In July of 2016, I started on an endless and impossible quest to compile every song that mentions North Carolina.
I was interning in Charlotte, where homemade Panthers- and Hornets-themed music videos seem endless. Feeling left out, I began searching for a song about my hometown of Concord, N.C. When my leads went dry, I decided the most practical next step was to amass as many songs about North Carolina as possible and search for Concord by process of elimination.
I started making lists on scrap paper. On the bus rides to my internship, these lists became playlists of geographically cohesive songs.
As the lists grew, I encountered more songs with a slightly more nuanced relationship to the state (The Mountain Goats’ “Moon Over Goldsboro,” for example, which references the N.C. town in the title but is set in Iowa), and I started collecting their context in an Excel spreadsheet.
Some of the songs I found seemed to just use North Carolina as a folksy backdrop with a convenient number of syllables and an association with the easily rhymable “pines.” But the most deeply personal songs I found, like the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ “Leaving Eden” and James Taylor’s “Copperline,” don’t paint a perfect picture of the state.