Gretchen Peters wrote this song from the point of view of an 8-year-old girl. Looking back, she thinks maybe it wasn't coincidental. Speaking with Songfacts
, she explained that she was 8 years old when her parents split up, "So I did kind of have some kind of emotional grounding to understand at least how it feels from a child's point of view to have their world just come apart like that, and feel that things are out of control, and they're just in the way. I had some understanding of that. I think I did that subconsciously, but very purposefully, so that I could dig my teeth into it. Because I could understand that."
"This was another one of those songs that took a long time to tell me how it wanted to end, how it was going to end," she added. "The chorus's idea is what happened for me first. And really, the chorus doesn't tell you a whole lot, it was just a series of images, and there wasn't much narrative there. So for a while I sort of struggled with, well, what is this about? What is this? The whole idea of independence on a more personal level for one person, for a woman, that sort of became clear to me.
And a woman that is in a dire situation. And when I sort of got a handle on that, I was off and running, really, with the verses. Except for the fact that I couldn't end it. I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to end. That was really problematic for me. I think I knew in my bones how it was going to end. I was struggling with that, because I was trying to find another way out, other than her burning the house down. And in the end, I just thought, Nope, this is what happens in this particular story. I think it was compelling for people probably because there was no pat ending, it didn't work out all right. It's a terrible, terrible, tragic thing. And I found it ironic, really, that I struggled so long with that ending trying to find another way out, and afterwards I thought, Well, it's kind of like the character in the song, I'm sure she looked for a way out, every other possible way, before she made that choice."
Peters says it was in her mind that the female character in the song dies in the fire, but "that little piece of information was for me. It's kind of like when actors talk about how they get a script, and they read about the character, and sometimes they'll write an entire outline of this character's life with details that you never hear about in the movie, ultimately. But they need that for them. And I needed that for me in this case. In 'Independence Day' she sacrificed herself, as well. But I didn't need it to be in the song. I needed it for me just simply to go all the way inside emotionally. Again, it's been interpreted both ways."