Shelby Earl's new album, The Man Who Made Himself A Name, features a song called "Strong Swimmer." She says it started out as a song about herself getting over a relationship — but became more about her stepmother, who had just suffered a brain injury.
Earl was living at home, helping the family recover. One day, she decided to play her stepmother a recording of the song in progress.
"And she and her home care nurse both just burst into tears," Earl recalls. "I realized right then: Wow, she is the strong swimmer, not me, and this is so much more about her than it is me — I mean, she was literally trying to re-learn to walk and talk and eat. And the song immediately changed in meaning for me."
Earl shared the story of how the song evolved with Weekend Edition Saturday; hear more at the audio link.