Grace Pettis is a masterful songwriter with a tight grasp on the elements that make country music function smoothly. Her new single, “Landon,” released on New York’s MPress Records, is a beautiful and lyrically interesting “true story-song written as an unabashed apology from the artist to her gay best friend for not being there when he came out,” as the artist puts it.
The title, the rich layering of two country guitars and the first line (“From the day we met, I was never the same”) prepared me for a saccharine country love or heartbreak song. Even the title, a man’s name, evoked Dolly Parton’s “Joshua” or Big Thief’s recent reinterpretation of the trope in “Paul.” But the following lines playfully wreck this assumption from a listener. Pettis doesn’t sing about the quarterback or the bad boy but rather “You were the mascot at the football game/ Big brown eyes in a Wildcat suit/ Hugging your knees outside the classroom.” There’s a beautiful declaration of important friendship (something I wish there were always more songs about), followed by a sincere apology in which the singer takes responsibility for contributing to the hellish experience of her gay friend growing up in a conservative Christian environment.
It’s rare to hear a genuine apology so publicly. I was shaken by the line “I know I can’t make amends.” With the circling back to the opener “From the day we met, I was never the same,” this song is stirring and hard to forget. There’s a level of discomfort in the medium of song for these words to be delivered, something seemingly too intimate. The musical elements of this song are pleasant, nothing that sticks out beyond guitars with nice tone, which can make some sections a little boring. The song is definitely worth a listen, that’s what I’ll say.