Folk singer-songwriter Letitia VanSant's "You Can't Put My Fire Out," from her forthcoming album Circadian (out February 21 on Free Dirt Records), addresses the complicated mix of emotions that she's experienced as a survivor of sexual assault. The chilling, powerful song builds from a whisper to a roar.
"I taste your words inside my mouth/ Like broken glass I spit them out," VanSant sings. "I'm the one who's speaking now/ You can't put my fire out."
VanSant, who wrote the song during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, says the song describes the process of rebuilding a sense of self-worth.
"This song describes the process of reclaiming my sense of power after an experience of sexual violence years ago. It profoundly impacted my sense of self-worth and what I felt like I was capable of in the world," VanSant tells Wide Open Country. "It took me years to realize that it had caused me to shrink, to keep my head down, to approach the world in a smaller way."
VanSant says the song is for anyone who's suffered any kind of abuse.
"Sexual violence happens to people of all genders," VanSant says. "We all have voices in our heads that we have to overcome in order to step into the fullest versions of ourselves...One of my main concerns about the song is that I don't want to trigger people who have had traumatic experiences. The lyrics are mostly about the healing rather than the details of the events, but it could be challenging for some people and I want to be respectful of that. I'm grateful for organizations like FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, who support survivors in the process of healing and telling their stories."
The video, which features VanSant on acoustic guitar and her friend and collaborator David McKindley-Ward on electric guitar, was filmed in a location near and dear to VanSant.
"The video was filmed by Beehive Productions at 2640, an old church sanctuary that is now run by a collective called Red Emma's," VanSant says. "Coincidentally, my grandfather was a minister at that church back in the '60s, so it's a special place for me, and I'm grateful that this collective has taken up the stewardship of the space."
Watch VanSant perform "You Can't Put My Fire Out" below.
VanSant is a former winner of the Texas-based Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition. Her upcoming album Circadian was produced by Neilson Hubbard (Mary Gauthier, Apache Relay, Caroline Spence) and features session players Will Kimbrough, Michael Rinne and Juan Solorzano.