A Unique Artist and Song Style Storyteller: Iron and Wine
My Explanation For Writing Another Indie Folk Hub
Here I am again. I didn’t want to write for a few days. I thought I would give my mind a much-needed break over the weekend, yet here I am again. I cannot shut down lately.
I’ve been listening to indie folk music these days; I think because the songs have so much meaning to their lyrics. Folk artists pull their songs out from their souls and sing them with just as much celestial ease. They sing the truth, they tell a story, and most of the time, the stories are relatable to the ones who listen. They display a poetry, and poetry is what I gravitate to in any aspect of an art form.
I’m here not to tell you about a few songs from the same artist this time, but one single song from an artist with tremendous talent in storytelling his songs. I found this song and became absolutely enthralled with the poetry of it. It read like a poem and told a most enchanting tale. It grabbed my attention from the first verse and captivated me to the very end. So much so, that I had to listen to it over and over. Another reason I listened to it repeatedly, was because, the song had so many layers. It had so many pieces of a puzzle to put together.
Like a poem, sometimes you have to interpret your own story through the words. This song is somewhat like that, but the thing about this one is; you may see a piece of your own life story in it. And even if it is through only one verse of the song, this song will take your story that you are thinking about, and it will make sense, until you come to another part of the song, and that part will take you on another journey through another part of your life, or just through a story you dream up in your head. I hope that makes sense? It makes sense to me, but I’m deep like that. Lol. I really do hope you get what I’m trying to explain when you listen to this lovely song.
A Brief Introduction of Sam Beam,Better known as Iron and Wine
The song I’m talking about is called “The Trapeze Swinger.” It is written and performed by Samuel Beam. Samuel is an American singer/songwriter who lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and five daughters. He started out as a professor of cinematography and film, but eventually would decide to pursue his love for music and released his first album “The Creek Drank the Cradle” in 2002 under his unique stage name; Iron and Wine.
Iron and Wine, as I shall call him, then went on to put out several more albums. The song I chose to write about here was actually a song he wrote for the movie, “In Good Company,” which hit theaters in 2004, the same year his album “Our Endless Numbered Days" stocked shelves. Even his album titles and song titles have a degree of difficulty when you try to figure out the meaning of them.
Like several Indie Folk artists, their music is often chosen to be featured on television programs as well as movies like I mentioned above. Iron and Wine’s songs have been heard on such television shows as; Grey’s Anatomy, and House M.D., and I cannot mention those popular television shows without mentioning a movie his song “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” was part of; this song was personally picked by one of the stars of The Twilight movie. Yep, Kristen Stewart herself picked this one to accompany her in the prom scene. The song also appears on the soundtrack.
Enough about the singer/songwriter, yes, he is an important part of this article, but I want to focus on the particular song I mentioned of his, “The Trapeze Swinger.” As I said earlier, there are all kinds of unlike ways to interpret the song. So, what I thought I would do to make a fun hub, is to describe the two ways I saw the story of this song going, after that, take a poll on if your interpretation of the song matched mine or maybe something totally different.
Start by listening to the song and next read my two versions, then vote on a version. I must warn you the first listen will probably confuse the hell out of you. It certainly had me in several different story forms. Even so, I did still identify with parts of this song really well.
What I Drew From My First Listen
I first felt this song started off telling a story of two young children. With Sam being the singer, I felt a male was the storyteller. The boy talked about childhood days and how they would do simple little things like play by the rose bushes and such. Then like a lot of children do, they grab this urge to run away together. However, these two little people got caught in the kitchen, with a map of a mountain range, and their piggy bank.
That first part for me, made my mind go straight back to when I was about five years old and living in Georgia. I had a best friend who lived beside me, and like most children in those days, all we did was play outside. One day, for whatever reason, me and my friend decided we would run away. I think I was angry at my father for something. (giggle). Anyway, we packed up a suitcase full of, wouldn’t you know it; books and stuffed animals. Long story short, I too got caught. It scared my daddy so bad he whipped my butt all the way home.
And that is how I related to the song from this childlike standpoint. This is what I think I felt the song was about; growing up with a childhood friend and the things you could get into at that age.
Then the male is singing; so please remember me fondly. After that, he says that someone, apparently a mutual acquaintance, said you were still pretty. So, the thoughts have changed, and I see a little boy and a little girl at the beginning being friends in this story. They have grown up, and now they have since separated.
Hold the phone…. Wait a minute here!!! The song then turns making a reference to the pearly gates, graffiti, and telling his mother not to worry. Confusion has just set in! Questions are now forming about this story and the characters. Nevertheless, let’s continue…
I’m thinking heaven is playing a part in this story at present. These two separated at some point, and one of them has died or something like that. He sings about angels rushing, which didn’t make a lot sense, but I continued to listen.
I’m at the Halloween part at this time, and this part made me change my whole view from the start of the story. Now, I feel this song, to me, is about friendship like I said before, but for me, it was young cousins who were close and always played together. Here’s the reason why it took me there.
The reference in this part sings; please remember me, at Halloween, making fools of all the neighbors, our faces painted white.
See, I had a cousin I was tremendously close to. He always stayed with us, and he was more like a brother at times than a cousin. He was a year older than me and a year younger than my sister. We were stepping stones and loved each other. We always stayed together and played with each other. There were several years when he, and I were young that he would decorate my grandmother’s yard up scary like on Halloween, then he would convince me to let him paint me up to be a frightening zombie or witch of some sort. I had long, flowing, black hair back in those days (laughing) so, I agreed, of course. The funny part about this is, he always painted my face white, and we would scare the neighborhood kids as they came up to trick or treat. I think in my last hub, I mentioned a cousin that died at age 14, this was him, so this part of the song touched me in that way.
Continuing on… still with the vision of me and my cousin playing the Halloween pranks, the song puts another turn into it for me when it sings; by midnight, we forgot about one another, and in the morning the storyteller was feeling ashamed. However, it was a silly thing to feel.
I didn’t feel a connection with this part to be honest. I felt they were ashamed of scaring neighborhood kids, but it was all silly and the song continues.
The season has left and returned, but now his friend is lit up like the city. Here, I am still interpreting one has gone to heaven.
I feel in this part; I have gone back to the girl. She must have passed away and now is radiating and looking down on her friend from heaven.
Throughout the song he continues to sing please remember me, and comes to the part as being rug burned babies and sleeping together among the fallen trees. This part makes me convert back to the beginning yet again, and we are still listening to a story of childhood friends; one boy, and one girl.
The singer is now making reference to lions and ladies who called you what you liked and gave something special for good behavior. Uh oh! So now what is this? That part doesn’t make sense when it comes to the girl being in heaven. Is he even talking about heaven now, or is he talking about himself getting pleasure from ladies for good behavior? Is this a promiscuous part of the song? I’m confused, but I still like it. It continues to have a bit of meaning for me and is really pretty, so I keep listening.
From this point on to the end of the song, I stay unsure of the whole meaning behind it, but I like the song, and I still try to make sense of the fact that he’s miserable, and the dogs love the rain, and they chase trains. That's an interesting part. Needless to say, I’m listening, and I’m lost for a good part of the song.
He is still singing the words, please remember me in several different aspects and continues on. I think I have found myself back in the song when the trapeze part comes in, and it seems he is thinking to the past again, remembering him and this girl as teenagers at the carnival watching the trapeze artists. They end up in the backseat of a car, and she becomes shy when he makes a move and puts his hands between her knees. She turns away and talks about how wonderful the trapeze act was.
They seem to be teenagers now, and she, I believe, has put an end to the relationship, and he is thinking back and feeling bad through this memory. I think he is singing about how he messed up a good friendship.
The pearly gates make an appearance in the song again, and how he is clawing his way to heaven. He says he will draw God and Lucifer, a boy and a girl. I believe he is saying he is in hell and trying to change his ways.
The Middle Point of Confusion
The song ends, and as you can tell the first time I listened to it, I was very, very, confused about the meaning and message. I really loved the sound of the song, and everything about it intrigued me. Therefore, I wanted to put it in a better perspective. I actually went to YouTube and looked up the film in which Sam wrote the song for. It somewhat fit with the song, but for me, it still didn't explain the song. Well, not the way I heard it anyway.
From my description of this initial listen, you can tell it was all over the place for me. If I’m honest, I even felt confused writing about my first experience listening to the song. So then, I listened another time and another, until I felt I had a better grasp to its meaning. I cleared my mind, and I listened with my eyes shut; another type of meditation I guess. I totally shut out everything else, but what I wanted to hear.
My Final Vision of The Song "The Trapeze Swinger"
Listening to this song a few times, and meditating on the lyrics, I think I eventually came up with a more vivid plot to the story and the song. Don’t worry, it will not be as long as my first listen and description of my thoughts. Whew, I know right!
The story plays out to me as two young children, boy and girl, that played with each other when they were little, and then actually grew up together; probably much like how Forrest Gump and Jenny’s story went, if you've ever seen the "Forrest Gump" movie, they were best friends through life. However, in this story, the guy is the bad one, and the girl is the good and pure one.
So, as they grow up, they care for each other deeply. They arrive in their teenage years where they go to a carnival together. Somehow they end up in the backseat of a car where the guy makes his first move on the girl. The girl is uncomfortable, and makes conversation to distract what is about to happen by talking about the trapeze act. Then, she is finally saved by people crowding out in the parking lot. However, that ruins a friendship for her, because she wasn’t ready for the advancement.
I believe he then loses touch with this girl, and from time to time, a mutual friend tells him how pretty she still is, and how angelic she has remained. His vision of her is like heaven. She is perfection to him, and he knows he messed up and hates himself for it. He would give anything to have her back in his life.
All through this song, he hopes she remembers him too, if one day they should meet up again. He considers himself awful, like a devil for doing what he did and pushing her away, so the part of clawing back up trying to get to heaven, is him trying to learn how to be the guy she deserves.
And there you have it; my final thoughts and vision to this song.
How about you...
Did you interpret this song in a similar way, or was your vision totally different than mine?
© 2016 Missy Smith