Behind the Lyrics: Robert Weston - When You Know You Know
In this series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I take a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper. I look at a wide range of country artists, from Billboard toppers to the undiscovered and unsigned. I like to uncover the story between the lines and highlight where the lyrics are special, unique or generally make me say “I wish I’d written that!”.
I had the opportunity to interview Robert about his music, his songwriting methods and of course about this particular song.
Firstly, what's the country music scene like in the Netherlands?
“Four years ago, I would have said, "What country music scene?" Everyone I told that I played in a country music band always looked at me with sympathy and told me they also quite liked John Denver's 'Country Roads (the party disco version). Or they simply said it wasn't their taste in music.”
“It's only in the last two years that I've noticed the genre starting to come alive. Country music concerts (mostly only in Amsterdam) are becoming more popular and often sell out. It was quite different at the beginning; I remember a Maren Morris concert with about 50 attendees, and a Brent Cobb concert in a tiny venue with just 20 attendees.”
How did you get into the country music scene?
“I didn't really grow up listening to Country music. At home, artists like The Beatles, Paul Simon, CSN&Y, and Ry Cooder were on the turntable. I discovered artists like The Jayhawks when I was 15, while listening to the radio during my newspaper round.”
“Working at the record store in my hometown exposed me to a lot of Country music. Garth Brooks was playing all day, and a former band member introduced me to the music of Brad Paisley. I had never heard anything like it before. Amazing! That's when I started diving into the genre, and I finally found what I was looking for.”
“Many years later, I played in a newly formed country band, which became Ramblin' Boots. We played all across Europe; we were on the road every weekend, just as it should be. However my four teenage kids didn't like this at all, and needed me, so I decided to quit in 2021 and go solo, allowing me to continue at my own pace, taking my kids into consideration.”
What's your preferred songwriting process?
“I personally prefer to create a rough draft for a song first; then, I bring it to a writing session. I explain that I've written a song but that I'm totally fine with changing anything necessary to make the song better. This is how we worked on 'When You Know You Know,' for example.”
“But I also love another approach to songwriting! I collect beautiful phrases or titles that I hear while watching TV, having a beer at the pub, or just walking down the street. I take these phrases to a writing session. I recently did this in Nashville. Then, I brainstorm more ideas with a fellow songwriter so that a new song eventually comes to life.”
‘When You Know You Know’ is taken from his album called ‘Won’t Settle Down’, recorded in Nashville. He collaborated with Luke Combs producer, Kenny Royster. The songs from this album are a collection of his various writing sessions in Nashville, with one exception - the title track, which was his only collaboration with a UK songwriter.
What inspired the song 'When You Know You Know'?
"The song is about me. I was always terribly bad at being in a relationship; I didn't feel good enough for the other person. When I was struggling, I definitely didn't want to burden the other person with it. That's why I preferred to run away, or rather, I would end the relationship before I had to talk about it. I would just come up with a reason. "You're probably much happier without me; you'll get bored if you stay with me, you're better off without me." And then I was alone again."
I think this is a good moment to dive into the lyrics:
Verse 1 & Pre 1 neatly use a water theme to bring all the imagery together, and in those first 6 lines we already understand the heart of the singer needing to move on and not allow the relationship to cause any hurt to the other party. But let’s not skip past my favourite line in the song:
“You threw a lifeline and I took my time trying to swim ashore”
It’s a perfect example of internal vowel rhyme and multiple alliterations, and again this poetic line is not out of place amongst the whole lyric.
The Chorus appears simple, but actually I think it is hiding a deep sophistication. The title line woven into it without any feeling of it being forced. Each line is conversational as if we are hearing directly what was said between them.
Verse 2 continues the conversation and recognises the necessity for things to end, and in Pre 2 the singer offers to be the bad guy and make the final decision for them both.
The Middle 8 offers a gentle reflection that maybe things could have been different, but again not to lay blame, and to look at the future as an opportunity to find someone better.
It’s conversational throughout, and that is its superpower and why it feels so immediately relatable.
Although this theme of ‘Let me go’ or ‘Letting you go’ to find something better because ‘I hold you back’ is a familiar one from other artists, I feel Robert has tapped directly into his own emotional well, and as a result expressed it with genuine authenticity.
Finally I asked Robert these last questions:
Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?
“Collaborate and write with as many people as possible to improve your craft. I always take a moment to listen to the songs of the songwriters I might want to collaborate with so that I can see if it aligns with my own style.”
“Your first song definitely won't be the best; the twentieth one might be, so don't be afraid that your initial song draft isn't good enough; a good songwriter can see through that and help you make it even better, as long as you're open to criticism and changes in your song.”
What would you do differently if you had to start over?
“I might have focused a bit too much on just America while crafting and writing songs. I now know that the UK has an incredibly large country songwriters community, and I think it would be fantastic to collaborate more with writers from that community.”
That sounds like an opportunity to get in touch with Robert and set up a co-write!
Until next time.
Written by: Hugh Webber
Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator. Personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and a year at the London Songwriting Academy. Find out more here
Written by Robert Weston & Ryan Kinder
Don’t know what got into me
It swept over like a wave
Pulled me under into the deep
Nothing left to save
You threw a lifeline and I took my time trying to swim ashore
Helping me is hurting you, I can’t let you do that anymore
When you know you know
It’s easy to say, But you have to let me go
When you know you know
To walk away is the only way to go
To leave it all behind
And to clear your mind
Cause what you have you can’t hold
When you know you know
There’s no turning round from here
We’ve come too far to take it back
I know you don’t wanna hear
Goodbye but it’s come to that
If you can’t say it, then I’ll say it ‘cause it’s time to move on
I know you need it so I’ll be the one to be gone
If I knew then what I know now
I could’ve given you so much more
Just know you’re not running away
Its something better you’re running towards