I wrote it, and it’s gruesome, but the events it is about were. I didn’t add or remove any truth. I wrote it because it happened. And I didn’t know if it made any sense at all to share it as a song, but I felt compelled to in order to humanise, to personalise, to bring to light the stories that are personal within the otherwise political or social. To cry out.
I get nervous before a lot of my shows anyway, and sometimes for the first few songs, until I get into the right ‘space’ I am still managing the adrenaline in me, which means a pounding heart and shaking legs, and I’ve been that way for long enough to know I just have to keep going until I’m comfortable. So, the other night, after some deep exhalations, I did one song, felt steady enough through it and went right into this song. I said, “I’m just going to get this over with now,” and my friend Suzanne who was in audience said she knew it was going to be an intense one.
I have never felt my body do what it did when I was singing it. It was so forceful I thought I would collapse when the song was through. My hands shook, my arms shook, my legs shook, my heart pounded, my body got hot, a hundred times more than any nervousness I have ever felt before on stage. I have learned that you can put 100% of the emotion of the lyrics into a performance, but that for my own survival as a constant performer, I don’t always do this. But with this song, there is no way not to. There is no way to sing it and not feel every single feeling that comes with it.
The song is the conflation of two true stories about terrorist attacks. The song is about the tragedy of it but also the trauma of witnessing. You can rationalise the statistical improbability of violence happening to you, and you certainly should, but there are too many people on this planet walking around with deep trauma, and as much as there is love and friendship and generosity and hospitality out there, there is, it seems to me, a growing dread and fear of more and more explosively violent events. It is right to try to manage this fear through reason. But it is also right, I think, to admit that it’s there.
I share this for all the victims of violence out there, with love and the understanding that you can analyse social and political ills all you want, but the human experience that is unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, goes far beyond these analyses.
May we do our best to overcome fear and choose compassion in as far-reaching a way as possible.