Song Meanings from Songwriters

Welcome to UnmaskUs, the site where songwriters explain their song meanings.

Featured Song Meaning: Gillian Welch – Everything Is Free

“I remember exactly where I was and what was going on. It was when Napster was starting to decimate the traditional recording industry dynamic, the viability of making your livelihood [from] your art. I had read some piece of news that had to do with Napster — that was the catalyst. I don’t want to pin it down and say the song was about Napster, it wasn’t. It’s about feeling like my personal creative independence was threatened. What I realized over the course of writing the song was that the power I retained was the threat of withholding. I hate those people who get on their high horse and say, “Art is pure. Do it anyway.” Of course I’m going to do it anyway, you jackass. But I’m not going to do it outside of my house. This is what I do. It’s what I’ve done since I was seven years old. But from the time I was seven until I was 18, I only performed my songs in my bedroom. It was only once I realized that I was going to have to get a job that I started to do it professionally. There were a number of songs I can remember crying while working on them, and that was the case with this one. I really thought that we were going through enough of a sea change that I felt inconsolable. I was like, “I can’t believe it. I got to this point. I’m a professional musician, and now I’m not going to be.” I really felt that threatened.”

Gillian Welch (1302)

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