step,
you found a ribbon,
and tied it in your hair.

It was just like the ones you used to wear
when you were younger
and turned all you touched to jewels.

I think that’s the same thing you still do.
Yes, I think that’s exactly what you do.
But all these pieces of a broken crown are all around.

Wo oh, I won’t let you go
so high to so low.

Lately I’ve been noticing the light
in the morning,
my body next to you.

I wish that you could see it like I do,
how you move me,
turn me on and on.

But the road’s as hard as it is long.
The road’s as hard as it is long,
with all these pieces of a broken crown all around.

Wo oh, I won’t let you go
so high to so low.

Look at all that washed up on the shore,
from all the shipwrecks
sea glass like sapphire,
the golden driftwood.
But now all the fog is gone.

My love for you goes on and on.
Kind of like the breeze blows,
kind of like the tide pulled by the moon.

Come on girl, sing me that old tune.
Yeah, come on girl sing me that old tune.
Let’s leave these pieces of a broken crown on the ground.

Wo oh, I won’t let you go
so high to so low.
So high to so low.
So high to so low.

Wishing Well

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

Have you heard that there’s water
some would die to find,
in a well in some forest
can turn more than to wine?

No, don’t think I believe it,
I’m not sure that I do
but lately I have been grasping
for some thing to pull me through.

where’s the wishing well…

I feel like a traveling salesman
Going door to door
Though I don’t like to say it
Sometimes I’ve wanted more

All my life for a lady,
twenty years as one
Then one morning she wakes up,
“George,” she says “we’re done.”

Where’s the wishing well

All those days I spent spinning
other people’s dreams
All those nights I spent sitting,
wondering what it means

Now I’m left building bridges
if only in my mind
Trying hard to cross chasms,
trying to turn back time

Where’s the wishing well…

And if one morning I find it,
here is where I’d start
Build me a bridge that’s forever
between two heads and hearts

Where’s the wishing well…
Is there a wishing well
Where’s the wishing well
If there’s a wishing well…be my wishing well

To the Sea

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

Father father father I am coming home
Open up the gates please let me in.
Everybody needs a way to start again,
Yeah I’ve been on a road not always kind.
Yes it’s been a long hard climb.

Father father father lay your hand in mine.
Sometimes all we carry holds us down.
But letting go is hard somehow.

So let me be like the leaves on the trees,
They come back in the spring gold to green
Or let me be like the stream full of rain
It comes back eventually to the sea.
It comes back eventually to the sea.

Tell me will we ever reach the promised land.
There’s nothing we can do to change the past.
Will we ever get to say we’re free at last?
Yeah, don’t you know the war’s over and done?
But I think more lost than won.

So let me be like the leaves on the trees,
They come back in the spring gold to green
Or let me be like the stream full of rain
It comes back eventually to the sea.
It comes back eventually to the sea.

Father father father I am coming home.
Yeah everybody needs some place to lean
You and me both it seems.

So let me be like the leaves on the trees,
They come back in the spring gold to green
Or let me be like the stream full of rain
It comes back eventually to the sea.

Oh I have found my way back to you,
Please find your way back to me.
I have found my way back to you,
Please find your way back to me.

Cause father father father, I am home.

Last Round

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2002

I’ve been thinking of you again
I’ve been falling apart
I guess maybe the Earth must break
To shake you from my heart.

And sometimes there is a war to wage
and sometimes we should just run
there are things that you bury deep
they will come back to block out the sun
yeah, they’ll come back and block out the sun

la de de da come on call the last round
la de de da de de dee
la de de daw let’s go burn this place down
la de de da de de dee

I’ve been hoping the bible’s right
Bring on the flood and bring flame
I don’t care if the walls should fall
In the end none of this will remain
In the end none of this will remain

la de de da come on pour the last round
la de de da de de dee
la de de da I’m gonna this place down
la de de da de de dee

cause I’ve been thinking of you again
I’ve been a fool for so long
But don’t be so proud and don’t be so pleased
In the end all of this will be gone
In the end all of this will be gone

la de de da you know it’s the last round
la de de da de de dee
la de de da I’m gonna burn this place down
la de de da de de dee

Hole in My Heart

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2002

Well, lookout, cause if there’s a rise
There’ll soon be a fall
Yeah, here comes the crash

One day we break at the seams
Into pieces and shards
They scatter like ashes

Oh man, I’m falling apart and I don’t know what to do

I’ve got a hole in my heart
It’s big as the blue…

Oh well, winter was rough
And the spring brought no rain
Barely a bloom/ barely got warm

Sure every comeback is hard
There’s rocks on the path
Or then there’s a storm

Ah it knocks you down, breaks you in part yeah the devil knows it’s true. Yeah, you know that it, too.
I’ve got a hole in my heart….

I know all of the time
The sun’s coming up
Somewhere round some bend

But it’s been going down hard
Over the hills
Over my head
It’s been so dark for so long
Hard to find my way through
Let it shine through.

Cause I’ve got a hole in my heart
It’s big as the blue
I’ve got a hole in my heart
I keep stumbling into.
I’ve got a hole in my heart, it’s bigger than you.
I’ve got a hole in my heart.

Brighter Day

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

By the time the fruit was tasted the fall was long in the cards
By the time the earth was shaking we all were rattled hard.
My oh my it’s been like this for too long. It’s why we pray.

That there is a brighter day.
Can you see it coming close, my love.
Wait, please don’t run away
tell me what is it we’re so scared of

Cause I have tried to look for God in the cracks before the sky.
And in the eyes the lost and lonely attract. It’s why we pray

That there is a brighter day.
Can you see it coming now, my love.
Wait, please don’t run away
what is it that we are so scared of

Bridge: Wo oh oh…oh oh, oh oh…

Lord, you know the hardest gift was a heart that’s never whole.
And so we search the farthest reaches and parts. It’s why we pray. It’s why we pray. It’s why I pray.

That there is a brighter day.
I can see it coming now, it’s love.
Look there’s a brighter day
don’t you see it coming now it’s love
I can see it coming now, my love.
I can see it coming now it’s love.

Dinosaurs and Sages

Words and music by David Berkeley
Straw Man Publishing ASCAP 2015

I’ve been looking so long
Wasn’t sure for what
I’ve been wondering what’s wrong
always wrong side up

see me on the corner
see me in the road
Feeling like a foreigner
Who cannot crack the code
Oh to go back to the start

But Then I saw a part of you
That no one else could see
And I saw the heart of you
And all that you could be

And I know you can go anytime you want to
But I hope you will stay

here’s one for the ages
some say all along
from dinosaurs to sages
no one seems to stay too long
How I tried to go back to the start

Until I saw a part of you
That no one else could see
And I saw the heart of you
And all that you could be

And I know you can go anytime you want to
But I hope you will stay

Strange how things can change you
strange what will remain
one day you’re in Plainview
now my whole life has changed
oh, it’s a brand new start

now that you see a part of me
that no one else can see
and you see the heart of me
and all that I can be
Well, I know you can go anytime you want to
But I hope you will stay
And you know I can go, anytime I want to
But so you know I'll stay