In early March, Ben Bedford, Colin Brooks and I went into the studio to record my newly finished song "Canaries". While I was in the days of having my foot elevated above my heart nearly around the clock, after having fallen through my ceiling on New Year's Day, my friend Colin Brooks and I decided to jam on one of my unfinished songs. With Colin's help, we worked on various arrangements and finished the song. I was so excited to take this newly finished song into the studio and record it.
I wrote this song after hearing about the tragic event - another school shooting - this time in Uvalde, TX. This is a small town that my dad worked in for 10 years as a social worker for a kidney dialysis clinic. My heart was so broken, and I felt a need to respond in some way, as I almost always feel in the wake of a tragedy. And something about the timing...I was packed up and headed out to my favorite music festival...about to see so many friends, most of whom are songwriters. I realized yet again that we have a beautiful role to play. Musicians tend to feel things so deeply, and be quite sensitive, which leads us to write songs that help awaken and alert others...even without having to say so explicitly. We carry issues in our hearts. We travel long distances to sing for people and share our songs and stories and art...and we keep talking, singing, hoping, and working for change. And I saw us all as the canaries in the coal mine, "crying out when things are wrong."
Between 1911 and 1986, caged canaries would be carried down into mine tunnels with coal miners in order to provide a warning call if dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide got to a toxic level. These gases would cause the birds to cry out and alert the miners to get out of the dangerous, fatal environment.
Throughout history, many songwriters, musicians and artists have risked everything to cry out and sound the warning bell. Some have even lost their lives. This song is sung in honor of all those who have been victims of gun violence. It is also sung for the working musicians who walk this road and cry out for justice and peace.
-- Vanessa Lively / Colin Brooks (2023)