Four Chords and The Truth
Each time I close my eyes and picture my 40 year old self, the same image pops into my head. I am sitting in a weathered chair on the back porch of my humble old home overlooking the sun rise over the rolling Appalachians. There’s a warm coffee mug in my hand, dogs snoozing at my feet. I sit in solitude, maybe next to my husband or near my child. I sit in a meditative state, smelling homemade granola baking in the oven, feeling the chilly mountain morning air on my lips, hearing birds sing, winds shake the leaves, and a song. It’s the faint sound of a gentle acoustic strum and an emotive voice with a story to tell coming through my speakers. I tap my feet to the tempo of the strumming, I nod my head to the lyrics, I hum along to the sweet melody. The landscape is made perfect by the soundtrack behind it. My 40 year old self has everything she’s ever wanted: a roof over her head, a family, a back porch with a view, and music.
Folk music has followed me for years now. Old folk, new folk, indie folk. Bob Dylan is my comrade, Fleet Foxes wrote my anthem, Willie Nelson can bring a tear to my eyes. I have a varied taste in music, and I seek out new sounds, new styles, new artists, but my home will always be with folk.
May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Sometimes I dream about becoming a folk singer. I picture it when I sing along to a song. I’m sitting on a small stage at a small venue with a small crowd of people sitting at tables, drinking their beers, maybe a whisky here and there. I’ve got a guitar in my hand. I’m strumming the chords I chose, singing the words that are on my heart. I am watching the faces of the crowd as each listener decides what the lyrics mean. I’ll see a woman nod or a man close his eyes as he listens to my confessions, and I’ll feel their pain or their joy and they’ll feel mine.
I am sure folk singers, in those moments, feel more connected to the world than anyone. I think that’s part of the appeal. Folk singers value simplicity. They usually pick four chords to play. They write words we can understand. They speak the truth. No complexity, no grand allusions. Just pure thoughts, raw emotions.
Look around you
Look down the bar from you
The lonely faces that you see
Are you sure that this is where you want to be?
Some of my fondest memories from my time in college have taken place on the porch of my apartment. There I would spend hours alone or with my closest friends sipping on IPAs and listening to folk. Cut off t-shirts and blue jeans, trucker hats and a love of all things wild, our friends were as moved by the melodies as we were. We’d comment on the mix, the lyrics, the sounds, and we’d talk about life, about loves lost and found, and how beautiful the night was. There’d be moments where we didn’t speak at all, just reveled in our gratitude for each other and the music and the night. I found solace in these moments with the people I love most, and the sounds I love most ringing in my ears. Folk is about community, it’s about friendship, it’s about love.
After some thinking I think I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me.
– Fleet Foxes
When I imagine my 40 year old self, I imagine a woman who never lost touch with her love of music. She still sits on her back porch with her friends, drinking IPAs and laughing. She still revels in the sounds sailing through her ears. She still cries when Willie Nelson sings to her through her speakers. She’ll teach her kids to find solace in song, she’ll teach them to express themselves through lyrics and melodies. There’s something about her music, that makes her feel whole, it makes her feel connected to the earth, to the world around her. All she needs is four chords and the truth.
Piece by Emily Allen, at Georgia Southern University. Emily may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes comments, feedback and suggestions on her work!