“Every once in a while, songs do write themselves,” Josh Shilling told American Songwriter.
As many songwriters know, it’s a special moment when that magical type of song that Shilling is talking about comes along. For many writers, following inspiration when it strikes often leads to their most enduring and well-loved numbers. There’s something special about the spontaneity of writing in that setting that merits such organic and genuine results. For Shilling, his lucky “it wrote itself” moment came for his new single, “(Go to Hell) 2020,” which dropped on October 7.
“I was in my studio one morning back in the early part of the summer, waiting to start a writing session via Skype,” he said. “The write was at 10 a.m. and I sat down to gather ideas around 9 a.m. I had just gotten word that we were going to lose all of our summer tour dates and possibly the fall and winter as well. Basically, I’d suddenly lost all of my income with no end in sight. There were bills stacked high on the kitchen table, we had just postponed my uncle’s funeral due to COVID-19, we were all afraid and watching our phones and the news for updates and I said to myself out loud: ‘Wow, you can go to hell, 2020.’”
From there, Shilling — who is perhaps best known as the lead vocalist for the acclaimed folk-rock band, Mountain Heart — was so struck with inspiration that he wrote the entire tune before the 10 a.m. writing session had even begun. “The four verses were exactly what I was going through that morning,” he said. “Financial hardship, societal unrest, facing loss and grief, relationship stress and the anxiety from all of the unknowns regarding the virus. The chorus fell out like a continuous stream of consciousness. It wrote itself in minutes. I felt I had to finish the song because I knew it was honest and real. It felt like a gift, it appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t even realize how much I loved it until I listened back to the demo later on. I knew I had to record it for myself because it was so personal to me and my family.”
But, as Shilling is well-aware, “(Go to Hell) 2020” resonates far beyond just the personal experiences of him and his family. Rather, the song speaks to the wider struggles faced by Americans of all walks of life throughout this pandemic. In that regard, this song can serve as a beacon of hope. “Everyone on the planet was and is still struggling,” Shilling said. “I want people to take away the hopeful message in the chorus most of all, though. ‘I believe someday soon we’ll be free and this will be in the rearview.’ We have to believe that things will get better. They have to.”
Listen to “(Go to Hell) 2020” by Josh Shilling below: