The Civil Wars is an indie folk duo composed of CCM vocalist Joy Williams and guitarist/songwriter John Paul White. This song is the title track of their first EP. It was released as the pair's first single on November 4, 2009.
The song was originally included on Live At Eddie's Attic, a live album recorded during the Civil Wars' second ever show at Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia on April 8, 2009. It was released on the duo's website as a free download on June 30, 2009.
The track also features on The Civil Wars' debut full-length album, Barton Hollow. It is the only song on the longplayer that Williams and White wrote with an outside collaborator - their friend Nashville songwriter Chris Lindsey.
The song is a thematic declaration of intent for The Civil Wars, encapsulating everything suggested in the duo's name when it comes to exploring the conflicts that arise as part of being a married couple. "That song probably does sum us up—The Civil Wars, the name of the band—as well as any song that we've written," said White. "We're all married, and we were all talking about the good, the bad and the ugly, and just felt like: What would you say to someone if you were actually brutally honest—the things that you could never say because it would turn them away or let the cat out of the bag or reveal yourself to be weaker? What would you actually say if you had this invisible curtain around you and could just scream it in somebody's face and they'd actually never hear it? We were all being very painfully honest, because we're all very comfortable around each other and know that things like that never leave the room, except in a song. I'm pretty proud of that song, to be honest."
This came to many people's attention when it was heard prominently on the "New History" episode of Grey's Anatomy over a key climactic montage. Other TV shows that its featured in include 90210 and The Vampire Diaries as well as the soundtrack to the movie Something Borrowed.
The song gained a wholly unsolicited endorsement when fellow Nashvillian Taylor Swift included it as a selection in her official iTunes playlist, tweeting, "I think this is my favorite duet. It's exquisite." The Civil Wars later teamed up with Swift to record "Safe and Sound
" for the soundtrack of the movie, The Hunger Games
White explained the song's meaning to UK newspaper, The Sun: "That song has parallels to our band and our band name," he said. "It's about all those battles you have with your spouse though it could be about addiction or even about your job. It was therapeutic to write.
We asked each other 'What would you scream at your partner - without them hearing or without any of the fallout — if you needed to get something off your chest? And that's how we wrote that song. We love to write in a way that is inclusive."