Mike Rosenberg is a British singer-songwriter and indie pop/folk/rock singer, who records under the moniker of Passenger. He was the founder, main vocalist and songwriter of the four-piece folk rock band of the same name that were based in Brighton, England and released just one album. They opened up for several high-profile indie acts throughout the UK, including Kate Nash and the Hold Steady, but in 2009 the members of the band chose to go their own separate ways. Rosenberg opted to keep the name Passenger for his solo work and in 2012, he released his third solo album, All The Little Lights, which was recorded at Sydney's Linear Recording and featured a more fully fleshed-out sound.
This was the second single to be released from All The Little Lights. The song marked Passenger's first international success, topping the charts in a number of countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.
Mike Rosenberg explained the song's meaning to Female First
: "In my mind the song has two meanings;" he said, "the first is quite literal as I wrote it after a break up and it is about letting her go. But then there is a bigger idea going on and is more about not really understanding and knowing what you have until it is gone and I think everyone can definitely relate to."
Rosenberg told VH1: "It didn't take long to write, at all. Under an hour, I think. When I wrote it, I definitely felt like it had something… I never had a song on the radio, I didn't believe I could have a song on the radio, because generally, folk music doesn't get on commercial radio, it just doesn't. I kinda thought that that kind of success was for other people, people who really tried to get that kind of success, because I never have."
Rosenberg was backstage after finishing a set at a university bar in Australia when he came up with this song. He was the support act for another band, and his performance was met with utter indifference that night. In a melancholy mood, he came up with this song about his ex-girlfriend. He says the song just came "pouring out" of him.
Structurally, this is a very unusual song. Based on acoustic guitar and strings, it has a 25-second intro before going directly into the first chorus ("Only need the light when it's burning low..."). On the line "And you let her go," the song picks up, introducing drums and going into an instrumental break before finally hitting the first verse at 1:03.
Beginning with the chorus is the equivalent of a movie that is shown out-of-sequence (like Pulp Fiction) - we know the big scene, but don't know what led up to it. Passenger tells us the conclusion up front, then explains what he went through - the anguish he endured before he could just let her go.
The chorus comes back three more times, including at the end of the song where it repeats twice, ending with the voice isolated on the last lines to accentuate the conclusion: "You let her go."
This song was used in a popular Budweiser commercial titled "Puppy Love," which aired during the 2014 Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. In the spot, a determined puppy finds a way to reunite with his Clydesdale friend.
The song got it first exposure in the Netherlands after a Dutch radio plugger heard the track in a café. Within three weeks of it being on the radio, it was #1 in Holland.
The woman who inspired this song by rending Rosenberg's heart knows it is about her. "We're good friends now," the singer told Rolling Stone in 2014. "I think she's still kind of got mixed feelings about it. She's happy for me, but it is pretty weird."