Mary Gauthier is known for her strong scenes and emotional context, and “Between The Daylight And The Dark” is no exception.

Written with Fred Eaglesmith, it’s a great example of how to create a movie in the listener’s head – and that’s exactly how the pair wrote it!

There’s no talking between characters or a “here’s what you need to know” telling of the story.  The song uses the imagery to create the story arc versus the telling of the story arc.

You see the whole thing.

So how does the “movie” unfold in such a visual way from the songwriter’s perspective?

Let’s take a listen and break it down by using a story arc and aligning the story line to the arc.


Mary Gauthier “Between The Daylight And The Dark”


The coolest thing about this song?

No chorus and no constant repeating of the hook.  It’s in two places.  Yep – that’s it – two.

Let’s break it down!

Since this isn’t a full-length movie, and only covers the character’s realization and change, we’ll use the standard story arc to map it out.


story streaming movie architecture @cwodtke


Verse 1 – sets the scene literally as if you’re watching a movie.

While the point of view is 2nd person, you still feel like you’re in the scene.  Why? Because the visuals aren’t just describing something.  What if the songwriters had penned “put it in park” instead of “toss it in park”? Verbs throughout the song keep you in the scene.

Verse 2 – the main character and the inciting incident are introduced.

We know he way dumped by a “wayward girl” but there’s a nice line that keeps you in scene: “out into the world.”  It gives the scene a familiarity. We’ve all done it – just parked the car and stared out the windshield “into the world.”

Verse 3 & 4 – the struggles begin and peak to the crisis.

Verse 3 sets an almost idyllic scene, and then the fourth verse turns into the main character’s darkest moment: “put your hands in your pocket, try to get through the distance between the daylight and the dark.”

It’s the main character’s pivotal moment and where the “movie” turns. Notice where the first hook falls: at the darkest moment for the main character!

INSTRUMENTAL – transition and way for listener to catch up

Here it’s used to get to the second half of the “movie” or song.  It’s used as a transitional area for the main character.

Verse 5 & 6 – resolution begins through transformation.

Elements around the main character start to transition into their “after the gloaming” state.  The transition is symbolic of the character’s transformation as well.

Verse 7 & 8 – return “home” changed.

These verses move the main character through his own realization that his world is now different.  He’s transforming just as the world transforms. And while he may not know the specifics of the change, he knows it will happen.

So he begins, by getting back in the car and heading into the distance – or unknown. And then the second instance of the hook occurs, with a new perspective on the earlier line.

The hook transforms from the main character’s pain, to the unknown future self of the main character.

Pretty spectacular songwriting.


Why not “I” instead of “you”?


You’ve probably heard that first person is stronger.  But, in this case, if the song had been first person, would the main character really have told it this way?

Could they have made the connection between the change occurring between daylight and dark and themselves?

And if they had, would the song be as emotionally charged as it is?

You’re on the journey with the main character who doesn’t really know the answer to things. First person would likely take away most of the mystery of the song.

Rhyme pattern is denoted using in brackets [ ] – note how the third line links the two verses. Great use of a rhyme pattern to to connect 3 lines verses.

“Between The Daylight And The Dark” Lyrics

Well, the grasses are swaying, sun’s going down,   [A]
Music is playing, you’re weaving through town,     [A]
Pull into the driveway, toss it in park.          [B]

You stare out of the windshield, out into the world.     [C]
It was all for the love of a wayward girl.                        [C]
Who left you with a second place smile and a broken heart.    [B]

And the streetlights are starting to flicker to life,     [D]
They glow for a minute then they get bright           [D]
Fireflies light up, circle and spark.    [B]

There’s nothing really that you can do                        [E]
Put your hands in your pockets, try to get through    [E]
The distance between the daylight and the dark.    [B]


And the front porch flags lie themselves down.       [A]
Like forgotten soldiers, and old wedding gowns.     [A]
In closets unopened and graves without any marks.    [B]

As the night curtains lower behind the rooftops,     [F]
Shadows dance across the sidewalks,                     [F]
And ricochet off of the houses like pieces of art.    [B]

And your mind is reeling as the sky is changing     [G]
All you’re feeling and you’re re-arranging              [G]
The rest of your life like lines on an old sailors chart.    [B]

You climb back in, fire the ignition,                                  [H]
Put your hands on the wheel, head into the distance:     [H]
The distance between the daylight and the dark.    [B]


Songwriters: Mary Gauthier & Fred Eaglesmith
© Karen Schauben Publishing Administration



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