The Light EP - "Money Ain't Nothin'"

One evening I was driving in the car and the phrase "money ain't nothin'" somehow showed up. At the time, I was going through a transformation in the way I view money and success. I had a mentor at the time who had spent about ten years pursuing a corporate career, and then realized that he and his friends had just pounded away countless hours over the course of a decade with very little to show for it. Finding myself in a corporate situation, I saw parallels and questioned what all this pursuit was worth.

As I was driving that fateful night, the melody came and I found myself singing, "Money ain't nothin,'" long and slow. I scanned my mind for ways that rhymed, describing how money and success and financial pursuit all felt like a waste of time to me. Some of it is nonsensical, but the sentiment is present in the lines.

Originally, the song was really slow. After I had recorded a demo (or maybe while I was recording it), I realized this thing was about as close to a straight bluegrass song as I had ever written, so I picked it up. You can hear the original slow demo here though, if you're interested in song progression:

About a year later, my friend Alex Barker and I had been recording several songs, some of which ended up on The Light EP. He is an amazingly talented singer/songwriter and harmonica/banjo/trumpet/percussion player. Our collaboration was a natural fit, which I maybe realized only in hindsight (now we live on opposite coasts, sadly). Still, we managed to record a handful of songs, "Money Ain't Nothin'" being one of the best. To round it off, I recruited my violin player friend Bekah Kozeluh to add some fiddle, recording a version to use in Skater Dad: the movie.

When it came time to submit songs to Robb for producing, I knew "Money Ain't Nothin'" had to be one. I had played it out with my band Campfield several times, and people just seemed to love it. It's fun and flighty, but speaks the truth clearly -- which is something I'm finding shows up in my songs more and more as I progress.

After one particular performance, I remember a somewhat disgruntled audience member said to his table, "Money sure is something to me!" after the song finished. I understand the sentiment. My wife isn't the biggest fan of this song because it's a little flippant about something we all need to live, and makes some absolute statements without really getting into the nitty gritty reality of financial highs and lows. Take a gander at the last verse before you make any judgements though (below), as this song isn't meant to be taken one-hundred-percent seriously, though I still hope it makes you think.

Money ain't nothin' but a hole in the ground
Money ain't nothin' but a trumpet sound
If I put my faith in anything, I got one thing to say
Money ain't nothin' tomorrow or today

Money ain't nothin' but a circle track
Money ain't nothin' but a broken back
If I spend my life doing one thing, I'll tell you one thing it won't be
Money ain't nothin' I need to be happy

Well, I spent my entire life chasing after green
And I got nothing left to show but half-full hands
And a heart that's mean

Money ain't nothin' but forty hours
Money ain't nothin' but dying flowers
Alive one day and dead the next, well that ain't worth my trust
Money ain't nothin' for the likes of us

Well, I won't spend my whole life chasing after cash
When there are people all around with broken hearts and broken backs
Yeah I want to spend my life helping people out
Folks that spend their days in mammon's maze
By telling them all that

Money ain't nothin' but a double negative
Money is something only when you give
Give it all away, so I will say to open up your hand
Money is something when helping out a friend
Money is something when helping out a friend