The Verve Pipe, 'Overboard', Co-Written by Jeff Daniels: Exclusive Song Premiere
Photo: Benjamin Weatherston

"I just helped him focus it a little bit," says the actor of working with frontman Brian Vander Ark

The Verve Pipe is back with its first proper rock album in 13 years, “Overboard,” due out June 17. Listen to the title track, co-written by acclaimed actor Jeff Daniels below. 

On the new song, the Grand Rapids, MI, band leads listeners along a dark tale with gentle instrumentation and a narrative that that grows troubling. Singer and songwriter Brian Vander Ark explains the track started as a love story about a girl swimming in “lovely” Lake Superior and then turned more somber. 

“‘There's a girl in Michigan, up in Lake Superior,’” he says, reciting the start of the song’s chorus. “The puzzle as a songwriter was: Why do we care? After weeks of trying to figure that out, I realized that we would care if she were dead.”

Listen to “Overboard” here:

Vander Ark reached out to his friend Daniels with the beginning idea of the song, a chorus and a verse, and he says the actor sent back his own completed version, along with a 2,000-word short story. “I always thought this would make a great play,” Vander Ark adds. 

"When Brian sent it to me, the song was already well on its way, I just helped him focus it a little bit,” says Daniels. “He's always been a strong songwriter, but he seems to be more and more interested in being a writer who writes songs. That's harder than trying to write towards some corporate idea of what a good song should be. By staying true to himself, he's writing things only he sees, only he hears, and only he can write. The hope is that the listener will identify with the characters in his story-put-to-music as people they might know, recognize, and imagine as real. If they do, like any well told story, the song works. ‘Overboard’ is a good example of that kind of writing.”

The response has been great, says Vander Ark, “It never failed, for the first few times playing the song in Michigan cities, that people would gleefully scream when they heard that first line of the chorus, 'There's a girl in Michigan, up in Lake Superior.' By the time the second chorus came around, those gleeful screams soon turned to confused murmurs. That's when I knew they were paying attention to the story.”

The Verve Pipe Mulling First Rock Record in a Decade

Following the band’s breakout 1996 debut, “Villains,” and the chart-topping single "The Freshmen”, The Verve Pipe carried on with years of touring and recording with the LPs “The Verve Pipe” in 1999 and “Underneath” in 2001 following. After an eight year hiatus, the group was asked to submit an original song for a children’s music compilation, sparking two inspired records — “A Family Album” in 2009 and “Are We There Yet” in 2013 — dabbling in that realm and rocking festivals’ kids tents. Vander Ark says the “Overboard” album was an attempt to get his bandmates to write songs for the group as well that yielded impressive results. 

”Lou [Musa] and I worked together on ‘Here In The Dark’, the most 'rock' of all the tunes,” he says. “Randy Sly came in and played ‘Ain't Too Hard To Live Without Love’ and I just loved it the way it was. Same for Joel [Ferguson]’s ‘Don't Say It's Over,’ which is the sleeper hit on the album. I wish I would've written that chorus."