Some people come into your life only for a season. With her song "Hard to Forget," Americana singer-songwriter Lindsay Ellyn recalls her youth spent in a New Jersey apartment complex and a group of older teen girls who left an indelible mark on her life.
"When you're a young girl, there's nothing more alluring or more dangerous than older teenagers who unapologetically break all the rules," she tells Wide Open Country.
In the song, Ellyn references someone named "Billie," who is "really an amalgamation of my memory of these girls, who were like a magical breed to me as a young, impressionable pre-teen," she continues. "I was a rule follower, they were rule breakers -- shoplifting, hanging out with boys, smoking cigarettes underage... just bold and unapologetic. There was one girl who would skateboard around the neighborhood and walk around with bloody knees from wiping out while skating, which I thought was so punk rock."
The chorus rings out over plucky and warm production.
"That girl with the scars on her knees / Staying up late doing whatever she pleases / Crooked teeth and bad words on her lips / Denim jeans slung real low on her hips," Ellyn sings. "Stolen cigarettes in her pocket on a bet / Said she'd do it again, says she has no regrets / And girls like that are hard to forget / Girls like that are hard to forget."
Through writing this song, and reflecting more as an adult, Ellyn has learned there's perhaps much deeper, darker stories there. She explains, "I can look back with some sensitivity and realize that these were girls who were getting into 'trouble' for things that weren't really their fault -- absentee parents, early exposure to drugs, unhealthy attention from older men. For whatever reason, the way I remember these girls in my mind's eye has really stuck with me."
Given the song's very "dream-like" quality, Ellyn wanted the music video to express the same feeling. So, she turned to illustrator and artist Aimee Sicuro to collaborate in early 2021. Sicuro then suggested bringing in Veronika Belcheva for the animation side of things. "I wanted to tell the story visually in a way that feels less like reality and more fantastical," says Ellyn.
"Throughout the process there was a lot of iterating and changing to tell the story," she adds, noting that she initially presented story boards before handing the reins over completely. "They're both incredibly talented, and I wanted them to have as much ownership in this as I do. We had to pivot a few times throughout to best serve the song and the story. It took a ton of time, effort, doing and undoing, but that's all part of the creative process."
Additionally, the whole team behind the music video is made of women, from creation to distribution and PR. It's a decision that gives the project, just in time for Women's History Month, even more weight.
"When women creatives come together to make something, magic always happens. And I love working with women because we always go above and beyond to help each other win," she says. "I was so thrilled to partner with these talented artists, and they were the best fit for the project. Their points of view as women were important in this process. As women, they could relate to the different characters in the story, and they perfectly captured the nostalgia, the sadness, and the whimsy in a way that felt so true to the memory I hold of this little piece of my life as a young girl."
Watch the video below.
"Hard to Forget" is featured on Ellyn's criminally-underrated debut album Queen of Nothing.
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