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I had just come out of a relationship that had hurt me very badly. And Pete said to me, "Jamie, you don't need to be so upset because in reality, if you really think about it, it only ever really works out once."
I love writing sad songs. I love digging in and going to that dark place. To purge myself of all that hurt, I was like, "We gotta write a song about how it only happens once. We gotta call it 'Once.'"
We had it floating around a little while before the [writing] session. Pete and I had never written with Phillip before. We got set up with Phillip and we started writing a different song. We weren't getting anywhere. I had given them a line to maybe go with the song we were writing: "You were a wait so worth the price of all the hurt." It could go either way. It wasn't exactly happy, but it wasn't sad either.
Pete's like, "Why don't we try the 'Once' idea?" So, we tell Phillip about how the odds are that it only works out once, so when you fail, those were your odds anyway. Pete suggested that we use the line from earlier as the first line, and I was sold on that. But then he was like, "Let's make it happy. Let's talk about the one time you do find it and how you have to make the most of it and give it everything you have."
Pete is a dear friend of mine and an incredibly talented songwriter. Part of the reason that he and I work so well in creative situations is because we are so different and take different approaches. Well, we started to fight. And we don't fight with anyone else, but we always fight with one another. There was a lot of tension, and poor Phillip had never written with us before. [laughs] We fought it out, and Phillip was incredible with the melody and Pete was doing the guitar playing.
We were talking it out, step by step, and it was like when you find that with someone, nothing else matters anymore and you have to run with it. We compromised on a lot of it. You'll hear the lines like, "You were a wait so worth the price of all the hurt inside me," which sounds a little deeper than the rest of the song -- it's a little lighter and more optimistic like the next line, "just when the sun was setting on my heart."
It's always my intention that if makes me feel something, I feel like it will make a listener feel something. A lot of the fight that we had was over that. It's funny that the song talks about let's fight for this and, ironically, we fought for it!