The Meaning of Trey Anastasio’s “Lonely Trip”

“Lonely Trip” by Trey Anastasio is the title track of the Phish guitarist’s 2020 solo album. Being one of the newer songs introduced to the Phish catalogue, it is a lesser-known song but it became a personal favorite of mine after seeing them perform it at Madison Square Garden on 12/29/22.

Penned by Trey in collaboration with Tom Marshall and Scott Herman, “Lonely Trip” is a lyrical, introspective song about loneliness and friendship. The lyrics discuss how we all go through this life by ourselves, on our own ship, and as we pass by others, we hope to find like-minded people to meet and spend time with.

While not a song that Phish takes into the ether, “Lonely Trip” often comes out of an intense jam into a moment of clarity and relief from the intensity of the preceding parts of the show, often giving it a powerful impact within the set list (such as on 12/29/22).

“Lonely Trip” Lyrics Meaning

Let’s take a look at the lyrics to “Lonely Trip” and see what they’re all about.

Starting with the first verse:

When I see through the deception
And the river’s flowing free
You may understand the reason why I’m drifting out to sea
And you may control the currents
As I drift in search of land
You may understand the reason when the water turns to sand

First verse to “Lonely Trip” by Trey Anastasio.

Trey is essentially saying that when he boils down life to its most basic essence, the free-flowing image of the river, everything begins to make more sense. Reminds me of “Brokedown Palace” by the Grateful Dead, using the image of the river as a metaphor for life.

He sings of a higher power, controlling the currents, meaning that he may not be fully in control of the course of his ship (life). Still, he searches for land, or a sense of grounding.

At the edge of the ocean and the land, the reason for living becomes even more clear.

The chorus comes next:

So while you’re on this lonely trip
Keep a watch for other ships
And if by chance our vessels pass
While you’re on this lonely trip
Keep a watch for other ships
And if by chance our vessels pass
Perhaps we’ll finally meet at last

Chorus to “Lonely Trip” by Trey Anastasio.

This is a gentle encouragement to look out for other people as you travel along your life’s unique path. Finding camaraderie and friendship along the way, by treating others with kindness and respect, becomes a sense of purpose in life, the lyrics seem to propose.

Next up is the second verse:

When doors are all closed tightly
With words the only keys
You may understand the reason why I’m floating on the breeze
When I hear your voice responding
When no questions have begun
You may understand the reasons why I’m flying to the sun

Second verse to “Lonely Trip” by Trey Anastasio.

When you struggle to find direction and the right words to say, you may find yourself lost and adrift. Then, you hear a voice in the distance, a fellow traveler who shares your troubles.

He hears this voice, feels this connection, even without putting any questions out into the world for the voice to respond to. This is a representation of the serendipitous nature of life, and how sometimes people come into your life at just the right time.

Those people, your friends, seem to have an innate understanding of your journey, as they are on a parallel journey themselves. Using the sun as a guide.

The song closes with a dual repetition of the chorus, giving us ample time to contemplate our existence and appreciate the people standing by our sides through it all.

Listen to the studio version of “Lonely Trip” below, and see an audience video featuring the version from 12/29/22 below that.

Trey Anastasio – “Lonely Trip” (2020)

Phish – “Lonely Trip” (Live 12/29/22)

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