I love sad songs. I've come to terms with this over the last couple of years, which is why I have been drawn to artists like Field Report, The Civil Wars, Johnny Cash, and now Hannah Connolly. When talking about the sadness of his songs at his recent concert here in Eau Claire, Field Report's Christopher Porterfield quoted Charles Schulz, saying, "Happiness is a sad song." Why is that? Why would we enjoy listening to lyrics about heartache and woe? Maybe sad songs are cathartic. Maybe they help us connect with our own pain, and somehow bring a sense of healing. I don't know. But, as I dove into Eau Claire native Hannah Connolly's recently released EP Flying, I could feel the sadness throughout and it drew me in once again.
Flying is only five songs, but they are packed with emotion. It is easy to tell that Connolly has experienced some serious heartbreak and, on this EP, she is not afraid to share it with us. Consider the pain in these words about a broken relationship in "Saving Grace":
Who'd ever know, who'd ever know
It'd take some saving grace
To tell the look of a liar on an actor's face
Dressed up in angel's clothes
You made me question everything that I know
Perhaps you can relate to those sentiments: the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under you when you learn that a loved one is not who you thought they were ... that they have deceived you ... and how such an experience can cause you to question everything else in your life. Most of the lyrical content of Flying centers on such themes. The melodies are sweet, just as the relationship(s) described likely once were, yet are tinged with sadness. The lyrics paint a picture of deep sorrow and longing:
So please come back, dear
I've never been so all alone
And that sweater that I've been wearing is losing
the smell of your cologne
And your heat
(from "Half Past Three")
Connolly's favorite song on the EP is Flying. She loves the harmonies in the chorus provided by T.J. Viele and Jesse Monson. But I appreciate that song for a different reason. While the EP has sorrow interwoven throughout, "Flying" offers an element of hope, of moving on, of overcoming the heartache and of really living once again. The verses are all about heartbreak. The chorus defiantly declares, despite her pain, she is "flying." She is determined to overcome the pain and thrive. It feels like releasing these five songs may be a part of that process for her.
I recently asked her what she is most excited about in regard to releasing Flying. It only makes sense that the release comes with a sense of relief. In her words, "I am just excited to be able to finally share these songs. Some of them were written so long ago, and I thought for a while that they would never see the light of day." She expressed that she is now ready to experiment with new sounds and new ways of writing songs. Musically, it makes sense that releasing Flying is a crossroads of sorts that frees her to move into new musical space. At the same time, I wonder if there is a part of her that is finding emotional closure through this release.
Whatever dynamics are in play there for Connolly, I can say that she has a gift in sharing her emotions through her songs, so much so that, for the engaged listener, she can help you feel those emotions with her.