Songwriting, Trust Company

Digging Deep – A Conversation With Chester About Songwriting

Kevin Palmer - November 10, 2017

I was on my way to Atlanta when I first heard the news of Chester’s passing. A text came in from my longtime friend and bandmate, Jason. As I read his message, a sinking feeling washed over me like a wave of sadness. Numbness.

Another text from my friend Josh followed…and then another…and then another. It’s a day I’ll never forget.

Although I only met Chester one time (in Atlanta, as a matter of fact) I always felt more connected to him than a lot of other songwriters because both of our debut and sophomore albums were produced by Don Gilmore.

When we got signed and started working with Don on our first record, Linkin Park had just gone Platinum and everyone was talking about them. It was a really unique time to be in the studio with the same Producer who produced Hybrid Theory.

(Me and the band in the studio with Don Gilmore, John Ewing Jr. and Joey Paradise – 2002)

Like Chester, I spent many, many hours in the studio with Don. We talked about life, about other bands he had produced, and we spent an enormous amount of time writing lyrics, re-writing lyrics and sometimes re-writing lyrics again. Many times, Don would just sit and listen to me talk about what I was going through or feeling, so that he could push me to dig deeper, so that I could put it onto paper.

Those chunks of times were literally some of the most challenging of my life. Don used to say, “You have to go through Hell before you can get to Heaven”. And because we didn’t always agree on everything, it did get pretty heated at times. But in the end, I’m so grateful that he pressured me to keep making the lyrics better. I still have all of the pages and pages of lyric ideas that I worked on, complete with Don’s notes scribbled off to the side.

Because Don had worked closely with Chester in the same way, I always wondered if he felt the way I did during the writing process with Don.

Fast forward a few years, and I finally had an opportunity to meet him. It was after a Linkin Park show in Atlanta. Both of our bands were managed by the same management company (The Firm), who gave us passes to see the show and meet the guys backstage.

The show was incredible and the entire band was beyond kind to us. And because we had so many things in common at that time, it made for a really easy and conversational hang.

I got to spend some one-on-one time chatting with Chester, and as we talked, our conversation eventually led to songwriting and our experiences in the studio with Don Gilmore. We talked about how we both got to points where we thought we couldn’t write one more lyric without losing our minds, but then Don would push us to go deeper and sure enough, the song would get better.

That night in Atlanta, Chester also shared with me that while they were writing the Hybrid Theory record, Don kept pushing him to re-write some of the lyrics to a song that hadn’t been titled yet. But Chester said that he felt like he was at the end of his rope with that particular song, and he was so frustrated from the fatigue of re-writing it so many times. That’s when he sat down and wrote these lyrics:

I cannot take this anymore
I’m saying everything I’ve said before
All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear, the less you’ll say
But you’ll find that out anyway
Just like before

Everything you say to me
Takes me one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break
I need a little room to breathe
‘Cause I’m one step closer to the edge
And I’m about to break

The song was eventually titled One Step Closer, and it was released as the first single on the album Hybrid Theory- which went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide.


And although writing the lyrics for our debut albums proved to be one of the most challenging experiences of our lives, I think Chester and I both wanted to write and record our second records with Don because of the way he pushed and pulled. We knew it wouldn’t just be about good guitar tones, or the perfect harmony, or a killer bridge. We knew he would want to get the very best out of us lyrically, too.

I still can’t believe he’s gone, but I’m grateful that his gift and legacy can live on.

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  • Justin Hicks

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was fortunate enough to see Chester perform once (in Atlanta) and I’ll never forget it. Keep the posts coming!

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for the comment, Justin!

  • Ignacio Saavedra

    Nice memories.

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for reading, Ignacio!

  • Layla Palmer

    I’ll never forget that night in Atlanta either, babe. Reading this post made me tear up thinking about it. You, Don and Chester will always be connected in such a meaningful way, and I’ll be moved by it every time the songs you made are played.

    • Kevin Palmer


  • Donna Lackey

    Was SO saddened to hear of Chester’s death. Both my Husband and I have always loved his / Lincoln parks music. Hope they find a way through their grief to keep the music going . I know you feel blessed to have known him ! Just so sad for his fans, friends and family .

    • Kevin Palmer

      So incredibly sad. It really has affected me in a powerful way. The whole band was beyond kind and Chester took the time to speak to all of us. He had such a positive energy to him. Prayers for his family and everyone affected by his passing.

  • Funearl `

    Thanks for the blog. interesting read. You guys are one of the best bands i have ever heard both the vocals and instrumentals have so much emotion in them yet feel so epic not many bands can get such a thing right. So many bands have cringy lyrics here or some lines out of rhythm but you guys are on point the music feels so polished.
    Can’t wait for your upcoming album, any chance for a linkin park cover ?

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words! We’re looking forward to putting out some new music. I’d love to cover a Linkin Park song, maybe on acoustic. Take care!

  • Cody Hinkley

    You guys both came out with amazing albums and even better shows. I saw you with a band called Streamline about 9 years in Massachusetts and it was phenomenal! Looking forward to more music and more blogs!

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thank you, Cody! I appreciate the kind words bro!

  • Eric McCullough

    Great article Kevin. I was overseas when I heard of Chester’s passing and it hit me hard; it’s difficult for me to believe that he’s gone. Thanks for giving us a look into the songwriting process and your connection with Chester.

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for the comment, Eric! The news of his passing hit me hard too. I was in Atlanta speaking at a conference on Internet and Facebook Marketing, and I was just not myself the whole weekend. I was having a hard time concentrating because I just felt to heavy and drained. It’s remarkable the impact that someone you barely know can have on you. He touched a lot of lives for sure.

  • Bryan Johnson

    Faint and Stronger have always gotten me through my tougher times. The raw emotion empowers me through whatever I’m going through. The coolest thing about music is that the work lives on after death and hopefully future generations will appreciate it as much as I do now.

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for the kind words, Bryan! One of the things that I love most about recording is just knowing that the recordings will outlive me. It pushes me to not settle and to really try to make the songs great.

  • |Antonio| Y2J_SAVE.US

    I’m not a big Linkin Park’s fan, but man, I respect everything he did for music and the way he bleed on stage.
    When I heard the news about his death, I talked to myself why would he do this and damn, I started to read some of his lyrics (as you see, I don’t speak english fluently, but that is not the case) and that pushed me hard ’cause for a second I could feel this pain.
    And wow, I found out TRUST*CO on 2014 and then I couldn’t stop listening ’cause it was like you guys talking to me about the hard times in life, and now I can feel a connection between you and Chester on songwriting.
    It is deep and beautiful at the same time.

    Wishing the best from you.

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thank you, Antonio! I believe that every songwriters dream is to create a connection with the listener. I was definitely dealing with some bad things in my life when I wrote the lyrics to ‘The Lonely Position Of Neutral’. My hope was that someone could connect to the songs and not feel alone in whatever they were going through. Music is a conduit to the soul. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      • |Antonio| Y2J_SAVE.US

        No my dear friend, I have to thank you for everything you’ve indirectly did for me!

        And as always, keep rockin’ Kev!

        • Kevin Palmer

          You got it man!

  • Travis Blair

    I was never a huge Linkin Park fan, but I did think Chester had a very powerful, unique voice. I get the appeal. Linkin Park, at first glance, was never a band I would think would have such powerful lyrics, but it goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Thanks for sharing the story. I especially liked the part about being pushed beyond what you thought you could do and how a single producer can really do some amazing things.

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks for the comment, Travis! I never really understood how much value a producer can add to a record. The challenge for a young band is being open to letting someone else come in and make suggestions about your songs. Early on as musicians, we think that we’re so close to our songs that we don’t want anyone to touch them, or mess them up. But I’ve learned that most of the time the songs can and will get better if you work with someone who is talented and understands what you’re going for. I wouldn’t trust just anyone, but working with the right people can make all the difference in the world. We fought it at first, but once we trusted that he wasn’t trying to “change” us, but trying to “get the best out of us” everything changed “for” us. I hope that made sense. 🙂

      • Travis Blair

        It totally does. I used to be a member of a writing workshop. You get so close to your work, it’s hard to let anyone recommend changes and new ideas. As writers, you think to yourself, “It’s my story! I know what’s best!”, but like you said, once you get someone you can trust to offer constructive criticism, you really start to grow. I always think of it as, “I can’t see the whole world or know everything, so having others offer some of that vision can make my stuff better.” It’s a very humbling experience putting your life and writing out there for others.

  • Tim Mullender

    Hybrid Theory, Reanimation, Meteora, Collision Course. How could you top that for your first 4 releases? Honestly, they didn’t do much for me after that, but I still gave every album a chance, enjoyed some tracks, and respected them for trying to grow, even at the risk of it appearing more like they were abandoning their roots. That being said, they are still one of my favorite bands and when I heard Chester died, it was like a punch to my soul. I liked Cornell, but even Soundgarden was slightly before my time. Losing Chester was like losing an old friend from high school or something.

    Thanks for sharing. Seems like yesterday I went to see Puddle of Mudd in Cleveland and was like, “who are these 2 unknown opening bands? 30 Seconds to Mars and TRUSTcompany?” haha! You guys are still one of my favorites and I’m looking forward to 2018!

    • Kevin Palmer

      Thanks, Tim! The news of Chester’s passing hit me very hard too. I still remember the Cleveland show back in the day. That was our vert first big tour and we were so excited to have the opportunity to play. Glad you came out and I appreciate you sticking with us!

  • ChrisMurphyHub

    Thank you for sharing this story.
    I love that both of you were challenged to improve your songwriting, and what memorable moments and messages were created as a result of your efforts. Both you and Chester’s lyrics have such profound statements in such a small space, and that economy of words speaks volumes. Thanks for working so hard to create art that allowed the message to be told without over-explaining.
    I always thought both bands had a great way of hitting an emotional balance without sounding preachy. I guess it makes sense, now, to know that you both were not only writing from life, but were being challenged by Don to tell the story in the best way possible.
    I loved those early 41 Down recordings, but can see how all the (in studio) blood, sweat and tears made the Trust Company albums that much sharper. Well done.

  • Lisa Walters

    I love how much he “touched you” and mostly that you always have that moment to hang on to! I do not know anything about music other than how much I LOVE to listen to it, the way it makes you feel, happy, maybe sad, brave, and all the above!!! It is interesting to me to learn and actually think about how very much goes into just the writing of the song! We turn on the radio and just crank it up because it makes us feel good!! This article for sure makes me think about how much all of you artist ( AND you ARE all artist…hands down) have to put so much time, work, and passion to make it happen, and thats not even singing it yet:) Thank so much, and congrats on your very first blog post, I truly enjoyed!!!

    • Kevin Palmer

      Hey, Lisa! Thanks for the comment and the kind words! A lot does go into writing, recording and performing an album, but it’s a total labor of love. We would spend around 14 hours a day, 6 days a week in the studio and I seriously couldn’t wait to wake up the next day and go back into the studio. There’s something magical about hearing the songs that you’ve working on for so long start to come to life!

  • Cory Turner

    Thanks Kevin, I’ll be following.

    If ever a cd has had the laser wear right through it, Lonely Position would be the one for me.

    The performance of the album at the Rock and Roll HOF, available anywhere besides YouTube?

  • Christina Traylor Geiger

    I’ve got to be honest. Chester was in my top 5 of favorite performers. I have a few of his pictures as my screensaver and sometimes I walk into my office and see his picture and my heart stops for a moment because it still takes my mind a few seconds to register that he is no longer with us. That’s when a tear comes to my eyes, like I knew Chester personally. I didn’t however he knew ME through his music. How I wish he’d reached out for help. This was a fantastic choice for your blog debut. Like my copy of Lonely Position of Neutral I wore out Hybrid Theory. Man, I believe I may be on my 3rd copy of each. The words resonated. Deep. They still do. I close my eyes and I’m transported back to that magical time when the music spoke for me. I’m back at the Gravity Games where my daughter and I met some pretty fantastic people. RIP Dave Mirra, another kind soul lost to depression. I can’t express how happy I am that you have chosen this journey and more so, are sharing it with us. Thanks Kevin. Until next time. Peace.

  • Chad

    It’s interesting to hear about your process. Through the years I’ve listened to TLPON and each time have felt differently and related differently to the lyrics. I don’t know how you do it, being vague enough while being on point. Whatever you’re doing keep doing it because it was just as good with Dreaming in Black and White. Whenever you decide to swing back through town I’ll be there, running to go get everyone Wendy’s or whatever it is I do