The Back Story of “Act of Faith”
All of the New Orleans songwriters I know have Katrina songs. Whatever the degree of impact, if you lived here at the time, you felt it. Life was somehow different; uncertain, tenuous and unpredictable. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t lose a home, but my employment situation was questionable. People were gone, infrastructure was down, much of Orleans Parish was underwater for weeks. Joan and I were lucky. We live about 9 blocks from the 17th Street Canal levee, and the breach was directly east of our home, but on the other side of the canal. So, there but for the grace of God…..
I was an inexperienced songwriter in 2005. I hadn’t been playing guitar very long and knew very little about song structure. Lyrics, sure. No problem. But integrating those lyrics into a melodic structure was a real challenge. Yet I had a lot of pent up emotion and needed a vehicle to let it out. So I wrote some songs. Looking back, I have found out that many of my friends also found inspiration from Katrina and wrote songs about pain, loss, fear and hope. Two of my current music partners, Eric Orlando and Marc Belloni, participated in an album of Katrina songs called “Feeder Bands on the Run”. They, along with about a dozen other local musicians (like Fred LeBlanc and Theresa Anderson) and bands, contributed songs to the project. I didn’t know the guys at the time, but later met them both at Open Mics at the local music club Eric used to own, Carrollton Station. Many of the artists on the CD played that venue and I eventually did myself. I hosted Open Mic nights there for several years.
So that’s a little background on my state of mind. The real inspiration for the song came about because of all of the issues with FEMA and other government agencies, federal, state and local, who played a continuous blame game while stewing over what to do to bring the city back to life. After observing this process for a while, I came to the realization that it was mostly going to be up to “us”. Government debated over who should be allowed to rebuild, who would get federal aid and who would be left on their own. At about that point, I started to think about what to do personally and actually considered relocating. But the force is strong in New Orleans boys like me, and I eventually decided (with Joan’s support) that we would stay and make a go of it. That’s where the “faith” in the song title comes from. To stay meant believing that we could handle whatever happened and that we would get the support we needed to thrive again.
At that time, many people thought that everyone should just give up and leave—start over somewhere else. But who among us, with a city, a region, a culture so ingrained could just pull up stakes and go elsewhere? Apparently not many. The song itself draws its name from a couple of sources. One is the aforementioned faith in ourselves. The other is a reference to a prayer we said in my somewhat-lapsed-Catholic youth (as an altar boy, no less, just like Jimmy Buffett). It’s an homage to a people, a place, a culture that decided to rise from the ashes rather than leave the scene of the fire. We stayed, because we had faith in ourselves and each other. So that’s the story. New Orleans people are spirited. And stubborn. And faithful.
Just look at how long we’ve supported the Saints.
ACT OF FAITH
SOMEHOW WE’VE ALWAYS EXPECTED, THINGS WOULD BE LIKE THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN THERE FEELING CONFIDENT, CALM AND PROTECTED, THOUGH WE FORGOT TO CARE
SOMEHOW WE’VE LEARNED TO FORGIVE AND FORGET EVERY TIME THEY LET US DOWN BUT THIS TIME WE CAN’T LET IT HAPPEN AND GIVE UP WITHOUT A SOUND
SO WE LOOK TO OURSELVES AND WE WONDER IF INSIDE US WE HAVE WHAT IT TAKES AND WE CAN’T LET OUR SPIRIT GO UNDER AND BE PUSHED TO THE POINT WHERE IT BREAKS
WE’VE BEEN ASKED FOR AN ACT OF FAITH IN EACH HOPE AND EACH PLAN WE MAKE THERE’LL BE SOMEONE AROUND WHO WON’T LET US DOWN IN OURSELVES FEEL THAT SEED OF FAITH
WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT WAS COMING, BUT LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR OUR TEARS OUR JOIE DE VIVRE, LET THE BON TEMPS ROULE OVERWHELMED OUR FEARS
WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHO TO COUNT ON, SOMEONE WE’VE KNOWN FOR SO LONG CAUSE THE WAY THAT WE LIVE AND WE LOVE AND WE GIVE IS WHAT MAKES US STRONG
WE MUST LOOK TO OURSELVES AND NOT QUESTION THAT WE’VE HAD THE STRENGTH ALL ALONG AND KEEP UP THAT OUTWARD IMPRESSION IN OUR WORDS AND OUR HEARTS AND OUR SONGS
ALL WE NEED IS AN ACT OF FAITH, IN EACH HOPE AND EACH PLAN WE MAKE THERE’LL BE SOMEONE AROUND WHO WON’T LET US DOWN IN OURSELVES FIND THAT SEED OF FAITH
TIME AFTER TIME NEVER CHANGES, WE’VE BEEN AROUND HERE TOO LONG IT GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN AND YOU LET IT ALL IN LIKE A SAD OLD SONG
YOU CAN HEAR IT SO WELL IF YOU LISTEN, FEEL IT DOWN INTO YOUR BONES YOU CAN CALL IT WHATEVER YOU WANT TO, BUT WE CALL IT HOME
WHO CARES IF THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND US, HELL I DON’T UNDERSTAND US MYSELF LIKE THE STORM AND THE RAIN THAT BROUGHT DOWN ALL THIS PAIN, WE KNOW IT SO WELL
LIVING HERE IS AN ACT OF FAITH, AS THE SUMMER DAYS SLIP AWAY AND THE SCENT ON THE WIND, BRINGS THE MEMORIES IN OF ANOTHER DAY
STAYING HERE IS A LEAP OF FAITH, IN MY CITY WHERE TIME RUNS LATE THE HURT ISN’T GONE, BUT IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON, TOWARDS THAT BETTER DAY