Video Premiere: Jen Chapin, “Go Away”

Videos by American Songwriter

Here’s a new song from urban folk artist Jen Chapin, the daughter of legendary folksinger Harry Chapin. An activist and educator who the Jazz Times calls “a first-rate storyteller,” Chapin has performed onstage with Bruce Springsteen and opened for artists like Smokey Robinson and The Neville Brothers. Her new album, Reckoning, is due May 28. Watch the video for “Go Away,” and read Chapin’s essay about the song, which talks about her family with her bassist/husband Stephan Crump, below.

“Go Away” by Jen Chapin

I love when you go away
then I get to clean up the mess you made
stare through the streaks in the glass all day
here with the boredom I’ve begged for begged for

When my sister first heard this song, “Go Away,” she asked casually, “How does Stephan feel that you wrote that about him?” I let her know that it was actually not about my husband, but directed toward my then only son Maceo, 3 ½ years old at the time and in the full messy glory of toddlerhood — what I often refer to as “the adolescence of babyhood.”

For his part, Mr. Crump is actually happy with any ambiguity regarding the subject of the song and has no problem with anyone thinking he is the subject – he thinks that this, perhaps as any song, is more effective if I leave the meaning open. To let the listener speculate and make their own connection to whomever’s occasional absence they themselves may long for, invites them inside the song and the experience.

And it’s true that I do love it, to a point, when Stephan is on tour or off for the night at a late gig, and I am left with the house to myself, with the boys asleep or off at Grandma’s house. To carve out my own plan, to putter, to read..

I’m happy you get to play
I’m glad that I get to stay here with my fantasies
they might be small but ok
don’t want a thing but to finish my coffee

But more than yearning for solitary unstructured time, the song came from a place of reckoning with a new and unfamiliar side of myself, a side that would explode without warning in irrational reaction to the irrational tantrum of a 3 year old. He was 3. What was my excuse? I had always been pretty much patient and calm.

I love when you go away
my patience returns like a long-lost friend
the furies they fly out the window
their sovereignty at its end

I need you to go away
for a minute for an hour for a blessed day
pack up your mirror take that ugly woman away

That time has passed, Maceo is a cool and rational 7-year old, and now when my 2nd round of 3-year old volatility hits my blind spot in the form of his younger brother young Van, I am better equipped to take it in stride. Maybe to a fault – sometimes it seems I barely notice high decibel screaming or furious crying. That ugly side of me, the one that would roar and throw a book against the wall (a little floppy kids book, but still.. not proud) in an outburst of frustration at another overlong bedtime, has not been in evidence for many months. And the fact is that these boys are basically really good, and so darn cute.

But I still perform the song of course, because it was true enough once, and because it’s very fun to play.

Like so many things, the song also reminds me of my immense privilege, that I am blessed with enough material and emotional and familial resources as a mother to know that it’s basically going to be okay. That I am doing a pretty decent job and that they are flourishing. That the erratic but flexible worklife of a musician means I get to hold them close for enough hours in the day, that it’s alright for me to sometimes want them to just go away.

do I feel guilty?
not really
I watch your breath rise and fall in your sleep at night
each morning, I’m reeling from
any kiss, any touch, any smile, any kindnesses
you are willing to bestow

I love to take a walk unencumbered
I love to read and read and read and read
anything that’s in front of my face except you

polysyllabic words that you say
I say them back
we talk all the time
time flies it stops it goes in a circle
I look at my watch through each story time
some stories I love
I revel in rhyme
they fall off my lips
they drip down like wine
I’m drinking you in
I’m spitting you out
I’m trying to learn
what it’s all about

I’m trying to learn


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