Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Part of me thinks that a person can never get to a point where they're completely done for, where there's no hope for recovery or a bounce back. There have been too many circumstances where science and the shape of the human resiliency has been upheld and proven. Time and time again, we've been privy to these stories that confirm for us the proven theory that someone can walk again, that someone can see again, that someone can be found and especially that someone can indeed love again after having a heart ripped out of them. It's here where Nashvillian, by way of Chicago, singer and songwriter Daphne Willis would exasperatingly disagree with me and any evidence to the contrary. She would suggest that all is fine and well with everything that we might say or show her, but that there's no way the situations or the cases are equal. Recovery was possible there, but over here, no way - this person's a goner. This one's a tough break. It's a one in a million or one in a billion shot at every getting back to a point where the trust could be there, where the openness could be restored to allow such a thing to potentially happen again. Willis' view on love is not necessarily one of such depressing finality, but she'd argue that shit gets hard sometimes when everything goes south. The road back can be long.
Her song "One By One," from her latest album, "Because I Can," is a recovery song of sorts, where the protagonist is trying to pick herself up, trying to get back from the dead, as much of a struggle that is. There's nothing to say that it's going to happen, as Willis sings, "When you break, there's nothing else you can do." There's just a little defeat in there, but it could just be that it's to mean that no one's going to do it for her, if she allows herself to be torn apart so thoroughly. It becomes the destruction at the hands of the destructed. That's when it's the hardest. She's there though, putting it back together a night at a time, seeing if she can find all of the pieces that used to be there and that are needed to make her a whole object again. Willis' voice seems to be one that roots for this. She sounds strong and she sounds like she's been knocked down plenty times enough to know what all of it feels like a few dozen times over. She sings from experience and she's able to put those rays of cautious optimism in there that could make all of the difference in the end.