By The Way, I Forgive You is not an album about forgiveness in the easy sense—where someone has hurt you and then suddenly there’s a great reconciliation and a remorse-filled scene with two people running across the golden wheat field towards an embrace that somehow undoes a lifetime of pain and damage, as if the past has no meaning. It’s about radical acceptance (not to be confused with complacency) and unconditional love.
Whoever is reading this, your parents will die. You may have been hurt or loved by them, probably both. But can you forgive them for leaving in the end?
We are a powerful generation witnessing war and division like never before, yet somehow this is the safest time to be alive in human history. Can we love one another as ourselves? More importantly, can we love ourselves at all?
The songs alone aren’t universal messages, they are personal stories of our parents and childhood, our divorces, oppressive religion, the fact that marriage is hard and having children is fucking terrifying, even the sting of death. It is the story of forgiveness, that despite all this keeps us innocently climbing out of bed every morning open to love—big terrible trembling love.
I don’t love you because you’ve done what I think you should do with your life. I love you whatever you do, but I’ve got a life to live too.
And, by the way, I forgive you.
Working with Dave Cobb was a masterclass. It was permission to explore unbridled drama.
Of all the music I’ve made, no one has inspired me to scream and dance and cry like Dave Cobb. He’s a proper feminist and the father of a tough daughter. I’ll never be the same artist. It’s as if the twins and I were shown ourselves in color for the first time.
Dave is a real life fucking unicorn of a producer.
Shooter had me at The Never Ending Story. We are separated at birth.
I knew I wanted to work with Shooter the first time we discussed our hopes that our generation and peers would turn their heels on the dangers of disappearing down a path of “retromania”. Shooter knows that right now matters, that this moment is profound enough. We don’t need to pretend we’re hopping a train, or slinging coal, or fighting our way through the great depression to be seen as artists. What would Woody Guthrie say now? He’d probably look and sound a lot like Shooter Jennings.
I was 16 years old when I carefully peeled down the picture of Paul Buckmaster from the wall of the singlewide trailer I grew up in. I’d cut it out of The Tumbleweed Connection, which was my favorite Elton John album at the time, I was 12. Paul arranged the strings for almost all of Elton John’s music in the 70’s. On that particular day I had been invited by a producer friend of the family to watch Paul conduct a symphony at a small Seattle studio. He was brilliant, a true eccentric who handed me a guitar and cried while I sang “60 Years On”. He signed my picture and told me we would meet again down the road. He was telling the truth.
The Twins and I have been in a band for so long now. And not just a band, we are literally a family. We’ve been through it all together. Standing at the altar next to my sister and Phil while they got married, I looked at Tim and smiled, he was Phil’s best man and I was the maid of honor, and it occurred to us both at the same time how much further we’d taken true intimacy than most bands. They are who I have cast my lot with.
When you create art with twins, it becomes unclear when I end and where they begin. I feel the weight of it but the absurdity of a shared existence is lost on someone who shares even his face. This is our jumping-off point for creativity—total trust.
We have gone down a different road on this record because even as we were writing our most sacred poetry as individuals, it suddenly hit us that we were writing about the same life, the same family—the same story.
Song By Song
I’m writing this on behalf of myself and Tim and Phil Hanseroth with whom I share this poetry and these convictions.
Every Time I Hear That Song
Once upon a time a marriage ended in a hard fall from the heights of youth. The confusion and pain fading with the years into the only thing that heals anything.
“That’s twice you broke my heart now, the first was way back when. And to know you’re still unhappy, only makes it break again.”
What would Freddie say? “We are the champions of the world”. Anyone who has ever seen an adolescent boy tugging on his shirt, struggling to be accepted but most of all struggling to accept himself as he is. Anyone who feels the sting of hopelessness because we have daughters who are seen by much of the world as half human and incapable of leadership. Anyone who is told they are illegal, unworthy, unwelcome or unloved. We’ve already won. The Joke is on those in temporary power. Love has already conquered the world.
Hold Out Your Hand
Sometimes when the weight of the world feels too much, I want to dance with a redneck and shotgun a beer.
“Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind”... To some, this sounds like the realization of their most sacred dreams – true companionship. For some, this sacrifice is too much to bear and requires its own brand of radical forgiveness. For the most part and for me, it’s equal measures of both. I am not just a mother, but it’s all that I am.
Whatever You Do
This is about unconditional love balanced by rage. I hated learning this lesson but it’s the only kind of freedom that matters.
Fulton County Jane Doe
We come into life with nothing but a name. A father of a brand new little baby girl reads a news story one night while he’s alone on the road. The body of “Jane Doe” was found abandoned in a field with her head smashed in out in Fulton County, Georgia. We know she gave birth at some point, she was 30, and that she had “Jesus” tattooed on her hand. It’s not fair that she left this world in that way, but it’s unspeakable that she leaves without loved ones and without a name.
“Your mother called you something sweet once, it was more than Fulton County Jane.”
“What the hell are you going to do when the world has made its mind up about you?”
I’ll never forget having to tell my brothers that their childhood friend had taken his own life. There’s no dignity in death and there’s no escape in drugs. There’s no reconciliation in the final act, only peace and only forgiveness.
Most Of All
If your parents are still alive don’t forget to tell them that you love them and mean it. If your parents are not still alive, don’t forget to tell them you love them and mean it. They are your first love.
Harder To Forgive
“There are days when I will let the darkness rise, I don’t always choose to stay on the sunny side”.
I feel like sometimes choosing to forget gives us the space we need so that we can do the work of forgiveness. I think of it as the prequel to forgiveness. “The ones who believe choose the night”
Party Of One
“When you’re home, you’re already home”
If I can speak frankly and out of metaphor I only have one example of marriage to look to as an example—the one my parents have. For most of my life, marriage has not even been a legal right for people like me, so there’s so much I hadn’t considered, looking down the road of a lifetime of dating and unsanctioned partnerships.
Whoever you are, if you’re married, you’ve been asked this question – “does it feel different now?” The answer for me has been yes every time. Life tests me now and I know that I will stay. I don’t ask myself what it means for my devotion. When the roof falls in I know that it needs to be rebuilt with faithful hands. We are the generation to challenge domesticity and the marriage paradigm and it will challenge us right back.
“I am not my own”