This feel-good song was written by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros vocalists Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, who were a couple at the time. As Jade tells it, they were enjoying a romp through Elysian Park in Los Angeles when she lost her shoes and he carried her on his back. The scene was like a montage from a romantic comedy, and giddy with love, they returned to his apartment and wrote the song. Using Ebert's Pro Tools setup, they put the song together on the fly, with each trading lines and then singing together on the chorus.
The lyrics are effusively lovey, but genuine:
I'll follow you into the park Through the jungle, through the dark Girl, I never loved one like you
And while there are many songs called "Home," this one has a key hook line in the lyric that connected with listeners:
Home is wherever I'm with you
Ebert does the whistling intro, which is reminiscent of the Ennio Morricone scores found in many westerns, often starring Clint Eastwood.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros rose to power early in the American folk music revival that included acts like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. "Home" was part of their debut album Up From Below, and established their love-centric, communal sound that made them a festival favorite.
The band is named after a character from a novel Ebert was writing - Edward Sharpe is an otherworldly figure who comes to Earth to offer enlightenment to the masses, but finds himself getting distracted by the beautiful women. Ebert, raised in an upper middle class household, spent a lot of time looking for the meaning of life, and created his own hardship by getting hooked on heroin. He got clean, but sobriety didn't suit him, so he ditched treatment and switched to (mostly) mushrooms. He went minimalist, with no car or cell phone, and began working on the Up From Below in a tiny apartment. After meeting the like-minded Jade Castrinos, they put a 10-piece band together and went all-in on the joyful, enlightened sound. Even churlish listeners who weren't buying this hippie vibe agreed that it was convincing, and even after they found an audience with this song, Ebert stayed steady to his creed, often blurring the lines between Edward Sharpe and his true self.
When Ebert and Castrinos banter about her falling out of a window on this track, they're recounting a true story:
Jade Alexander, do you remember that day you fell out of my window? I sure do, you came jumping out after me
Castrinos was defenestrated from his second-story apartment, and couldn't walk for a week. Ebert came to her rescue and took her to the hospital.
During performances, the band would jam on the groove while Ebert and Castrinos wandered into the crowd for what they called "storytime." Each would turn over their microphone to an audience member, who would speak their truth. This produced some incoherent rants, but also some very touching moments; at Bonnaroo in 2013, a guy said, "About a year ago you guys visited me in the hospital. I got a transplant that day that saved my life." Hugging ensued.
In 2014, the band parted ways with Jade Castrinos, changing the dynamic of this song considerably (she and Ebert had broken up). At their first show without her - May 11, 2014 at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta - Ebert turned much of the song over to the crowd, doing it "campfire style." It worked, and the band continued performing it that way, with the crowd filling in much of Castrinos' vocals.
Like many songs in its genre, this song didn't make the US Hot 100, even though it seemed to be everywhere. Much of its ubiquity comes from its use in commercials - the message and the melody make it suitable for a number of companies looking to project community.
In 2010, the NFL used it in a spot titled "There's No Place Like Home"; that same year it was in commercials for the Kin phone, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Levi's, and the trailer for the movie Cyrus. They did turn down some offers: AT&T wanted to use the song where "Home" was the AT&T store, and the band declined.
These commercial uses staggered the song's sales; it never popped high enough to chart on the Hot 100 (it did make #18 on the Alternative Songs chart), but it stuck around for most of 2010.
The song got a lot of attention in 2010 after Jorge Narvaez posted a video on YouTube where he sings it with his daughter. The clip eventually got over 30 million views, and in 2015 this rendition appeared in a spot for Olive Garden.
This appears in the 2010 film Summer Coda, and was also used in the 2014 episode of Modern Family, "The Wedding, Part 2."