Gatlin knows how to step into a world we are all too familiar with. She seamlessly weaves her stories of love and loss in a blanket of gentle acoustic guitar and ambient melody. Her voice carries a richness that is reminiscent of an old friend. Her lyrics make sense of illogical heartbreak in a way that echoes perspective, and more profoundly, growth. Her songs subtly champion what it means to feel in all of its vulnerable glory.
“Summer Coat” is no exception. Led by the subtle, persistent plucking of acoustic guitar, Gatlin leads us down a somber path, and in a falsetto that feels more like a whisper she questions, “Why do seasons have to change?” As the song continues, strings and layers of background vocals help construct the walls of this world. These layers grow in volume as the lead vocal grows with soft intensity, and Gatlin’s struggle feels unabashedly tangible. The song feels like a dream sequence – not a dream where life is perfect and ideal, but rather one where it is easier to continue pretending than to face reality.
“Summer Coat is like my Pixar Animated Short. From the first few listens, it just seems like a love song to a coat (which wouldn’t be surprising coming from me, considering how much I LOVE clothes), but it can have a much deeper meaning. For me, it shows the brevity of some relationships I’ve been in – they are good for a time, but then summer comes and I end up being smothered yet I still try to make it work.” – Gatlin
It is within the bridge that Gatlin confronts this perspective head-on. She finds her voice and does not deny her own accountability. Not everyone is on the same path together. Not everyone is meant to grow together. But when we have outgrown someone, the responsibility then lies with us to part ways. And without blame, Gatlin narrates the struggle of doing exactly that.
Growing is a normal part of life, but outgrowing is a process that is much less comfortable. Even when we are ready to move forward, we often will choose to continue living within our inhibitions. Even when our summer coat begins to suffocate us, there is still an ounce of safety that exists while wearing it because it is familiar. Shedding that layer is admitting that a new season has arrived, and with it, the acceptance of the unknown.
We can become so accustomed to the person we become in the presence of someone else that we forget what it’s like without them. Even when the time comes to let it go, re-figuring out who we are – or who we were – is a daunting task.
“Summer Coat” is no lamentation, but rather a poetic reflection of what it means to be human and to be riddled by the polarity of circumstance. It paints a scene of logic versus love and portrays all too well what it means when these are at odds with each other.