Artist: Joe Henry
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina; Rochester, Michigan
Song: “Kitchen Door”
Album: All the Eye Can See
Release Date: January 27, 2023
In Their Words: “I very rarely know where a song comes from, or what it’s ‘about’ in the real time of writing it; and I am sincere when I tell you that I have no desire to know — as I never want to find myself anticipating direction, or trying to steer the discovery that is a song’s hallmark and most potent offering. Additionally, I will confess here that even when I do know, I’m not likely to be forthcoming about it when asked; because I don’t want a listener either to be making assumptions about the experience that a song so uniquely shepherds. Best always for practitioners and receivers alike to plunge headfirst into a song’s water and let it swallow you whole, with all mystery intact.
“Having said that, I’d feel disingenuous right now — having been asked directly about this particular song — to feign ignorance; for in this unique case, I can readily trace its point of origin, and identify its beating heart …
“My beloved mother passed away, suddenly and with no warning, on the last day of May, 2020, at the home she shared with our father in Shelby, NC. Owing to those early and confusing days of the Covid lockdown — and my own status of being somewhat immune compromised — I was initially unable to travel from my home in Los Angeles to join my grieving dad and siblings. It took three weeks, in fact, for me to find my way safely there to stand with them.
(Read more from Joe Henry below the video player.)
“I’d assumed to feel my mother’s spirit still occupying the house, as my brothers and sister had reported they’d sensed; but as it turned out, once there — and though her handiwork is evident in every corner of that old farm house — I could not divine her presence; felt certain that wherever it is that people go upon departure … she’d flown there.
“As I lay alone and awake in one of my old bunk-beds in the converted attic that first night — weary, and very heavy of heart — I heard myself ask toward the ceiling,
“‘Where are you?’
“ — and knew even as those words escaped me that she was and remains all around and within me.
“The song that followed a day or two after returning home picked up on that very thread. And though the first two verses may strike a more abstracted tone, it is the final one that speaks for me personally as I have rarely allowed a song to. And my willingness to let it stand says less about my evolution as a songwriter, and more about my dedication to letting, as always, a song speak its piece and have its way.” — Joe Henry
Photo Credit: David McClister