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Better Off: An Exploration of Sensitivity or Bo Kitzman’s Most Recent Musical Quest

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Better Off: An Exploration of Sensitivity or Bo Kitzman’s Most Recent Musical Quest

Guest Contributor

 

Have you been through a breakup recently? Have you ever been let down? Have you ever wanted to let someone know how you really felt but weren’t sure if you could say it to their face? Or if they even deserved that luxury? Well, then I’ve got the music for you. Bo Kitzman got his heart broken, and he’s not afraid to tell you about it. I got a chance to sit down with him recently and pick his brain about his own feelings. He also asked me to share a few of my thoughts on his songs.

"Do you think you are the 'King of the Trash'?" I ask him.

"'King of the Trash' to me means that you lost the thing that made you feel like you were the king of something, so now you’re the king of the trash," he explains.

"You realize you’re not the king of the trash, right?" I assure him. "You still get out of bed in the morning, work out, eat good food, and work hard."

He replies, "It was the internal feeling. I needed to feel like that to then eventually motivate myself to start winning for myself. I went from thinking I was gonna marry some girl to then having nothing like that. I thought I had a lot figured out, and I realized very quickly that it could all change very quickly. I’m thankful for it but it was hard."

Bo’s King Of The Trash album starts off with the beautifully defeated “At Least I Tried.”

"This was me stating my list of grievances. Instead of saying those things to her in person, I left it for this song. It’s a very subject-selfish album, and while I was writing it, I kept thinking, Maybe I’m giving her more credit than she deserves. Just to know someone gives up without even trying."

It’s a terrible feeling, and it’s all about her just giving up. He sings simply:

If it makes you feel less guilty
I knew you’d always change
And I’m just as dumb as the words that you can’t say

But at least I tried

You can hear how that list of grievances is still fresh on his mind.

We move into tracks two and three, “You Won’t Be Okay” and “Claire.” Bo has declared them as mean, but he doesn’t feel bad about it, and the chorus for “You Won’t Be Okay” is a good indicator.

I don’t care what you do
I don’t care about you
I don’t care if you’re blue
Or see other dudes
'Cause I’m doing fine
And I’m happy to say
You’ll regret what you did
And you won’t be okay

"I was just writing, and occasionally I would write a line and be like, 'Oooooh!' I remember writing one line and thinking, Man, I don’t know if I need to put that in there because of how real it was to us. It's from the song 'You Won’t Be Okay.'"

She’s just entitled, and he’s just a hipster
And they’re a Mumford vinyl short of being mainstream

In “Claire,” Bo tells the story not just of his most recent lost love but of all the ones that came before.

"I started writing it long before my last break up. I didn’t want to refer to the girls that I’d had romantic encounters with by name, so I called them all Claire. I generalized them all into one girl. As we were recording it, my buddy Kyle, who I was recording all of this with, said, 'We’re gonna need another verse for this,' so I wrote the last verse right then and there."

Bo sounds relieved as he’s singing:

Life is cruel, but remember, Claire’s a joke

Bo’s not afraid to admit that all those girls have made him feel bad. And he’s not afraid to make them feel kind of bad too. But let’s go back to the most recent inspiration.

"'Claire' is the only song other than 'Going to Japan' that isn’t completely about her. Otherwise everything is about her, or is in someway related to her. She inspired a lot."

In “Going To Japan” you can hear his reassurance to himself. His lyrics validate his plane ticket purchase:

I’m gonna make some new best friends
I’m going to, going to Japan
Don’t tell my Mom
Don’t tell my Dad
I’m going to Japan
I’ll have more fun than I’ve ever had
I’m going to, going to Japan

This trip was about him. Him finding himself, not really sleeping due to jet lag and what that does to your mind. How being away from everything you know can help you see what really matters and what doesn’t matter at all.

Bo moves us into the heartfelt track “Dig A Little Deeper” next, and I can hear the truth. He’s admitting that he had to hit the bottom.

"I felt like I had gotten to a plateau. You can put all your time and effort into something but never really do what you’re trying to do."

Maybe if I tried harder
I could get better
But it’s not worth the time or the air I waste

Maybe if I practice more
I could be where I wanna be
I dig a little deep
I dig a little deeper
That’s what they tell me to do

I inquire about the song: "You say at the end 'I dug a little deeper,' and it sounds to me when I listen to it that you’re coming back from the hard place."

"It’s partly admitting that nothing will ever be enough, no matter what you do," he tells me. "That’s what I was trying to get at. It’s never enough. No matter how much you dig, I don’t think you’re ever gonna be completely satisfied, especially if you’re a perfectionist.

You’re quick to cite the verse that makes you quake
But there’s meaning that you’ll never truly see
You’ll think until your thoughts begin to ache
What exactly will you try to be?

"You’ve constantly got all these things trying to influence you, saying you’ve gotta be better, gotta be the best, but realistically the great thing about being human is that our errors give us the room to grow. Not always trying to go the extra mile, but sometimes just being content with how far you’ve gotten. And when you hit the concrete at the bottom of the hole that you’re digging, are you content with where you are, or do you feel like you have to keep digging around and digging deeper?"

The great thing about being human is that our errors give us the room to grow. Not always trying to go the extra mile, but sometimes just being content with how far you’ve gotten. And when you hit the concrete at the bottom of the hole that you’re digging, are you content with where you are, or do you feel like you have to keep digging around and digging deeper?
— Bo Kitzman

The last two songs on the album, “Better Off” and “King of the Trash,” help us understand his earlier statement about losing something that made him feel like the king of the world. His unsteady vibrato in both songs leaves me feeling emotional when I listen to them. I know the breakup happened, but I understand the depth of it more when I hear this:

Better off
I am better off
Without a shred of evidence that I’m the one to blame
Better off
You’re better off, too
If you were so unhappy, all I needed was the truth
I’m gonna let you go
Was it true, was it ever true?
We chalk it up to learning, all I learned was to love you
Better off
How can I be better off
Knowing that my best friend used my heart to write us off?

I love most of all this moment in “King of the Trash” where I can hear that he is fine with the heartbreak because it made him feel something at all.

Come what may, we’ll fade away
We concede with time
Please don’t cry, I’ll let you win
I’ll be the king of the trash again

Bo explains, "The beautiful thing about all the songs is that they’re all very straightforward, but you can dig into them more if you want to."

"Does ‘she’ know?" I ask curiously.

"I haven’t talked to her since everything happened. When she hears them, she will definitely know. I don’t know if she will hear them, and quite frankly I don’t care. It’s not even about that. At first I didn’t know if I wanted to release it because of her feelings, but then I realized this was for my feelings."

King of the Trash is a sincere account of love and loss. It doesn’t leave you wondering if Bo is mad at his lost love or if he has any regrets. But what it does do is help you feel better about your own downfalls and how to deal with them. It takes a lot to let your guard down and admit when you’re sad or feel like you’ve failed someone else or (worst of all) yourself. But when you can do what he’s done and make lemons out of lemonade, it can be really helpful. It can make you start over, set new goals, and become better. From start to finish, Bo is very methodical. He’s not afraid to be frank, even if some people find it to be cruel. But the truth isn't pretty, and I hope that if "she" hears these songs one day, she won’t hold it against him.

Bo Kitzman is just another guy trying to express himself the best way he knows how. Born and raised in West Tennessee, he’s no stranger to music and expression. I met Bo in the summer of 2012 at a party through long-time mutual friends. He brought a mandolin to the party, and we wound up singing folk songs around a pool and drinking beer late into the night. It was awesome. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of becoming his friend, and we’ve even written a few songs together.

About a year ago, he told me he was working on some new music. A recent breakup and change in career had lit a fire. I told him that I would love to hear them when he was ready. Months later, he asked me to write this review of his album, and it was a total honor.


To hear Bo Kitzman's music for yourself, check him out on Soundcloud.com, and make sure to follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


Lauren Pritchard, also known as LOLO, is a Jackson native. She originated the role of Ilse in the eight-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Spring Awakening, and she is the composer and lyricist of the country/folk musical, SongbirdYou can find her most recent EP, the Comeback Queen EP, on iTunes (released by DCD2 Records). For more information on her shenanigans, visit her website.

Header image provided Lauren Pritchard.