Anatomy Of A Song #1: Robert Ellis - "A Bottle Of Wine"

In the first of a new series, the American troubador picks apart his drink and drugs addled ode to a toxic relationship...
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"She is painting the town with her daddy's credit card."

It's one of the few details you get about the subject in this song. This one line was the starting point for me. I think I just liked the way the words sounded. Maybe they reminded me of someone I knew. They rattled around in my head by themselves for a couple months before the rest of the song came.

I would sit down with these words in mind and try and figure out more about this person. I wanted to know why the narrator would choose to reveal that about her. It seemed to imply that he didn't think very highly of her character. That made me ask myself why he was even talking about her or to her. This whole idea of being addicted to someone sort of materialized and gave the song some focus. I really liked the idea the you could be aware of how bad a person was for you and yet still want to have them in your life. A bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine became a metaphor for a toxic relationship and also gave me a concrete setting that I could put the characters in. If I knew that the narrator was an addict I could imagine his apartment and his life and even what he looked like. Maybe I imagined him as an extreme version of myself.

I think it's necessary to put some of yourself into your characters but I also think it's dangerous to confine them to the parameters of how you see yourself exactly. It's much easier to be honest about someone else than it is to be about yourself. I sort of see the narrator in "Bottle of Wine" as a composite of a few different people. Maybe the worst qualities of all of them. He is desperate, addicted, self loathing, depressed, reclusive. A relationship has fallen apart that he knew was destined to fail from the beginning. Sand through an hourglass on it's last grains.

The song isn't autobiographical but I do know what it's like to do things even when you know they will hurt you. I'm actually quite accomplished at it. Writing a song like this lets me explore extremes of my own personality in a way that I find really therapeutic. You get the chance to create someone that is worse than you. Maybe sometimes you create a total monster. You can look at them and say "at least I'm not as bad as this guy. At least my life isn't this fucked up."

Robert's album, 'The Lights From The Chemical Plant, is out now.  You can buy it here 

Bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine
You’re on my mind as I drive home in the rain
I’m reminded again of some familiar yesterday.

Cheers to old times, raise a glass to the pain
I hope that you’ll alright but it seems not much is changed
You are buying a round for everybody at the bar
You are painting the town with your daddy’s credit card
All these things you must do to keep from going insane

Up and then down, a chill, nothing remains
Sand through an hourglass on its last grains
Only now that it’s over I know who to blame

A bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine

In this lonely apartment in a cloud of regret
I go through the same old argument to reminisce or to forget
I find acceptance so fleeting unless it’s coursing through my veins

If my heart is still beating, if in my sleep I’ve not chocked
Come over tonight and won’t you bring along some smokes?
We can put on a record and I can fill your head with lies
We get so sentimental but it’s only lust in disguise
It’s so hard to extinguish such an old familiar flame

We go up and then down until nothing remains
Sand through an hourglass on its last grains
Only now that it’s over I know who to blame
A bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine

A bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine