“Not So Bad” is the new single from Painted Shrines, a collaboration between Woods’ frontman Jeremy Earl and The Skygreen Leopards’ Glenn Donaldson. It’s the third track shared ahead of their debut album Heaven and Holy, which is due March 5 via Earl’s Woodsist Records.
The bright track features jangly guitar chords and easy riffs plus a dependable rhythm section. Earl sings with Donaldson backing him, “Your parents were wrong about you/You’re not as bad as they say/You’re not as dumb as they say/Your friends still ask about you/They seem lost without you.” Thanks to Donaldson’s songwriting and the tune’s laid-back vibe, it sounds like a comforting hug.
Donaldson wrote about the track for Talkhouse, saying it’s a song he originally penned for his solo project The Reds, Pinks & Purples. Before he recorded it, Earl came to California in 2018 to work on this Painted Shrines project with him and they decided to record a version of it then. When the Painted Shrines album got shelved due to how busy Earl became while recording Purple Mountains with David Berman in 2019 and putting out Woods’ latest album Strange to Explain in 2020, Donaldson revisited the track and released his own version as “Your Parents Were Wrong About You” on last year’s The Reds, Pinks & Purples record. Donaldson’s version is fairly different considering his lower vocal range and less rhythm-driven arrangement.
The songwriter went on to tell the story that inspired the song, “This song was based on a real moment in my life many years ago. I had a girlfriend I was in love with and through circumstances I can’t recall, it ended up that I was supposed to have dinner alone with her mom — actually kind of terrifying to be honest, wanting to make a good impression. Her mom seemed very cordial, but she spent half the dinner trying to convince me that her daughter was a ‘little bit much’ and maybe even ‘crazy’ and she not so subtly wondered what I even saw in her. It was terribly sad, but I weathered it and just said, ‘Maybe you are wrong about her.’”
“This song is a tribute to my ex and anyone else with parents who are undermining and inappropriate or abusive,” Donaldson stated. “I extended it to be about someone who wants to be who they are at the risk of not being accepted. ‘Your life is wrong but you’re not so bad/Is that your fault they can’t understand?’ That’s about taking that internalized negativity and rejecting the blame and guilt for it. Let them carry it. We need other people to survive, but it’s OK to reject the negative people in your life and move on. Let them earn your trust if they want it. Find some other good people to accept you, love you and try to make your own life somewhere.”