Check under the house, you’ll find the fuse.

It’s in the air you’ll find the spark.
I’m not afraid of the sun,
I am not afraid of you.

I have visions of when we were married.
I have visions of hospitals at night.
I seek forgiveness for having asked too much of love.

And I’ve got a few things to say to the one who broke your heart.
It’s one more for the road, cuz Tuesday’s finally gone like a hurricane.

I have fallen down the stairs.
I have covered up my scars.
I have been haunted by a ghost whose name I do not know.

It’s like drowning in the dark and fading into black.
There are those who hold on
I am willing to be saved.

Watch the music video here.

Note from Emily Rodgers: I love this video by Tess Kramer because it takes a song about metaphorical destruction and presents it through the lens of physical/literal destruction by showing vintage footage of the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Interview with Emily Rodgers

When asked to contribute to this issue of The Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing, I was eager to participate; I have in reality found this project, particularly articulating the details of my songwriting process, to be unexpectedly difficult. I have studied creative nonfiction at the graduate level, and even taught it at a variety of local universities. Something about writing memoir, however, is grueling for me. There is a vulnerability inherent in writing autobiographical prose that terrifies me. When writing songs, the vulnerability exists but the medium offers a privacy that I need. When crafting songs, often I think of what I "really" mean--what I would say if I was looking to create a piece of prose--and substitute a metaphor. The vulnerability, then, lies in the performance. I know what I "really" mean when I sing my lyrics, and I use that to create a compelling performance.

In general, I do not like "story songs," songs that contain little mystery and are essentially short stories, often about someone else. I engage solely in autobiographical songwriting, but I don't present anecdotes. In terms of my process, it's simple. I keep a journal and write down lines that come to me, most often while reading or listening to music. I then come up with a chord progression and put the words to music. Often, these lyrics have come to me over a period of days, even months, but it is rare that I find myself departing from the order in which I've originally jotted them down. A songwriting colleague once compared my process to the "cut up" technique, popularized by William S. Burroughs. In this approach, an author takes a piece of linear prose and dismantles it, literally "cutting" it up and rearranging the text into something new. I see the same parallel as, in my work, I tend not to manipulate the order of my lyrics.

The lyrics for "Hurricane" were written during the summer of 2006, while I was living in Goshen, IN. My brother had recently taken his own life and I had not long after attempted to do the same. This song is open-ended enough to be meaningful to different listeners in different ways, but when I sing, "I have been haunted by a ghost whose name I do not know," I am singing about depression. When I sing, "I have visions of hospitals at night," I am singing about a stay in a mental hospital. When I sing, "I have fallen down the stairs and I have covered up my scars," I am singing about alcoholism and self-harm. When I sing, "It's like drowning in the dark and fading into black," I am describing the sensation of succumbing to an intentional overdose.

In an interview about my most recent record, Kramer, who produced the album and who was once named Rolling Stone's Producer of the Year, said, "Music isn't so much something Emily's 'making' as something she 'IS'…She's a songwriter in the classic sense of the term. She's not doing this to become famous, or even to be heard. She's doing it because she HAS to write songs." It has taken me some time to accept that this overwhelmingly generous appraisal of both me and my work conveys a fundamental truth about my process. As I write, there is very little authorial intent. I don't know what an audience will make of the pieces I create and in many ways it doesn't matter. I have experimented with so many artistic mediums, and songwriting is the one that fits. Writing and performing is a necessary release for me; I write music because I have to.

How did you get into song-writing?

I began by covering the work of other artists. I still believe that interpreting the work of another artist is an art, but it took me years to finally figure out how to create original work.

Who are some of your biggest influences and sources of inspiration, musically and otherwise?

I am generally more inspired by prose, both fiction and memoir. I am always reading a book, even when I am in the midst of teaching college level English and have little time to do so. There are few musicians who truly move me, but I do take inspiration from those who do. I can still list musicians Nick Cave, Nina Nastasia, Great Lake Swimmers and PJ Harvey as artists who consistently inspire me. I also look to the early works of musicians Cat Power and Iron and Wine.

What, if anything, from your Mennonite heritage influences your work?

I love to harmonize. I have performed on a few records on which I was able to do so. If nothing else, growing up in the Mennonite church has caused me to be consistently underwhelmed by musicians who are touted only for their "gorgeous harmonies." During the first hymn of the first Mennonite wedding I took my husband to, he turned to me and said, "Were these people practicing in the basement before the ceremony?!"

If you collaborate with others, tell us a bit about that:

I have a full band, which includes my husband. Although I have been writing songs for eleven years, I seldom, if ever, have a vision for how I'd like to arrange my songs. I've been fortunate to have consistently worked with immensely talented musicians who are both capable of and willing to create their own parts. For example, I don't write my violin player's parts. Each musician in the band comes up with his or her own parts, most often organically as we play a new piece over and over until it comes together.

About the Author

Emily Rodgers

Emily Rodgersis a singer-songwriter and a native of Elkhart, Indiana. She grew up as a member of Southside Fellowship and is a graduate of Goshen College, where she majored in English. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is signed to Misra Records. Her most recent album (Bright Day) was produced by Kramer, who was named Rolling Stone's Producer of the Year in 1994 for his work on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Rodgers holds an M.A. in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University and teaches composition, literature and creative writing at a variety of universities in Pittsburgh.