This is the first single from the American Piano-Rock band The Fray's third album Scars and Stories. The band premiered the song while opening for U2 on their U2 360° Tour in May 2011. It was released for airplay on October 8, 2011, and made available for download October 11, 2011.
Frontman Isaac Slade penned the song with guitarist Joe King. It was inspired by the singer's experiences whilst traveling in Africa. He explained: "That song came out of a period of my life when I was trying hard to be open to whatever came my way. I traveled through South Africa and Rwanda with a buddy, and at first it was really hard to stay open in the face of so much pain and heartache. But then I ended up meeting so many cool and inspiring people, and all these ideas for lyrics and melodies just started rushing in."
The Rwanda genocide of 1994 was one of the worst atrocities of modern times. Over the course of approximately 100 days between April and July of that year, around 800,000 people were murdered in the small East African nation. Tutsis and Hutus were slaughtered indiscriminately; adults and children alike. As if this wasn't enough, the genocide leaders encouraged HIV+ men to rape women and young girls to spread the infection and decimate future generations. This song was inspired by the awful carnage and the remarkable way in which the survivors are recovering. Slade explained to AOL Music: "I always think of countries as different people, and when I'm thinking about Rwanda as a person I imagine her as a little girl in the 90s getting through one of our generation's worst genocides and surviving. Even though her parents and brothers and sisters all died ... she's still alive. Fast-forward 18 years, now she's 24, and I kind of wrote the song as her story."
Slade wrote part of the song after a conversation with a woman at the genocide museum in Rwanda. He felt she "personified the country perfectly," with her sorrowful voice and shining smile. He asked her about what she went through and why she was still smiling. Slade told AOL Music that afterwards, he went to the back of the museum and, "watched the valley go down and up to the downtown area that's starting to be rebuilt." He continued: "I saw this fire that was burning at the bottom of the valley relentlessly. This rain was pouring down monsoon-style and it all just hit me at that moment ... all the stuff I'd seen, all the stuff I read, everything I knew just kind of came in that one flash. I just busted out my phone and recorded the part of the song that turned into the single."
The music video was shot on the beach at Los Angeles, and directed by Justin Francis, who has also worked with The Roots and Modest Mouse. The original concept was to shoot the clip with a sunny beach look but when a fog rolled in, it looked like the filming would have to be aborted for the day. Slade told AOL Music: "Everyone was freaking out because it takes a lot of money to shoot those things. And then Justin said, 'You know, a sunny beach shoot isn't exactly right. Maybe mysterious Lord of the Rings fog is better.' And everybody's attitude just changed and we all started to view the white fog as the edge of the world. It was one of the most surreal shoots we've ever done. We've done shoots in cities and on soundstages, but usually all the cool stuff is effects, but the waves were all real, we weren't doing anything."
Joe King explained the meaning of the second verse to Denver Westword: "I was raised in Aurora, and we had a tiny little house, and I had a bunch of siblings, and we always had people staying with us because my parents invited people in. The only escape for me was the record player that I'd go to in the corner. I'd put on the headphones. It was like my safe spot. There was also one of those old-school kerosene heaters. I'd burn my G.I. Joes on the top, and it had this very distinctive smells.
It was like one of those white heaters, and you know, my dad would always have to prime it and then you'd have to light the lantern thing in the middle to create this heat for the whole house. So I always used to lay in that corner, listening to records. So the second verse, I don't know why it popped in my head, but I wanted to put this idea - because we're talking about fire; we're talking about heat - and I just wanted to incorporate that feeling as a kid and what that did for me into a lyrics. So that whole kerosene is in relation to our little heater in the house that kept my little toes warm."