An unfortunate accident proved to be serendipitous. Indie-rock singer-songwriter Kelly Hoppenjans broke her arm during a roller skating birthday party, and when her mother rushed to her side, she was immediately struck by her mother’s unflinching heart. With “Mother Song,” premiering on American Songwriter today, Hoppenjans not only honors her mother but explores the cyclical nature of motherhood itself.
“Oh mother, I have a fever / Can you feed me my medicine? / Can you make me better?” Hoppenjans sings, almost as a lullaby. “Oh mother, seems I got broken / It happened all of a sudden / And I can’t put myself back together.”
The song’s staggering fragility bakes into Hoppenjan’s careful vocal approach, as much as the lilting ebb and flow of the production. She continues on: “When you were young, you looked just like me / People always say you look just like me / Oh, when you were young, were you just like me?”
The accompanying visual, edited by Seth Graves, contains home video (recorded by Ray Hoppenjans) and present-day footage (filmed by PJ Schenkel) of Hoppenjans delivering a soft-spoken, haunting vocal performance.
Reflecting on her accident, Hoppenjans recalls, “I shattered part of my humerus and needed surgery to repair it. My mom came and stayed with me for almost two weeks and took care of me ─ drove me to my surgery, cooked my meals, helped me wash my hair, and did everything that was much harder to do with one arm than with two for me while I worked on healing.”
“Mother Song” was written in secret during that time frame, Hoppenjans taking a wonderfully passionate snapshot up-close. “Once I was able to play again, I sent her a video of the song to thank her for everything she’s done and continues to do for me,” she says.
Hoppenjans had already been mulling over the meaning of motherhood at the time. “Some of my friends are becoming mothers, and I see how much they depend on their own mothers and other mothers around them as they’re stepping into that role,” she explains. “My mom’s mom died a few months before she had me, and I always knew that as a kid, but I didn’t understand until I became an adult how incredibly difficult that must have been for my mom to become a first-time mother shortly after losing her own.”
She adds, “She says the other women in her life stepped up and helped her, but she still missed her mom, of course. I’m just so in awe of her strength and wanted to honor it with a song.”
On the second verse, Hoppenjans utilizes her mother’s real life story as the emotional punch. “Tell me, oh mother / I know you lost your mother / When you were right around my age / How did you go on without her?” she asks such pointed questions to underscore the weight of motherhood. “Did you do it for your daughter / To make me better? / All for your daughter / To make me better.”
“Mother Song” arrives just in time for this year’s Mother’s Day (May 10) and follows Hoppenjans’ 2019 studio album, Ok, I Feel Better Now (produced by Brandy Zdan).
Watch the “Mother Song” video below.
Photo Credit: Samatha Zaruba