There were only two girls playing football at third grade recess, and I was one of them. I loved sports, and I was never into that "let's braid each other's hair" thing anyways. There was only one boy that wanted to throw the football to a girl, and his name was Billy. This is the same boy who became my close friend through the years, and the same young man who gave me my first kiss at the end of eighth grade. He is also the same guy I saw at a grocery store I worked in one winter after high school, hiding my face because I didn't want to be recognized. That was the last time I ever saw him.
That summer, I had received a call from my friend that Billy had been in an accident and was badly injured. I was very shaken up, but after daily follow-ups, I believed he was getting better. We both did. One week later, my friend called me at work and left a voicemail. I went into the bathroom to listen, and found out that he had passed. I tried to keep it together at work, but I couldn't even speak...I was choking on my tears. My manager sent me home, and when I got home I couldn't even talk to my parents. I didn't want to. I went on a long bike ride around my neighborhood, listening to the sounds of summer; the birds, the crickets, the light breeze, the wheels on the pavement. It was early August, and the sunset was the most perfect I'd seen.
The funny thing is, after that first kiss in eighth grade, I moved to a different town and lost touch with a lot of my childhood friends, including Billy. I may have seen him at a party or two, but I don't recall ever really speaking to him again. We may lose touch with people, but we don't lose the memories, and I had so many that I still cherish to this day.
After he passed, I would often check his Facebook page and read all the posts people wrote. I cried a lot when reading about the memories and the broken hearts of his closest friends and family, the fact that he was too young and that this was too close to home. I had so many dreams about him that I often woke up having to remind myself that he is no longer with us. The dreams were frequent, then as time went on they became occasional, and then they disappeared. Then one morning I woke up reminiscing about the most vividly adventurous dream I have ever had. Billy and I were sitting next to each other on a train, talking and laughing. The train was fast but serene, gliding through forests, rivers, and fields of flowers. I had to write about it. No, I had to sing about it. No, I had to write a song about it.
"The Flowers" is for anyone who has lost someone they loved. Though the idea of the song is sad, the inspiration came from a place of comfort, and I wanted to feel that in the music. The song is very emotional, but it provides a sense of hope that you can see loved ones you lost again if you just "go to sleep." When I wrote "The Flowers" I knew it was special and I knew I wanted to record it, but I wasn't sure if people who didn't know Billy would connect to the song. After releasing it, some of my friends said that it was the best song I've ever written.
I've recently been including it in my live shows, taking the advice of one of my friends to play it on the piano. At my first Sofar Sounds show, I included "The Flowers" in my set, performing in the middle of a Butterfly Pavilion. After the show, a woman came up to me teary-eyed and told me that between the lyrics of the song and the butterflies flying over us, she was deeply moved. I was so humbled by her comment, and honestly impressed that people were really listening to the words and feeling something. At another show not too long ago, a young woman came up to me and told me she loved the song, and that it made her cry. She told me she recently lost her mother, and as I write this I am trying to hold back tears! It is so amazing and wondrous to hear that a song I wrote moved someone, especially one as personal as this.
I had asked my very close friend if she could draw the cover art for "The Flowers." I had sent her the song along with the lyrics and some photos I found online so she had some idea of what I wanted. She ended up painting this beautiful image on a canvas, and took a photo of it for the cover. She was going to gift the painting to me, but just after the song came out, her cousin passed away. Her grandmother was so distraught over it that she gave the painting to her, and I thought that was really special.