Singled Out: Brad Heller's The Runner

K. Wiggins | 10-23-2019

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Brad Heller

Brad Heller recently released his new album "The Sentence," and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the song "The Runner". Here is the story:

As a native of Tucson, Arizona, I've been fascinated with the American Southwest for as long as I can remember. The border towns, the arid desert terrain, and the jagged mountains that scar the land have always resonated in my mind. When I became more socially-minded as a young man I took a more advanced interest in the region. A more socio-political interest. I had worked with many Mexican migrant workers over the years in harsh jobs that few Americans would even consider. I became friends with a number of these proud, hard-working people.

"The Runner" arose from these experiences. Told from the first-person perspective of an American expatriate human smuggler, the saga unfolds in reverse order beginning with a flashback in the second-to-last verse of the song. The story then shifts to the present moment.

The protagonist is a broken man who admittedly escaped his failed American life hoping to live in obscurity south of the border. To make a living, "The Runner" uses his detailed knowledge of the region to escort the impoverished through the mazes and rivers of the desert. He is apolitical, simply executing the needs of demand. His reputation grows in stature, eventually forging relationships with the community and cartels.

The song is set to a 3/4 Spanish waltz beat with lush instrumentation in an attempt to create a "border" sound. For example, layers of multiple harmonicas were employed to mimic accordions, claves were introduced in the chorus to emphasize the offbeat, and the clean electric guitar was soaked in swaths of reverb to evoke the open, barren landscape. I wrote the song before the current administration's crackdown on asylum seekers. It seems even more topical now. I was simply trying to create an atmosphere of desperation in a difficult, undignified world. "The Runner" is one of my favorite self-penned tunes.

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

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