Gaelynn Lea, ‘I Wait’ [Exclusive Premiere]
As a person living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (aka brittle bone disease), singer-songwriter Gaelynn Lea uses her music to advocate for social change and bring the experiences of people with disabilities to the forefront. Her new song "I Wait" -- premiering exclusively on The Boot -- focuses on disability rights and is a plea for social justice-focused movements to include those with disabilities in their conversations.
Lea tells The Boot that she was inspired to write "I Wait," which she calls her "rallying cry," while following the debates about healthcare in the U.S. She was becoming frustrated with how little attention was being paid to those with disabilities in these discussions.
"Disabled people truly need access to healthcare -- it's literally life or death -- and they have been on the front lines of activism efforts to oppose cuts since the day our current administration took power. Many disabled activists have been arrested during protests and thousands more have been vocal online and in print," Lea explains. "And yet, I'd read article after article -- from really progressive publications -- that would not even mention the disability community when referring to marginalized groups that would be affected by healthcare cuts. Or if we were discussed, it was little more than an afterthought."
Backed by an urgent melody, Lea hopes for change in "I Wait": "Can you see me, way in the back here? / I've been waiting," she sings. "I am hoping for a sign / That one day things will change / And we can finally take our place / That history won't forget us / Or try to minimize our pain / And so I wait ..." Knowing Lea's background, it's clear that she's speaking specifically about living with a disability, but the lyrics are universal enough to apply to any marginalized person or group.
"It is my plea for our country to step up and take action to make our society more accessible," Lea says. "We've waited long enough."
A classically trained violinist and songwriter as well as a speaker focused on disability and the power of music, Lea's music draws together bluegrass, Celtic and folk sounds. In 2016, she won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest and began touring nationally. She is a Duluth, Minn., native and, before beginning her music career, had planned to become a lawyer and disability rights advocate.
Lea's new album, Learning How to Stay, is due out on Sept. 7; "I Wait" is one of 11 tracks on the project. Visit ViolinScratches.com to learn more about Lea, her music and her upcoming tour stops.
Listen to Gaelynn Lea's "I Wait"