For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
Washington, DC-based storyteller/songwriter Lauren Calve will release her new EP, Wildfire on June 23rd. Her music, born from insatiable curiosity and grounded in the sounds of blues and Americana, paints vivid sonic portraits that tackle often-avoided and complex topics like corporate greed, climate crisis, gun violence, women’s’ issues, and even the precarious nature of online dating. Calve wrote “Better Angels,” a track from Wildfire in a surge of hope and optimism, one which beautifully applies to the COVID-19 crisis. She shared her thoughts on “Better Angels” and optimism in the time of Corona:
“I’m not an optimistic person. I never have been. I’ve always thought it the more pragmatic choice to expect the worst than to hope for the best. However, pessimism coupled with the daily deluge of bad news while my frumpy sweat suit-wearing body intermittently dead-stares out the window has changed me. It’s not that now I’m an optimist; I’m just desperate for optimism. The creation of the ‘Better Angels’ lyric video came from that desperation, and as it turns out, the optimism was easy to find.
I wrote ‘Better Angels’ the day I heard a radio interview with Jon Meacham. He cited Lincoln’s inaugural address on the eve of the Civil War as inspiration for a book he wrote. Lincoln, during the most divisive time in our nation’s history, was optimistic. His hope in humanity’s inherent goodness, or as he called it ‘the better angels of our nature,’ would unite the country once again. Meacham used this metaphor to show how in the unprecedented crises of any era, Americans always rose to the occasion. As I listened, I felt newly optimistic and later wrote ‘Better Angels’; it became the anthem for my newfound hope.
Once the pandemic hit, my original idea for an accompanying music video was dashed. As I sat isolated at home, it became apparent that Lincoln’s ‘better angels’ were personified in those who were still working, in my own neighborhood — my mechanic, the convenience and grocery store clerks, my pharmacist, my mailman and UPS driver, the Chief of Police who was handing out toilet paper. So I started taking pictures of them to feature in a lyric video. Within a week, all the subjects were wearing masks and gloves, a change reflecting the severity of the virus spread. Everyone I talked to, though, was business as usual as they greeted me with a smile as they filled my prescription, stocked shelves, worked on a car engine, and delivered packages. At that point, the lyric video came together in a matter of days. It centered around the photos of my real-life ‘better angels’ with a heavenly aura animation inspired by the cover art illustration. And the bridge featured my newborn nephew whose birth in a New Jersey hospital coincided while I was working on the lyric video. It was no coincidence; it tied everything together with a perfect symbol of hope.
I once heard that you can’t live five seconds without hope. Hope keeps us going, it keeps us alive. And, it reminds us of humanity’s best qualities. Now I’ve realized optimism isn’t a choice, it’s who we are.