Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The periods of relationships that Sean Watkins writes about on his solo record, "Made For TV Movie," are the ones that make the heart feel logged with that spellbinding kind of hurt. It's the hurt that's almost here. It's in the wings and it's creeping. It's the kind of hurt that comes when you just fold. You slap your cards face down with a solemn thump, push your folding chair back from the table and walk away, recognizing that there's nothing good in that hand anymore, that there is nothing to be played.
It's the kind of hurt that never catches you, rather it just sinks itself in. It's a drenching rain that just soaks right through to the skin, coming in cold, warming to body temperature before getting bitterly cold shortly thereafter. Some parts of this hurt might not be imminent though. Some of it might just stay where it is. It will stand there, off to the side, always with a clear view, but just taking it in, mostly indifferent, but present nonetheless.
Watkins, who broke in with his sister Sara and Punch Brothers' Chris Thile as Nickel Creek, writes about love in its nearly desperate times, those that are touch-and-go. It's when the soreness is still faint - so faint that it can almost be ignored. It's half there, but it's definitely there and like a tiny grain of sand in your shoe or a cut on the inside of your mouth, there's no ignoring it. He writes about relationships that might not be doomed, but they need help. They're on the ropes.
There are common courtesies still happening. There's mostly decency, but there is a ripple in the water. There is something there that's hard to put a finger on. He sings on the album's title track, "We were written in haste," and it could describe so many people and the situations that they've happily put themselves into, only to watch as they become more and more tedious. It's less love and more work. The tiny kindnesses are still there, but there's not much stock being put in the future. Where the real rub comes in for Watkins and the people that he writes about is that they all feel like romantics and they're stuck shaking their heads, wondering how it all came to this. They wonder how they were fooled, but they're still hanging onto the beauty of even this failing love that's before them.