Credit Lauren Calve for finding inspiration from hallowed happenstance.
“Better Angels,” the lead-off song on the Northern Virginia-based singer/songwriter’s upcoming new EP, Wildlife, was inspired by the words shared by Abraham Lincoln while delivering his first inaugural address on the eve of the American Civil War.
Adapted as a message that resonates in the wake of the current pandemic crisis, the song came about after Calve heard a radio interview that found author Jon Meacham talking about that remarkable speech and how it inspired his book, The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels.
“Meacham applied Lincoln’s message of ‘the better angels of our nature’ to the courage of the American people who dealt with the unprecedented crises of their era,’” Calve explains. “As I listened to this, immigrants were being contained, families were being separated, children were held in cages without beds, blankets, or food. Talk about a defining moment in American history and the ‘battle for our better angels.’ Lincoln’s words still held a powerful resonance, and they gave me a deep hope that I hadn’t felt in years. ‘Better Angels’ came from that surge of hope and optimism. It was a reminder that we would always rise to the occasion, no matter what.”
A storyteller herself, Calve has had a life flush with challenges all her own. A former English teacher in South Korea, a wrangler on a dude ranch in Wyoming, and a design patent examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, she’s suffered from anxiety, stage fright and OCD while obsessing over her own flaws and imperfections, especially when it comes to shaping her songs.
“I wrestle with them, think deeply about them; sometimes it takes years to complete them,” she admits. “Even though I bring all that into the writing process, songwriting has helped me open up. It’s given me so much confidence.”
Indeed, Calve can consider herself accomplished. She first picked up the guitar at age 15, inspired by family gatherings and the sound of blues and authentic Americana. Her first two efforts, a 2014 EP titled Between the Creek and the Tracks and its 2018 follow-up, the tellingly titled Light Dark EP, established her penchant for storytelling, tapping into tradition and still finding innovative avenues to express her compelling yet contemplative songs. Not surprisingly then, all of the material on Wildlife conveys a sense of passion and purpose, themes that reflect a need for persistence, determination, and holding on, even when threatened by obstacles and adversity.
“I want people to know that my songs are a genuine reflection of me,” Calve explains. “My dad always says of my brothers and me that ‘what you see is what you get,’ My songwriting is no different.”
Photo: Shane Gardner