Chills ran down Kanene Donehey Pipkin’s spine as she heard the mostly peppy track bandmate Brian Elmquist was working on. It wasn’t so much the song’s melody that hit home for her, but the words he kept repeating: “Just Enough to Get By.” Pipkin, one part of the Brooklyn, NY-based indie-Americana trio The Lone Bellow, couldn’t help but think of her mother’s past traumatic experience, which she kept quiet for decades.
“All I could think of was my mom, and a couple other people in my life who’d had tragic things happen to them and kept them secret,” Pipkin tells American Songwriter of latest single “Just Enough to Get By,” off the band’s upcoming studio album Half Moon Light (Feb. 7). “I think it’s really a song about overcoming shame, and confronting the lengths we all go to avoid making people uncomfortable with our true, messy, unfiltered selves.”
When Pipkin’s mother was 19, she was raped, became pregnant, and was sent away to give birth. It’s something her mother never talked about for 40 years until Pipkin’s half-sister found them. “Just Enough to Get By” speaks from her mother’s perspective—the anger, sadness, and other complex emotions tied to the trauma of the experience, coming face-to-face with a daughter she had 40 years ago, and working through it all.
Pipkin, who has since met her half-sister many times, says her mother had to work through the trauma. “We all have experiences that could be better if we could talk about them, but we keep them hidden,” she says.
Produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner at his Long Pond Studio in Hudson Valley, NY, Half Moon Light is Lone Bellow’s fourth full-length album since 2017’s Walk Into a Storm. On Half Moon, Zach Williams, guitarist Elmquist, and multi instrumentalist Pipkin push through its stratosphere of acoustic-driven folk, revealing something prolifically sacred, their trinity of bluesy rock harmonies, lush instrumentation, and matter of fact lyrics in anthemic rockers like “Good Times” and some higher power on “Count on Me” or the more folky “Wonder.”
Percolating in a moody, blues motion, Pipkin’s sultry vocals lilt through the uplifting “Just Enough to Get By,” still keeping its definition intact through lyrics Mama had to get away / Just to spare herself some pain … If you feel sorry for yourself, just give it a rest / Forgive and forget / It all works out for the best.
Ultimately, “Just Enough to Get By” is more of a universal message that things can work out in the end, says Pipkin, who hopes the song helps anyone dealing with traumatic events cope, or begin to work through what happened to them. “I hope people hear it and find some solace, and maybe the courage to be honest about our pain and our stories,” she says. “I’ve found that’s where the healing happens, or at least where it can start.”