“Hey, you know that lad in our class? Dan? Apparently, he’s a really good singer and guitarist…”
This simple throwaway statement from a college classmate in October 2015 would result in the song Maybe We coming into my life.
Maybe We was written by Cork native Dan Elliott (otherwise known to his friends as Daniel O’Sullivan) when he was sixteen years old, and talks about still having feelings for someone from a past relationship who is not around anymore. There are few songs that have connected with this writer to the extent that this song has as every word uttered seemed to relate to my own experiences and feelings in the aftermath of my own breakup.
From the very first listen, Maybe We just seemed to make sense. The questioning as to why the feelings are still continuing to linger, the observations that the other person’s life has seemingly improved since they left, and references to that period when every love song seems to remind you of the person were experiences that I immediately recalled from when I was trying to move on.
The lyrics that Elliott uses throughout the song are simple and direct. There is no use of complicated metaphors that can distract from the sentiments at the heart of the song, and instead we are just presented with the raw emotion that is part of every breakup. The chorus is a prime example of how simplicity can often have the most powerful affect in this kind of songwriting.
Maybe we, just needed time,
And maybe we were always meant to be together after a while,
Perhaps I’m in the wrong to say,
I wish that we were over but it just won’t go away.
These four lines of music sum up my experiences better than most other songs. From the initial stages when I tried to put down the failings of the relationship to a simple timing problem, and my attempts to believe that in the near future she would come back, to that sensation of helplessness that comes from knowing that you can not actually say what you are thinking because it will ultimately make the other person feel bad which is the last thing that you want, Elliott effectively articulates the complicated process of trying to make sense of what has happened.
One of the most powerful aspects of this song is the specificity that Elliott uses when talking about the girl at the heart of the song. The references to reading the Harry Potter books “about a zillion times” and playing Ultimate Frisbee help the listener feel as though they actually know the girl about whom Elliott is singing. Elliott has since expressed embarrassment over using these lyrics, but without them Maybe We would lack the personality and intimacy that it currently has. Theses references are another reason that the song connected as it did with this writer, as the girl at the centre of my breakup had been reading The Casual Vacancy (another JK Rowling publication) when we broke up, and was a member of the local Capoeira club (a similarly obscure activity to Ultimate Frisbee). Coincidence is a strange thing.
My favourite lyric comes midway through the middle 8 section of the song…
I played music in a castle getting tipped, by people that I didn’t know, singing songs about you…
While this lyric could be a reference to Elliott actually playing Maybe We in said castle, listeners to this song will instead interpret this line as that period when every love song that you hear reminds you of that person who has left. An experience that is all to familiar to this writer and is something that I still experience when I happen to see her native county playing Gaelic football on TV, or when I hear a Delorentos or The Coronas song. Despite how common place this experience is, it is not something that is often properly spoken about in modern music, and yet it is done to perfection here by Elliott in the space of a few words.
Dan Elliott sings about his feelings refusing to leave, but it is the belief of this writer that they never actually do, on some level you will always feel something more for that special person and ultimately you just have to find ways to cope. Songs like Maybe We help you to realise that this process is something that everyone goes through at some point, and that alone is often enough to help get you through.