“These thoughts and questions I have had over the years have burdened me, because I felt I was living a lie. Not necessarily a lie of what I believe but of how I was feeling…”

In May, Wither Away dropped their debut release, The Words We Live By, The Actions We Don’t Take. The band was born from friends Jeff Pettinato and JJ Heliger, the duo having played together in Obscurities from 2012-2014, wanting to take on a different sound after a jam session. They formed Wither Away, an angsty-emo rock outfit influenced by The Dear Hunter, Counterparts, and Underoath.

HM spoke with vocalist and songwriter Heliger and gathered the behind-the-scenes stories on each song from the new album.


‘Sheikha’

“Sheikha” is an anxious love letter. The song’s key and melody allow for a sound listen, while the lyrics invoke a strange feeling of constant worrying and reassurance. When you love someone so much, the thought of losing them can literally break your soul.

I wrote this while experiencing severe Adderall withdraw. I have a pretty bad case of ADHD, and I became extremely dependent after only a year. This song was a poem I wrote to my girlfriend, Amanda, to explain why I am so anxious, why I am so emotional, and why I am so worried all of the time. Everyday I wake up, I fear losing her, and this only increased the Adderall dependence. When I decided to quit, she was there to kill my anxiety.

‘The Philosopher’s Stone’

“The Philosopher’s Stone” is about change and knowing how to accept it. I grew up in a predominantly Christian home where I was taught morals and values that still stick with me today. The song, though, focuses on the difficulties of faith and a lack thereof — the struggles of knowing there is more to life but not being able to fully grasp what that is. (It’s about) having so many thoughts and ideas, but none of which make 100% sense to you.

‘The Grand Tree’

“The Grand Tree,” lyrically, displays the nihilistic side of my writing. This song is composed of a series of different poems that I felt meshed well together. “The Grand Tree” explains the cycles we go through and how it those cycles personally affect me.

It seems that, in life, we are constantly experiencing bad things. Some of us cope in different ways. I find myself struggling with substance addiction only to find it belittle me more than I was prior. I then rinse-and-repeat and the cycle starts over, each time causing me to self loathe more and more. Lyrically this is my favorite song off the record.

‘Hopeless’

“Hopeless” is about waking up everyday with the mindset that something is going to go wrong. When I wrote the lyrics for “Hopeless,” I wanted to make sure it could capture the utter frustration it is to be a happy person with a pessimistic outlook on life. Ultimately, the song doesn’t sound sad, and that was how it was intended. But “Hopeless” allows transparency into my life to show listeners that no matter how happy a person is or how good their life may seem, some people just seem to struggle. I am, unfortunately, one of those people.

‘Transitions’

“Transitions” was definitely the hardest to write, lyrically. The song focuses on God and self-worth. It may sound like a plea for lost faith, but the contrary is actually true.

“I hope others that feel like this can find comfort in this song.”

As mentioned before, I was raised in a Christian home. It was frowned upon to have doubts or questions, so most of my upbringing I stayed quiet. These thoughts and questions I have had over the years have burdened me, because I felt I was living a lie. Not necessarily a lie of what I believe but of how I was feeling. I believe God exists, but I haven’t “felt” Him like the rest of my friends and family do. I hope others that feel like this can find comfort in this song.

‘Earthbound’

“Earthbound” is about divorce and how much I hate it. I experienced the divorce of my parents at the age of 16 and was able to see first hand how it affects families. My heart yearned for my father, and I made a promise to myself that I’d never put my future family though the same thing.

I’ve talked with people about the subject and have heard many opinions on divorce. Some say you cannot control if a divorce happens or not, some people just stop caring. However, I believe that marriage, a sacred bond between two people, must be valued and prioritized. “Earthbound” is the response to divorce, and I hope listeners understand that love is precious. We must always put our lovers before ourselves.

‘Hazel Eyes’

The last song on the album, “Hazel Eyes,” has a bit of a dual meaning. The name “Hazel Eyes” refers to my girlfriend’s hazel eyes — kind of a no brainer, but the lyrics and premise of the song may read and feel like a breakup and plea for reconciliation. The song is intended to feel that way. I want listeners to have the ability to derive different notions from this song.

For me, this song speaks about sadness and conflict of which you have no control over. Your significant other has lost their job or a love one dies. Your heart aches for them, but you don’t necessarily have any solution other than to love them. This song as a whole may be my favorite off the album.

Photo by Amanda Miller