Music plays a key role in Tattoo Thief, which features a band of the same name. Songs influence major events in the book, so I commissioned singer-songwriter Thomas Hallett to compose and record one song from the book, “Wilderness.”
In the book, Gavin records this song for Beryl to share how his wilderness trip has transformed him. He records it simply on a video in his hotel room and it’s just his voice and guitar—a total departure from the band’s typical driving rock. The lyrics tell Beryl he’s rediscovered his inspiration after the death of his muse.
Tattoo Thief is about a reckless rocker, but its playlist isn’t merely rock. Each song is connected to key scenes in the book as Gavin and Beryl’s relationship grows.
Find out the meaning of each song in Tattoo Thief…
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Learning to Fly
Beryl is stuck. Stuck in her sleepy hometown. Stuck managing a coffee shop and waiting tables until her “uncle” Dan—her late father’s best friend—offers her an opportunity to move to New York. This song hails from Uncle Dan’s generation and speaks to Beryl spreading her wings for the first time.
Jay-Z, feat. Alicia Keys: Empire State of Mind:
Lyrics capture a New York that dazzles and terrifies Beryl. I love how different the musical style is from the rest of Tattoo Thief’s playlist. “These streets will make you feel brand new/ the lights will inspire you,” connects with Beryl’s budding willingness to try new things and reinvent herself.
Coldplay: Viva La Vida
Gavin Slater’s was on top of the world: the front man for the rock band Tattoo Thief was profiled in Spin magazine for being one of just ten artists to reach the top of the Billboard charts twice in twelve months. His fall from this peak into a deep, self-destructive jag is the heart of the mystery for Beryl—why did he trash his apartment and flee?
Mirah: Words Cannot Describe
(About 25 seconds of silence precede the beginning of the song.)
The lightness and sweetness of this song captures Beryl’s crush on Gavin. With each photo, interview and video she sees, Beryl is drawn more strongly to Gavin. As his house sitter, living at his house and experiencing his life, she’s even getting a little obsessed. “I’m wishin’ on a star to be with you.” But is it an illusion?
Dave Matthews Band: Grace is Gone
Gavin’s run away, tormented by blame and shame after the death of his muse. He tries drowning his sorrows, but even self-imposed exile can’t escape the crushing guilt.
The Wanted*: Glad You Came
The best way to get over one man is to get under another, or so says Stella, Beryl’s best friend. Plunge yourself into a New York club scene with spinning lights, grinding guys and Thighs of Steel, a.k.a. Anthony. Beryl lets herself get lost in this moment.
*Tattoo Thief is based in part on The Wanted. I encountered the band on a trip to New York to research this book.
James Blunt: Stay the Night
Anthony’s a sweetheart, and a date with him is near-perfect. When he asks Beryl to stay the night, she’s willing … but the voice on the radio won’t let Beryl to deny her feelings.
The Pernice Brothers: The Weakest Shade of Blue
From Gavin’s pale blue eyes to the pale blue of a beryl aquamarine, this song is optimistic for the couple. “Could it be so wrong?” speaks to the possibility in this tenuous relationship between broken people.
Phillip Phillips: Home
Gavin needs an anchor, a reason to come home. But his home is haunted by the memories of his muse. “Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear.” By making over his apartment, Beryl gives Gavin a lifeline. “If you get lost you can always be found.”
Christina Perri: Bang Bang Bang
Peter is a destructive force and this is Beryl’s revenge song. Karma’s a bitch, but Beryl is ready to dish it out.
Mumford & Sons: I Will Wait
Beryl believes in Gavin’s ability to heal, and she gives him this assurance even when he pulls away. “You forgave and I won’t forget,” is especially significant because Gavin must prove he’s worth waiting for.
Toad the Wet Sprocket: Throw it All Away
This song is about throwing off the chains—”the lies that justify the pain, the guilt that weighs upon your soul, and throw it all away.” It’s time for Gavin to heal, to put down all the guilt he’s carrying and come home.
Christina Perri: Distance
When there’s finally no physical distance between Gavin and Beryl, doubts remain. “Now that he’s real, he’s not as simple and perfect as a dream,” Beryl says. From the song: “Call it anything but love. I will make sure to keep my distance.”
Jack Johnson: Better Together
“Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions of my heart.” The lightness of this song communicates a bond that’s finally true and tested. It’s freeing. Simply put, “it’s always better when we’re together.”
Phillip Phillips: Gone, Gone Gone
Through thick and thin, the people who love you will be there for you. “Your hope dangling by a string, I’ll share in your suffering,” is a common theme for all of the relationships in Tattoo Thief. Gavin toasts friends that stick: “Those are the friends worth having, and the kind of friend I want to be.”
Ed Sheeran: The A Team
The acoustic feel of this song inspired some of Wilderness.