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’m sorry” in Happy Days.
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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 reggae 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.”
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