For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've asked musicians to capture life in the era of COVID-19 by writing an original song that describes this turbulent moment. For our next entry, Nashville-based soul singer Devon Gilfillian examines how the pandemic created space for a national dialogue on race with his new song, "Cracks in the Ceiling," which he wrote after a difficult conversation with a close friend.
"All of the songs that I love that I have written come out of conversations [where] I sit down with somebody and we talk for an hour, three hours — our hearts are connected, our minds are connected," Devon Gilfillian says. "And if all those things come together, you will find an amazing song."
The musician says that his new song "Cracks in the Ceiling" came from one such situation: Gilfillian, who's not a fan of the president, sat down to talk with a friend who had voted for Donald Trump.
"I saw light bulbs go off in many moments talking about my understanding of Black history in this country," Gilfillian recalls. "He told me about his Christian upbringing and watching The Dukes of Hazzard and not knowing that the Confederate flag was a racist symbol until recently."
"Those conversations are scary," he continues. "You feel like you might walk away without a friend."
Together they came to a middle ground, but Gilfillian was still thinking about that conversation days later when he did a songwriting session with Natalie Closner Schepman and Allison and Meegan Closner — three sisters who make up the Portland, Ore.-based band Joseph and provide back-up vocals on "Cracks in the Ceiling."
NPR's David Greene spoke to Devon Gilfillian about piecing together the lyrics to "Cracks in the Ceiling" while chatting with the members of Joseph about civil rights, how he hopes the world has stopped for a reason and about seizing the moment to address systemic racism with open conversations. Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
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