With “The Mirror,” Nashville-based singer-songwriter Laura Rabell shows how a song can initially seem like it’s about insecurity – but in the end, it’s really about strength and bravery. She premieres the track on July 15 here at American Songwriter, ahead of releasing her debut album, Immortal, on July 31.
“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with mirrors and wanted to write about that,” Rabell says. “I don’t usually like what I see in the mirror, and after spending the better part of last year battling breast cancer, including two surgeries and four rounds of chemo, that damn mirror watched as my hair fell out, eyebrows and eyelashes thinned, skin sallowed, and dark circles widened. I grew to hate that inescapable visual reminder of my insecurities – which reminded me a lot of being a teenager, looking in the mirror and asking, ‘Am I pretty enough? Am I good enough?’”
Starting with sparse acoustic guitar, “The Mirror” swells into a swaggering full-band declaration of defiance. Rabell recorded it at Howard’s Apartment Studio in East Nashville with axeman Dave Coleman producing, Jeff Thorneycroft on bass and singing harmonies, and Pete Pulkrabek on drums.
“When I wrote this song with Russ Lacasse, we decided that the mirror needed a good punch, right in the face,” Rabell continues. “But as he pointed out, a cracked mirror only stares back at you with 1,000 more of the same face. At the end of the day, you can’t run from yourself or your insecurities. So I think this song actually preaches empowerment. It’s okay to be you. It’s okay to be different. Smash the mirror.”
Rabell says that writing “The Mirror” has helped her become more tolerant towards herself as far as her songwriting goes, as well: “My brain is very ADD and bounces around from one topic to the next pretty violently. Instead of fighting that tendency, I think my best work comes when I follow it. Sometimes the rabbit hole leads nowhere. But in keeping with the self-compassionate theme of “The Mirror,” I’ve started trying to embrace and appreciate what’s unique about the way my mind works, instead of always trying to change it or wishing things were different.”
And, Rabell adds, she also hopes hearing “The Mirror” will help other people be kinder to themselves, as well. “Sometimes life gets you down. But that doesn’t mean you need to be fixed. Maybe you’re okay just the way you are. I think the mirror can also represent the reflection and weight of other people’s judgement and expectations. I hope people walk away after hearing this song and feel empowered to be themselves.” Revealing her own vulnerabilities is, for Rabell, the best way to share her strength with others: “Personal stories have real power,” she says. “I believe songs can change the world for good.”To help empower others even more, Rabell is working on starting a nonprofit organization in Nashville called Femme Noir Music (www.femmenoirmusic.com) to fight for greater equality in music and create opportunities for female and non-binary artists and songwriters.
Photo Credit: Daniel Coston