Sarah Burke here from SiriusXM Canada.
I’m your host for Sunday Service. We gather every Sunday in the name of Americana Music, old and new, familiar and unknown. I’ll catch you up on new Americana releases from the founders of folk, introduce you to emerging roots artists, cover upcoming tours, celebrate milestones and anniversaries, and feature exclusive studio recordings. This weekend, we’re celebrating motherhood as the show falls on Mother’s day! So many artists draw inspiration from their parents, and I thought I’d dig into some of those lyrics & stories to celebrate.
Brandi Carlile – The Mother
Brandi Carlile is a mom of two with her wife. Before playing ‘The Mother’ off 2018’s By The Way, I Forgive You, on Austin City Limits back in fall 2019, she spoke about her eldest daughter:
“This is about my sweet Evangeline… and all the things she took from me…We have a rule where it’s like, if Mama’s working, it doesn’t matter what’s going on, she can come on stage and get a kiss.”
She also spoke about her early struggles in motherhood, as noted by Rolling Stone:
“I feel that it’s important to stand before you in the great state of Texas and tell you about my family and our right to exist in the world today…” she said, adding that motherhood was initially a struggle, “which blossomed into several months of shame.”
The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep / She filled my life with color, canceled plans, and trashed my car / but none of that was ever who we are.
Their second daughter is named Elijah.
Iron & Wine – Upward Over the Mountain
Kacey Musgraves – Mother
Kacey Musgraves says the most vulnerable song she wrote for Golden Hour is Mother, which poured out of her during an emotional acid trip, she admits. She said she had just received a message from her mother:
She’s like, ‘You’d be so proud of me, I’ve stopped biting my nails, I’ve let them grow out…The way she responded just wrecked me. She was like, ‘Ugly old hands, I can’t keep the East Texas dirt off of them.’ And I started thinking about my mom’s hands and the fact that she’s created all this beautiful art; she’s held me with these hands. You recognize your mom’s hands more than anyone’s, and mine even look like hers…
It’s interesting, I’m a super emotional person, but I am not always amazing at showing my emotions, so you hear that in the first part of the song:
Bursting with empathy / I’m feeling everything / The weight of the world on my shoulders / I hope my tears don’t freak you out / They’re just kind of coming out.”
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Hey Mama
If you watch the video that goes along with the track from 2018’s Tearing At The Seams, you’ll see old family footage of Nathaniel Rateliff and bassist Joseph Pope paying homage to their mothers. Pope told NPR:
You grow up within a family’s daily routines and are shaped by them. Nathaniel and I moved away, and we developed our separate lives. To see a day in the life of my mom, through her very eyes, is such an immense gift to me. The themes of thankfulness, loss, struggle and time that are deep within all of our relationships are on display here.
Johnny Cash – Call Your Mother
Jason Isbell – Children of Children
In a recent piece for Men’s Health, Jason Isbell praises the women in his life now that he’s a father:
My wife, Amanda, and I have a three-year-old daughter named Mercy Rose. The most important thing I’ve learned so far is this: You have to grow up as much as your kids do.
See, I knew how to be like the men who orbited me in Alabama in the ’70s, when there was still a well-defined line separating the work of a mother and that of a father. Moms did the majority of the cooking and cleaning, bathed the kids, and read them bedtime stories. Dads worked during the day and then taught their sons to throw a baseball, shoot a rifle, and catch a fish.
When I met Amanda, I literally didn’t have a pot to cook in. I was in my early 30s and drunk most of the time, and my kitchen cabinets were storage spots for power tools, spare throw pillows, and empty bottles.
Whether it was my mother, my first wife, Shonna, or the patient and unlucky women I dated before getting sober and beginning the path to true adulthood, a woman had almost always cooked my meals and cleaned up my messes.
Amanda wasn’t interested in this type of motherhood. Because she wasn’t interested in the kind of men I grew up around. She’s taught me that we’re both happiest when we’re each able to pursue our own plans and dreams. In our home, there are no “mom jobs” and “dad jobs.”
We alternate reading to Mercy before bedtime. If Amanda is working on a song (we’re both songwriters), I’ll make dinner. If the dishes are dirty, I’ll wash them. Whoever gets out of bed last makes the bed.
The hardest part for me was getting used to giving the baby a bath, not because she’s a girl but because I was so afraid of what could happen to her in a few inches of water with a pointy faucet sitting right at head level.
Eventually, though, I got used to bath time. Now my toddler hair-washing technique has become the standard in our home, and that is something I take a great deal of pride in.
Happy parents tend to have happy kids. And in order to be happy as a parent, I need to be happy with who I am as a man. I know Mercy loves me, and something tells me she always will. The strength of that love feels unconditional.
Our parents seem like gods when we’re little. This means that even my worst actions will likely be forgivable, perhaps even acceptable, in her eyes, and if she loves (or thinks she loves) the person who is taking her to the prom (I can picture him now driving up our driveway), then their worst actions will also be forgivable. Perhaps even welcome.
I want my daughter to expect kindness and loyalty from her future partner. I want her to demand an environment that is safe and encouraging. I want her voice to be heard and her opinions to be taken seriously.
I also want that guy who pulls up in our driveway to be the kind of guy who will someday wash the dishes, cook dinner, and give the baby a bath so his wife can chase whatever dreams she needs to chase to keep her heart full.
But before she finds that man, I have to show her what one looks like.
Esther Pennell – Mother Says
Merle Haggard – Mama Tried
Bruce Springsteen – The Wish
“The Wish” is an outtake from his 1987 project, Tunnel of Love. This song beautifully illustrates the appreciation Springsteen had for this mother and the guitar he got for Christmas that one year.
And if it’s a funny old world, mama, where a little boy’s wishes come true, well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you.