Happy March! Despite the storms outside, we know that spring is around the corner. And we are especially excited for spring, because we have tickets in May to see BRANDI FREAKIN’ CARLILE! This woman a phenom, a powerhouse, and a musical hero to both of us. Her new album, By The Way, I Forgive You, has been topping the charts, and after we both listened to it (roughly a million times), it was easy to see why. Plus, it’s a perfect fit for our SpotiFriday playlist, so we’ve devoted this month’s list to her. Soak it in, friends!
1. Every Time I Hear That Song
“By the way I forgive you…after all, maybe I should thank you”
Forgiveness is a very powerful thing. It pre-supposes that the person being forgiven is acknowledging they did something wrong. Or maybe not and it’s an altruistic way of dealing with a seemingly unsolvable issue. I read in one of Brandi Carlile’s posts about this album that the person she wanted to forgive the most was the pastor at her church for not wanting to baptize her as a teen because she had a girlfriend. And the power in forgiveness is tremendous. She, with a loving, and clear conscious said it’s ok, and she may even have learned from that situation. Starting off the album with such beauty and strength sets the emotional journey perfectly. — D
2. The Joke
I don’t know quite how to be eloquent about this one. There is a lot to unpack. Let me start with the easy stuff.
I’m a sucker for strings. I really am. They are so emotive and almost human. They practically sing.
And I am a sucker for unexpected chord changes. The harmonic structure is virtually unchanged from the first verse into the chorus, UNTIL “I have been to the movies” and then we’re slapped with a brand new chord, something completely outside of our expectations. As a theory nerd, it blew my mind the first time I heard it.
I connected so much with the woman “carrying her baby on her back across the desert.” I think any mother can, to be honest. But I also connected with the “boy” in the first verse, even though his story is not my own. And maybe that’s part of the point, to connect with someone else’s story, to create an opportunity for empathy.
I’m not sure I have ever heard a song convey both hope and heartbreak so effortlessly. And that’s important, because so many hopeful songs unintentionally ignore the sadness and hard times of their audience. This one embraces it. — M
3. Hold Out Your Hand
The Johnny Cash song! Until the chorus, that is, when it becomes the coolest singalong. Although it holds on tightly (pun intended) to the country gospel-ness of the Man in Black. I cant wait to shout this from the seats of the Orpheum. — D
4. The Mother
“None of that was ever who we are.”
In the almost six years since my daughter was born, I have been asked an average of once a month if I have any songs about motherhood or if I would be writing one soon. I didn’t for a long time, because I struggled to write authentically about my experience. I came into motherhood with years of baggage that I hadn’t had time to unpack, a flood of emotions and fears. On top of that, I didn’t stop being a musician; nobody stops being themselves just because they become a parent. But finding a model of musician-mother I could look up to, whose life looked anything close to mine, who could show me that I wasn’t going to ruin everything one way or another just because I was trying to honor every piece of myself … that was challenging.
“I’ll never hit the big-time without you.”
“The Mother” is, hands down, the most relatable song about motherhood I have ever heard. It sums up everything I have felt in such a poignant way, how beautiful the whole thing is. And it still doesn’t ignore that sometimes, it does kind of suck. And these two ideas are existing together, occupying the same space all at once.
This song gives me hope. She gives me hope. — M
5. Whatever You Do
I’m fascinated by this song. I want to know the story. I want to see the whole picture. I’m almost certain that it’s the most beautiful break up song ever. And I love how the whole thing starts off so simply that you can hear the squeak of the guitar strings and gets more complex as the song goes on. — D
6. Fulton County Jane Doe
In case you’re wondering who this song is about, as I was, this is her. You can also read a little more about her here.
It is an innate human need to be valuable, to matter, to be seen. There is scarcely a greater gift we can give to another person than to really see them. Every one of us deserves to feel precious to someone else, even if it’s only for a little while.
I hope she felt loved, in spite of the way she died. Rest in peace, Jane. — M
I love how I got all the Gospel songs on the album. 🙂
What is a “Sugartooth?” I mean, when people have a sweet tooth, usually they are talking about the fact that a little pick-me-up every once in a while makes them feel better. It takes away that little bit of what’s bothering them – makes an awful day a little better.
I was talking to a friend of mine about this song and he said, “one of the things I find most interesting about the song (this friend has actually interviewed Brandi Carlile a few times and says the picture you have of her as awesome is actually incorrect – she’s better than that) is that the protagonist struggles with addiction while Carlile, a very religious person, struggles with there being ‘living proof that there was no God.'” Which is so fascinating to me, because I think this song is about someone suffering with confusion and depression. In my mind, the protagonist is searching the entire time that the songwriter(s) have known him, and every so often quiets the confusion and depression with whatever sweet makes him feel better. — D
8. Most of All
One of the things I find most interesting about this song is that her father taught her forgiveness and patience, and her mother taught her strength and to fight. This, however unintentional, is a challenge to traditional gender roles. I’ve heard many country songs about the value of parents, but I think it’s neat how the roles are reversed in this song. It’s not that they need to be reversed, but it is important to know that they can be. And of course, the biggest takeaway is still there: “Remember what comes back when you give away your love. Give away your love.” — M
9. Harder to Forgive
I, too, believe that all souls are born kind. And omg I struggle so much with the idea of this song. Forgetting wipes the slate clean. As if it never happened. But if something affected someone so much, it’s the forgiveness that’s the important step towards healing. I can think of more than one situation in my life (and I’m sure you can as well) in which this idea rings true. And how incredibly difficult it is to forgive. And even in asking us to forgive, and leading the way by example, Brandi Carlile shows once again what an amazing human being she is. — D
10. Party of One
One thing that caught my attention is that, while we’re in the key of C Major, it’s a long time before we actually hear that chord. That’s the one that feels the most resolved in this key, the most like home. Some of the moments I heard it in the first half of the song: “I saw you”; “I love you still”; “It ain’t ever gonna close”; “you’re already home”. I believe these are meant to be hints to the resolution of the song, where the singer ultimately decides that, despite the struggle, it’s worth it to stay. Because the point at which we finally feel that resolution and certainty about being in the key of C, about being home, is when the band comes in and she sings, “I am yours, I am yours, I am yours….”
Points at which I was wrecked while listening:
- The opening piano intro
- “Let it burn you to sleep”
- 1:16: “But I am tired. And I am yours.”
- “Constant overthinking and secretive drinking”. That is some boss internal rhyme right there.
- 2:11: “I am tired”, with that raw and dirty broken honesty in her voice that is Brandi Carlile’s specialty
- 2:48: When the strings come in (remember what I said about strings *bawls*)
- Every moment she sounds like she’s crying while she’s singing. Which is most of the song. And most of the time. *bawls more*
- When the band comes in
- The massive string section at the end *melts into puddle*
I think anyone who has been in a long-term relationship and found your way through the darkness and out the other side is feeling this song along with me. Absolutely gorgeous. — M
Good luck picking yourself up off the floor after that one, friends.
BTW, we’ll be doing a last-minute Concert Window concert TODAY, March 3rd, at 5 pm EST. Tune in without leaving your couch! Also, Mary has a concert at The Burren this Sunday, March 4th, at 7 pm with Florie Namir and Jocelyn Limmer. Tickets are going fast, and they’re way cheaper in advance, so buy them here and use code 24HOUR at checkout. See you around!