Dave Hause takes an unexpected approach to the anti-bullying song, writing not from the perspective of the victim, but as the bully himself. It’s a role Hause admits to playing in his youth — and one he’s trying to atone for now with his compassionate new song “Gary.”
“Don’t name him Gary,” Hause cautions in the very first line, a warning to a friend who is about to give birth to a son. In the mind of the Philadelphia songwriter, such a name will only portend hardship: “I knew a Gary in school/He tried so hard to be cool/But kids can be so cruel.” Hause’s sing-speak delivery is like a confessional, and at times he struggles to get the words out, like Fonzie trying to say “I was wrong” in Happy Days.
But by the bridge, Hause has spoken his shameful truth and throws himself on the mercy of young Gary — wherever he may be — to forgive him. “Hurt people hurt people/I hope you don’t hurt anymore,” he sings in harmony with his brother and collaborator Tim Hause. It’s a cathartic moment, and you can hear Hause’s guilt start to slip away.
The arrangement of “Gary” mirrors Hause’s emotional journey. A staccato rhythm on guitar — played by Jason Isbell guitarist Sadler Vaden — accompanies each painful admission, while the chorus swells with Tom Bukovac’s chiming guitar and drummer Chris Powell’s heartbeat rhythm. “Gary” is a standout on Hause’s new album Blood Harmony, recorded in Nashville with Will Hoge as producer. Along with Vaden, Bukovac, and Powell, the record features Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band on bass.
But it’s Hause’s vulnerable, years-in-the-making apology that makes it such a must-listen. “Maybe sorry for me now is like a cup of cold coffee/It’s bitter and old and a little too late,” he wails at one point. “But I’m trying to make right the shit we put on your plate.”