Songplaces

Anderson, Indiana

Indiana by Jon McLaughlin

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So it's probably best I stay in Indiana
Just dreaming of the world as it should be
Paramount Theatre in Anderson
(thanks, Publichall)
There’s not much to report about the central Indiana town of Anderson. There are plenty of historical buildings, including the Paramount Theatre, as well as plenty of history stretching back to 1827, when the municipality was founded. Charles Shultz used the location in his Peanuts comic strip after being awarded an honorary degree by Anderson College. And the city is home to the headquarters of the Church of God (of Anderson). I could discuss the climate, the demographics, and the economy, but none of that is even interesting, let alone fascinating.

What strikes me as odd and unique, however, is the sheer number of persons of interest who have come out of this region. The town has borne athletes, actors, writers, politicians, and even a few murderers. For instance – and perhaps you’ve heard of some of these – there’s Jumping Johnny Wilson (athlete), Brian Reed (comic book writer), James Rebhorn (actor, who passed away in March 2014), Everett Case (aka Gray Fox, basketball coach), James Davis (Labor Secretary), John Lambert (inventor of the gasoline engine), and Lowell Amos (the Black Widower).

And also a young piano player named Jon McLaughlin. Born in 1982, the singer-songwriter grew up hating piano lessons. In a weird twist of fate, after shattering his wrists in a rollerblading accident in high school, he ended up studying music at the collegiate level.

His debut album, Indiana, dropped in 2007 and he can thank Hollywood for single-handedly rising him into the spotlight through the use of his songs in various television shows and films including "Scrubs," "Ghost Whisperer," Bridge to Terabithia, and Enchanted (the last of which he actually appeared in). The title track from Indiana is semi-autobiographic.

Lyrically, the song is subtle and clever. McLaughlin weaves three different scenarios together. The first, or main theme, is about a boy coming to grips with never having left his hometown and home state. The second theme is about never having become famous. And the third, a very bittersweet final stanza, deals with unrequited love.

For some, the world’s a treasure to discover. And your scenery should never stay the same. The clarity of this line hones in on McLaughlin’s melancholy. Deep down he wishes for the chance to leave his life – an unexciting and predictable world of working, breeding, and dying, a small Midwestern town in which the majority of citizens are born, live, and die without driving more than 50 or 100 miles outside its borders. The narrator appears to long for something more, something greater – perhaps more of a purpose.
Aerial of Anderson, Indiana
(thanks, Tysto)
I wonder how it feels to be famous. But wonder is as far as I will go. Ironically enough, this song was written before he became famous, and now he does know how it feels to be famous. What’s unclear is whether the narrator of the song is meant to be McLaughlin or a fictitious version of himself. His goal is, of course, to persuade those dreams to disappear in an effort to find satisfaction or contentment with his small town life. By the end, however, the listener is unsure whether or not he’s succeeded.

The last two lines of the song punch home hard. Where every day is a battle to convince myself, I’m glad she never fell in love with me. What he’s saying here is that while he’s been going on and on about the town and being famous through most of the song – and fooling us the entire time – what he’s really being so dramatic and depressed about is this lost love of his. It makes me think that if he were to have the love of this unnamed woman, the rest of his life might dim down into mere details. He wouldn’t care if he’s famous or not. He wouldn’t care where he lives. All he really desires in this world is true love. Unfortunately for the narrator, she never loved him back. So he essentially is left with nothing – no fun, no fame, no fortune, and no flame.

Thankfully enough for Jon, the song seems to be only semi-autobiographical. He did, in fact, get to leave Indiana. He is famous. In 2005 he was married. And the happy couple had a beautiful baby girl in 2013.
~ Justin Novelli

Comments: 1

  • Laine Lasanta from Huntington Beach, CalifI have been desperately trying to reach Jon McLaughlin about a performance we would like him to do in Malibu. I would be most grateful if you could get a message to him to call me at 949-375-7577 or 714-374-7788. Thank you, Laine
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