Crys Matthews is one of the most exciting things to happen to local music recently. She was the grand prize winner for this year’s New Song contest, performing at Lincoln Center in NYC, won several MASC awards, and recently performed at the Sundance Film Festival. And she’s been winning the hearts of listeners locally and regionally. We asked Crys if she would be willing to share the story behind one of her songs with SAW members: “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers” has been very good to me this past year, so I thought it would be nice to share a bit of the story behind it.
It was inspired by six very specific muses — my mom, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Rita Mae Brown, Julia Ward Howe, and Eva Cassidy (via Curtis Mayfield.)
After the outcome of the 2016 election, I was floored. I am an out, black, lesbian woman living in the south. I was terrified, which made me angry. My mom reminded me that she has seen many presidents come and go in her lifetime and is still standing. Love and faith guide her and that, she reminded me, should guide me.
"An army of lovers shall not fail" is a Rita Mae Brown quote that has come to mean a great deal to me. It's really just an amazingly beautiful sentiment that doesn't really need much context beyond that.
"When they go low, we go high" — as was famously spoken by former First Lady Michelle Obama — was my mantra going in to 2017 and will be something I will try every day to embody during the next four years.
Nelson Mandela very eloquently said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The meaning of the 1965 song “People Get Ready” (written by Curtis Mayfield) was amplified by the climate in America during the civil rights movement. Eva Cassidy's cover of it has always resonated with me.
And last, but not least, which leads me to the title of the song... Julia Ward Howe is the woman who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (aka “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”). Later she was a suffragette. She wrote, "let us live to make men free".
I thought if these few principles could guide our government and our citizens we might all make it to 2020 in one piece (and maybe even in peace). And so, out of those ideas, “Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers” was born.
Visit Crys’s website and see her at the Pearl Street Warehouse on March 10.