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LeAnna Eden Talks About "The Protest Song" 

The Art of Protest

Le Anna Eden writes all kinds of songs, but at the heart of all her work is justice, best exemplified in the powerful video for her recent track "The Protest Song."

The clip opens on several young black men standing at a graffiti-covered wall.

"Don't give up, so many reasons to cry," Eden sings. "We all know, we all know, we all know it's time to stand up and fight."

One of the young men later arrives at a convenience store, where he shoots photographs of a cashier, her face covered in blue, refusing to accept another young black man's money. Blue-faced cops soon arrive and frisk him, after which the young black man walks around with a hashtag over his head.

It's the story of life in African-American neighborhoods everywhere — where "children are hungry and they don't know how to read," Eden sings. "And my sister's been working hard, she wants to achieve. And my brother's been running, running from the police."

Eden was inspired to write "The Protest Song" after suffering a two-day depression following the Michael Brown shooting. But the lyrics apply to the entire spate of police killings of black people. "The first little guitar riff is dark — like what you might hear on a movie soundtrack when you know something bad is going to happen," she says. "But I also wanted it to be inspiring and hopeful."

Toward the end of the song, Eden alludes to Malcolm X: "By any means possible," she sings, but then, as if she's directly addressing the police, "Would you take my hand? But don't take my life."

Eden says songs usually come to her in snippets: "A phrase will get stuck in my head and it'll just go around and around, over and over, and eventually I'll turn it into something. But then I have to force myself to sit down with my guitar."

Not all of Eden's songs are as overtly political as "The Protest Song," she says. "But I feel like I low-key write protest music all the time." She's written a poem about the Keith Scott shooting, but hasn't yet put it to music, and she says she doesn't feel qualified to write about HB2.

"I'm not trans," Eden says. "To me, that would be like a white person saying, 'I'm gonna write a song about black people.' I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about HB2. I think it's unfair and I think it sucks, but I think it would be better for a trans artist to take on."

Eden also doesn't like feeling pressured to write about any specific topic. "If I feel under pressure, I end up just getting angry and I'll write a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with whatever the topic is." She pauses. "But a lot of my music is about black people dying. A lot of my unfinished music is about that, and it's very angry and it's very punk. So one day, yeah, I'll probably have an EP full of really angry music. I already have it in my head."

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