Inspiration Through Music: The Civil Wars

Ever have one of those moments where you come back to a musician that you heard about a while ago and chose to ignore (because you’d been an idiot at the time), only to discover that this band/musician is brilliant and extremely talented? That happened to me the other week. I had just watched “The Hunger Games” movie again and decided to have a peek at it’s soundtrack because some of the songs really touched me. In addition to the original score, I listened to the album “Songs from District 12 And Beyond” which includes the Taylor Swift ballad, “Safe and Sound” (also coincidentally featuring this week’s artist) and the soft beautiful, “Kingdom Come”. I’d heard of the Civil Wars before but had never listened to their stuff because I was honestly expecting something completely different. I am not as much a fan of alternative rock as one might think. I can handle it every now and again but it’s not my favorite. And for some reason, that’s what I thought these guys did. Boy, was I sorely mistaken! I practically berated myself for hours for not checking them out earlier.

The Civil Wars is an American singer-songwriter duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White who put together plaintive ballads and thought-provoking emotionally-charged pieces. The combination of their voices is especially heart-rending  in my favorite song of theirs “Falling”. The lyrics are also very fresh and pieced together so thoughtfully that they expertly tell a story while evoking emotion easily. I feel as though I can listen to their music and start a dozen other writing projects from each song. I kind of want to… But, must not get carried away. Today, I’ll be sharing 5 of their songs with you and showing you what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!

20 Years:  He’d been wandering down the same road for the last three days. Not once had he seen human life. He was beginning to think that it was true what the radio had said. He was beginning to think that the automatic broadcast was all there was left. That there were no others except for him to walk the Earth. That they had all succumb. The sun was high in the sky above him, a strangely picturesque and beautiful day. A day he had no one to share with. He kicked a pebble off the road, watching it tumble off into the grass. How much longer would he take this road? How much longer til he found a place to sit down and finally give in? He wasn’t sure. There was something oddly compelling about continuing this walk. If he didn’t, how was he to know for certain that there was no one left other than him? He had to keep moving, had to keep hoping that there wasn’t just silence everywhere. There was another human voice somewhere for him to find. Somewhere.

My Father’s Father: He stares out the window of the train as it rumbles down the tracks. It seems too slow and too fast at the same time. He doesn’t want to leave the place where he’s made his home. At the same time, he’s eager to see his brother, he’s afraid to see his father, and saddened to witness his mother’s funeral. The place where he grew up seemed to exist on another plane altogether in his head, a place that he had left far behind, an unhappy place. And suddenly, he found himself being slung back into it. He bites his lip as he thinks what could happen. How terribly could this entire mess go… (This inspires a very poignant scene in Book 4 of The Monstrum Chronicles).

Falling: Hands rubbing his face, he leans forward and stares toward the ground from his seat at the dining room table. He tries to cease all thought for those few minutes, allowing his fingers to rub his eyes, comb through his hair, and pass down to the back of his neck. But within moments, all of those thoughts come flying back like a bird returning to a nest. He can’t seem to get untangled from them and they only get thicker and more confusing with the more time that passes. He leans back in his seat and stares to the ceiling. What was he supposed to do? What was there left to say? This was the moment where he could choose to start over. This was also the moment that would be the hardest, the most painful. He took a few more breaths to try and steady himself, to try and ready himself for what he had to do. He stood and moved into the kitchen. His eyes caught on the bottle of bourbon peering at him from the cabinet. He couldn’t give in. He couldn’t allow himself that crutch. He had to tear his sights away from it as he poured himself a glass of water and downed it.

I Want You Back: It had been years since he’d seen that name written down. But there it was in the tiny curly handwriting up in the corner of the envelope, the rough texture of it feeling strange under his fingers. His own name, the one he rarely used, stared up at him in that same twisted handwriting; handwriting he’d missed. It made his heart ache thinking of how long it had been since he’d heard from her, made him ache to think about how they had parted from one another. What she’d done, how he’d taken it… and after he’d read the letter inside, there wasn’t one small fiber of him that wasn’t convinced she didn’t belong in his life. He had to see her. He needed to feel her in his arms again. He started for his car, his mind alive with the chance for acceptance, the chance for familiarity, and the chance for a close friendship like he’d used to have with her.

Kingdom Come: She crosses the field, pushing her tears and her memories into the back of her mind. She can’t afford to let them cripple her. This was the change. This was the way that things had to be now. He wasn’t following. He would never follow. And there was no time to slow down, no time to get tired. She had to be strong, she had to keep up that strength and push herself. She had witnessed many things over the last couple weeks. As long as she stayed in control, there was hope for survival. It was all a thought. Even though she pushed herself, she still felt the tears slide down her cheeks. She would be alone. There was no companionship from here on out.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be looking at the grand sweeping score for one of my favorite television shows, which I’ve been waiting for nearly a year to get back into. Thankfully, I was rewarded last week. The Downton Abbey Original Soundtrack will be next week. Stay tuned!



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