“We Were Rich”
Written by Ross Copperman, Nicolle Gaylon, and Ashley Gorley
I realize we’re heading into the summer months, but considering summer is going to come with a much bleaker tone this year, we really don’t need another mindless drinking song sent to country radio right now.
Besides, as a lifetime country music fan, I’ve always connected with its affinity for storytelling over alcohol consumption, and Runaway June may have just provided a song that will actually connect with “We Were Rich,” the third single from their Blue Roses album.
Granted, I realize we need to view these songs outside of that context, especially when many of them were recorded months ago. But a song centered around carrying the self-awareness to realize most people are better off than others feels timely, too. It’s a rare instance where otherwise mundane details work incredibly well for a song, using them to frame this character’s childhood as otherwise drab when, in reality, it gave them perspective – one of the best gifts of all.
None of the group members wrote the song, but lead singer Naomi Cooke sings it like she did, framing her past with a unique sense of jubilance, but also the self-awareness now to know what it meant then. And that’s the shining beacon of the track – for as much as the song gets it point across with examples such as driving out to the nearest KOA once a year to have a family bonfire or going out for pizza after church, the real takeaway to the character isn’t the material pleasure, but the time spent and the lessons learned. She’s aware that even when her parents couldn’t provide what they wanted for the family, they provided what they could, and that speaks higher volumes, really.
Now, it’s not the soul-crushing poverty examined in Dolly Parton’s best work, mind you, but “We Were Rich” is the torchbearer for Parton’s own lessons; that while poverty is an inescapable reality for some people, it need not define who they are. And “We Were Rich” is likely more relatable for its fascination with connecting to the tiniest details that shaped this character’s childhood. The production is sparse, pushing Cooke to the front of the mix and defined largely by warmer acoustics that inspire intimacy to serve the lyric. The percussion gets in the way at points, but if I’m resorting to a nitpick like that to find fault, it says a lot about the power of “We Were Rich.”