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Shelby Earl Explains 'Strong Swimmer,' An Ode To Trauma And Recovery

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Shelby Earl Explains 'Strong Swimmer,' An Ode To Trauma And Recovery

Shelby Earl Explains 'Strong Swimmer,' An Ode To Trauma And Recovery

Shelby Earl Explains 'Strong Swimmer,' An Ode To Trauma And Recovery

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/518378188/518462064" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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"Strong Swimmer" is a song from Shelby Earl's latest album, The Man Who Made Himself a Name. Genevieve Pierson/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Genevieve Pierson/Courtesy of the artist

"Strong Swimmer" is a song from Shelby Earl's latest album, The Man Who Made Himself a Name.

Genevieve Pierson/Courtesy of the artist

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."

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Earl shared the story of how the song evolved with Weekend Edition Saturday; hear more at the audio link.