I’ve written about the music of the Tufa novels many times, from many different perspectives. The songs quoted in the text tend to be classic public domain folk songs, or songs written by musicians who have given me permission to use them. I have on occasion written lyrics myself (most extensively in Wisp of a Thing), but I make no claim to be a songwriter. And in Gather Her Round, for the first time I had an original song written specifically for the novel by Jen Cass and Eric Janetsky (a.k.a. the Lucky Nows): “Against the Black,” which will be available on their forthcoming debut album. But here, I want to talk about the song “Sadieville,” which inspired the title for The Fairies of Sadieville.*
All the Tufa novel titles come from the songs of Jennifer Goree, which you can read about here. But in all those books, I’ve never used an actual song by Jennifer. The Fairies of Sadieville remedies that, quoting the song “Sadieville,” from her second album Don’t Be a Stranger, as a recurring motif.
Not that I’ve deliberately avoided using her songs; it’s just that the prior novels really had no place for them that didn’t seem forced, or arch, or even twee. The cool kids call it a “Title Drop.” But “Sadieville,” and its place in The Fairies of Sadieville, is different.
First, the song itself is a haunting, tender, and mournful ballad, which perfectly suits the novel’s tone. It captures the ache of loss with beautiful simplicity. If you didn’t know it was a recent, original song, you might truly believe it came over with the original Scotch-Irish settlers. Listen for yourself:
Second, there was simply no other song that would fit, and had Jennifer turned down its use (thank you again!), I would’ve had to start over from scratch with a completely different story. The song is this novel’s soul, in effect a mantra tying together varied threads of history. I mentioned its beautiful simplicity above, and that’s true; but achieving that is almost never simple, and it demonstrates Jennifer’s amazing songwriting.
I’ve often called Jennifer “the Tufa muse,” and it’s not an exaggeration. Her music was there as I first developed the ideas, and her kindness in letting me use her song titles for my novels is, for me, like a blessing on the whole process. Without her, I don’t know what I would’ve titled The Hum and the Shiver; I do know that Wisp of a Thing would’ve had the much more unwieldy title Ballad of the Forever Girl.
And without her song “Sadieville,” The Fairies of Sadieville would not even exist.
Currently Jennifer performs with her group Thermonuclear Rodeo in and around Clemson, SC. Keep up with her on Facebook here.
*originally the book, like the song, was just called Sadieville. My editor, quite sensibly, pointed out that since there’s a real town in Kentucky called that, casual readers might think it’s about that place, or maybe a travel guide. Hence the more explicit title.