Fireflies

Album: Fireflies (2005)
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  • Songwriter Lori McKenna is noted for writing songs about loneliness and personal struggle. This song, however, is a magical song about childhood dreams and possibility. Says McKenna, "It's a happy song, can you believe it?"

    She was around 28 or 29 when she wrote this song while watching her three oldest children one day. "I don't specifically remember what sparked it, just thinking about when you are a kid you just feel like everything's possible. I always say to people, 'Kids almost know more than we do.' You know, they're smarter than we are in so many ways. We learn so many things as we get older that just take away from this natural thing that kids have. And I remember just thinking about that and remembering when I was a kid I felt like when I got older I was gonna be able to do whatever I dreamed I would do. And it just wasn't an option that it wouldn't work out. And then I think I was just thinking, 'Why am I like that and a lot of people aren't?'

    So somebody must have taught me to have these big dreams, and somebody must have instilled something in me, I don't really know. Because actually, one of my brothers called me up one day and he said, 'How come you were taught to dream and I wasn't?' And it probably comes down to my husband and I, we're just so opposite. I am the dreamer and he is the practical, responsible, level-headed one. Almost like he's the pessimist, I'm the optimist. And I was just thinking, I'd rather have my kids grow up and be like me than be pessimistic. Of course you need a little bit of both, obviously."
  • Faith Hill has become a good friend to Lori, recording a number of the writer's songs. This song, however, was special, because of what it meant to Lori's family. She says, "It's funny, because in the long run, really, that song has provided exactly what I think my original intention was - what sparked the song was I want my kids to grow up and be dreamers, like I am, and feel like anything's achievable, anything's possible. And basically, what the song did in Faith cutting it has provided all of that. It's proof, like, here you go kids. Mom had a dream that she would be a songwriter, and she stuck her neck out and she worked at it, and if you work hard enough, you can do what you want, too."

    Sometimes she needs to step back for a reality check, just to make sure it's really happening. "It's like a fairytale. It's too good to be true. But on the other side of it, it has provided exactly what I was hoping for, in the end. I mean, after Faith's record came out, we went to Disneyland, and the kids were thinking, 'Auntie Faith took us to Disney.' And it was really because of that. She has just put so much hope into our little house here, and my whole family, my whole extended family. Ever since Faith's record came out, in every conversation I have about Faith, you see somebody's face light up and say, 'How's Faith? Have you talked to her?' I think it's been like this big boost for everybody. Nobody believed that little Lori was going to have a song that somebody like Faith Hill would sing. And it's as much as you can say a dream come true."
  • Lori performed this song with Faith on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006. For the average person, being on Oprah would be a surreal experience, and "average" Lori was no different. She describes being on the show as "a trip," and admits to being fan of Oprah, the strength she exudes and instills in others, and the sheer generosity she has shown to others.

    McKenna told Songfacts: "I love Oprah. I think that as a woman, just as a human being, she has done so much for our country and women, homemakers, and moms, people in general, but I think probably more specifically women, just making them feel better about themselves. It always blows my mind that, sort of motivation, like where do you get it? You either have it or you don't. Or you have a little bit or you have a lot. And I think because I live here (in Stoughton, Massachusetts) and I grew up with most of the people I'm surrounded by all the time, I sort of know who's got that spark, who's got that motivation and who doesn't. People sit and turn the TV on at four o'clock and they're going to leave the Oprah show feeling motivated about something, in most cases. It's not like something that brings you down. It's always been opposite as far as helping women feel better about themselves. And so I was thrilled to just sort of stand in a room with her and sort of watch her. And it was a great experience. I mean, she is a very smart woman, and she was very nice. And she was sort of like what I expected, I guess."

    Lori was also just getting to know Faith Hill at that time, and says that it was a credit to Faith's professionalism and her down-to-earth nature that Lori was able to feel calm on stage and not break down and cry. "Faith has this quality... I've seen star quality in people, but I've never really seen it - for lack of a better term, excuse me - as bright as with her. You figure if you have two women standing in a room, and Oprah's one of them, Oprah's going to just sort of blow everybody's mind just by being there. But to me it was still Faith that amazed me at that point. And she still does amaze me. But I was just sort of still getting to know her, so to me I remember Faith more than I remember Oprah. I thought she did really well, and she did a great job interviewing, and I was just learning all these things, and I was just sort of watched her. I was trying to absorb some sort of something off of her, because she handles herself so well all the time. So that day, to me, I remember just sort of watching her and how she handled things." (Check out our interview with Lori McKenna.)
  • J.M. Barrie's fictional pixie, Tinkerbell, from his play Peter Pan, is featured in this song. Barrie describes Tinkerbell as a friend of Peter Pan's who is sometimes mischievous, sometimes vindictive, and sometimes helpful to Peter. In many motion-picture adaptations of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell is represented as a tiny ball of light (resembling a firefly) zipping about through the air, and materializing as a miniature being upon landing.
  • Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, are are not really "flies" at all, but beetles. They are called "fireflies" due to their bodies lighting up during a process called "bioluminscence," which happens when they are searching for a mate. Each different type of firefly has a specific lighting pattern, which prevents one type being attracted to another type.
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