Artist: Susan Werner
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Song: “To Be There”
Album: Flyover Country
Release Date: September 27, 2020
In Their Words: “In the early months of this year I’d been writing a ‘country’ album, and when the pandemic hit I thought, ‘Well, we aren’t the first generation to face something like this, somebody must have written a plenty good song already.’ I went through the Carter Family and Louvin Brothers and Hazel Dickens catalogs and couldn’t find anything about a flu; black lung yes, influenza no. Having written a ‘gospel’ album in 2007, I remembered that one element of the best gospel music is hope, the anticipation of something better, whether on Earth or in Heaven. And in this moment, everybody on Earth is united in hope, hope that we arrive safely on the other side of this dark time to see and embrace our friends and family, to hold them close, and for the musically inclined among us, to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and hear them singing on either side of us. That was always Heaven itself to me; I don’t know that until this year I realized it.
“I grew up in a kind of magically musical singing family; my farming parents and all six kids, we’d spontaneously harmonize in the car on the way to church, to my grandparents’ farms for holidays. We had no idea other families did not do this, by the way. I was home in Iowa this February (yes, for the caucuses) and went with my folks to church — I’m an agnostic, honestly, I just go to see friends and family and to sing with them. To my left I heard my father, to my right, my mother. Who knew that something could arise that would take that, singing, away from us? Unthinkable. So I had to weave that into the lyrics of this ‘hymn.’ Heaven might have singing angels, but I know for a fact Earth does and I can’t wait to get back in the company of others in church or on stage or in the bar, it’s all good and it’s all the work of God.” — Susan Werner