Singled Out: Levi Petree's What's It Gonna Take

Levi Petree

Levi Petree is releasing his new album "It's Country" this week and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the inspiration for the song "What's It Gonna Take". Here is the story:

On July 23, 2015, I was at a little movie theatre in Los Angeles, watching the documentary "Amy." When it was over, I turned my phone on and received a flood of text messages. There'd been a shooting at a movie theatre in my hometown of Lafayette, LA, and a couple of people had died. Genuine shock. That was one of the few times in my life where I remember being genuinely shocked. Then I became angry. Rage. It'd happened again and now it'd happened in my hometown. It was the same theatre I'd go to with my family while I was in town and all I could think was that it could've been someone I knew. I remember taking out a notebook I had on me and just started writing what I was feeling. It just poured out.

By the time I went to bed that night, the names of the victims hadn't been released, but I knew for sure at least a couple of people had been murdered. Senselessly... and it made me rage inside. When I woke up the next morning, though, rage was replaced with dread. I had multiple texts from my sisters that just said "call me" and a voicemail from my Dad that mentioned someone who was basically family. Dread. I knew what they were about to tell me. We'd known someone in the theatre and we knew they'd been shot. The distance between Los Angeles and Louisiana had never felt so far away.

We got lucky, though, and learned our friend was going to pull through. But then I learned who hadn't made it and my heart broke for my hometown. They were two young women, vibrant and active in the community. I was an acquaintance of one of them who happened to be a musician and designer for a local clothing shop she owned with her husband. They sold Louisiana and Cajun-centic shirts and hats that featured original designs by her. Every time I went home, I'd stop by her store and pick up a new t-shirt. It was a way of taking Louisiana back to California with me. A little piece of home. Going to her store and wearing her designs helped me maintain a sense of pride in where I was from. I couldn't stop thinking about the two women who were gone, or my friend who was sitting in a hospital bed. I couldn't stop thinking about their families. And for the rest of the day, I just sat down with my guitar and processed. I didn't want to stop till it was done.

It's a song I feel very weird and torn about. On one hand, I'm proud of it and want it out there because it's a message I firmly believe in. It's a conversation. But I also can't help thinking of my friend, or the families of the victims. And I feel weird because, in a way, it's an attempt to tell their story while they're still living it. They're not something to politicize. So even though I have my own feelings on what caused this to happen and the larger political issue, the focus for me is always on them, the people who were directly impacted and suffered the hardest loss. This song is my prayer for them and a prayer for what happens from here.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself here and learn more about the album right here!

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