“I was driving in upstate New York and there was bumper to bumper traffic on the other side of the highway,” Bridget Rian began. “Everyone was going so slow and when I got close enough, I tried to look over and see what happened… it turned out to be this large, fatal car accident.”
At the time, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter was staying with her mother and sister on the East Coast—having found her voice as a writer in high school, when she saw this tragic accident, she was in the middle of the song-collecting process for her debut release. While a sudden reminder of our mortality might not sound uber-conducive for getting a nice, creative headspace (and to that end, it wasn’t, at first), Rian prides herself as the type of writer who can forge brilliant reflections from the darkest of moments. “Like a lot of songwriters, I write songs to heal myself,” she explained.
Now, the fruits of Rian’s labor have been harvested—on July 16, she dropped her debut EP, Talking To Ghosts, which features “Pontiac Vibe,” the tune she wrote after that life-changing night on the upstate New York highway. Speaking to American Songwriter, she put herself back in that moment.
“A gas tanker had hit another vehicle,” she said. “I could see that the front seat of the car was covered with a sheet. Honestly, it hit me hard. I think we all create our own comfortable little worlds inside of our minds and this moment bulldozed right through and wrecked mine. I broke down right there, driving down the highway. I thought about how that could’ve been me. I began wondering where the person who passed away was going and the people they were on their way to meet… it just hit me how fragile life is.”
Rian began to unpack this experience with her mother and sister, who both have careers that deal with death on a daily basis. This helped her clear her mind a bit, but it wasn’t until months later when the experience began to resurface as a deeper opportunity for healing and growth.
“The song itself came about when I was alone in my room, trying to understand life,” Rian said. “I started thinking about how fleeting it is, and about the devastating car accident I had seen just a few months earlier. I thought about what it would be like to be that heavy-hearted first responder—like my mom was—who finds the bouquet of flowers on the front seat that the driver left behind… whose mind wanders and heart aches to know who they were meant for… and who has to go notify their loved ones that the person they love won’t be coming home. It made me think about how anything can happen at any minute. Therefore, I should live my life with a little more intention.”
Reaping an invaluable lesson from a moment of unthinkable loss, Rian was not only able to craft a touchingly beautiful song, but also was able to find a whole new appreciation for life… a testament to the power of music.
“I hope everyone who listens to ‘Pontiac Vibe’ comes away with a bigger appreciation for their loved ones and a desire to live in the moment,” she said. “It’s a clear reminder that we are all human and anything can happen to us at any moment. It also reminds us that we could easily be in someone else’s shoes. Being from New York, I find myself rushing around sometimes and getting really frustrated at any little delay. I started to realize that when I am stuck in traffic, it’s usually because someone else is having the worst day of their lives up the road. Once, I was at a doctor’s office and it was turning into a really long wait in the waiting room. I started to get frustrated until I walked into the hallway and there was a woman crying right outside of the door and a man holding her. I overheard them talking about how her cancer was back through her sobs. That type of thing will really put things in perspective pretty quickly and make you realize you should slow down and appreciate every moment. So, I hope that people hold their loved ones a little closer and appreciate the mundane in life after listening to this song.”
Bridget Rian’s debut EP Talking To Ghosts is out now—listen to the single “Pontiac Vibe” below: