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Entertainment Weekly

Music

Folk singer Mary Gauthier premieres startling song honoring veterans, 'Bullet Holes in the Sky'

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Over the last 12 years, folk singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier has emerged as a unique talent, capable of painting an entire universe of emotions within the constraints of her three-minute tracks. Such ability lends itself well to her latest act of ambition: On Jan. 26, she’ll debut Rifles & Rosary Beads, an 11-track LP she co-wrote with U.S. veterans via the non-profit SongwritingWith:Soldiers. (Gauthier has been a partner of the organization for over four years.)

As we approach veterans day, EW is thrilled to share “Bullet Holes in the Sky,” a startling account that Gauthier penned with Navy veteran Jamie Trent who served in Desert Storm. “We tried to tell the story of a veteran, sitting in a booth at the Waffle House, watching the Veterans Day Parade roll by,” Gauthier tells EW of the song’s origin. “The feelings deep inside that veteran are complex, difficult to express. There’s pride in being of service. Faith in God. Patriotism. Sorrow, for those who were lost. And the feeling of being sadly resigned to the fact that these wars never end, they just keep coming.”

Along with Gauthier’s penmanship, what’s most striking about the cut is the level of emotional complexity conveyed. If you’re looking for a neat and tidy ending, stop. “As we wrote the song, it took on a life of its own,” she admits. “Songs often do that. The process becomes more like capturing something fragile that already exists than making something up from nothing. As this soldier started to come to life for us, we knew what he was feeling. And we tried to express that ambivalence through this veteran’s reflections. We tried to make a little movie of what was stewing deep inside that veteran’s heart and memory at the time.” 

Laura Partain

The entire album process has proved revelatory for Gauthier, she says: “What has moved me the most is the process of witnessing a world I had no knowledge of before working on songs with women and men who have served. I did not know that if a member of a family serves, the whole family serves. I did not know that the spouses of our service members carry such a heavy load.”

She continues: “I did not know that the wounds of war are often invisible. I did not know how much I’d love these veterans, and feel protective of them, like family. I did not know that there is a civilian-military divide, and the divide allows stereotypes about military members and veterans to persist. Getting to know these amazing human beings had made my life richer, and I am forever changed by our interactions. They continually show me what true service really looks like, and it humbles me.”

“Bullet Holes in the Sky” is streaming above. All of Gauthier’s announced tour dates are listed below. Rifles & Rosary Beads, which will, in part, support SongwritingWith:Soldiers, is currently available for pre-order.

11/30/17: Nashville, TN at The Bluebird Cafe
1/12-1/14/18: South Walton, FL at 30A Songwriters Festival
2/7/18: NYC, NY at City Vineyard at Pier 26
2/8/18: NYC, NY at City Vineyard at Pier 26
2/9/18: Boston, MA at City Winery
2/10/18: Vienna, VA at Jammin Java
2/23/18: Franklin, TN at Franklin Theatre
3/8/18: Chicago, IL at Old Town School of Folk Music: Szold Hall
3/9/18: Columbus, OH at Columbus Performing Arts Center
3/12/18: Pittsburgh, PA at Club Cafe
3/18/18: Seattle, WA at The Triple Door
3/19/18: Portland, OR at The White Eagle Tavern
3/21/18: Berkeley, CA at Freight and Salvage
3/22/18: Santa Cruz, CA at Don Quixotes
3/23/18: Santa Monica, CA at McCabe’s Guitar Shop
3/24/18: National City, CA at Sweetwater Auditorium
4/20/18: Marblehead, MA at Me & Thee Coffeehouse
4/21/18: Hastings on Hudson, NY at Common Ground Coffeehouse
4/27/18: Hartford, CT at Meeting House Presents
4/28/18: Portsmouth, RI at Common Fence Point Community Hall

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