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Undeniably, one of the most gifted songwriters out there today is Noe Venable. She writes from a universal soul, and everything is earnest and beautiful, even when the underlying topic may not be. One of my favorite songs, in the whole of music I listen to, is her song “Juniper” from her album The World Is Bound By Secret Knots. It’s a beautifully haunting song and even though I had no idea what it was about, ha, I was inexplicably drawn to it’s calling. The thing about me when I listen to music, is that I don’t really hear the lyrics. I will catch on to one or two words or catch phrases but I HEAR everything else. I hear the timbre of the voice, where the singer chooses to breathe, the melody, the harmonies, the arrangements, and the essence. That sounds odd, but it’s true. I hear the feeling of the song… I don’t know how else to describe it. So when I heard “Juniper”, I understood a girl was in a tree, whether or not literally or metaphorically, and she was speaking to her mother. (The repetition of “Mama, oh Mama” gets me every time… in that phrase there is so much longing for understanding…) Plus, it’s about a girl who has an affinity for a tree, which I certainly relate to since I often much prefer the company of nature to the company of other people. (“Where Juniper’s edges and mine become blurred”)

I never looked up the lyrics because it wasn’t important to me, I loved the sound of the song so much. (Sometimes I do want to know exactly what someone is saying, and once I read the lyrics I can then hear them in the song.) 

Then one day a few years ago I found a video of Noe performing “Juniper” on youtube. Before she started singing she explained that she wrote it for a girl she saw on a talk show about pro-anorexia websites. 

When I heard that I was shocked, and happy, and sad. Then it all made sense, haha. “Hiding my feet ’cause I’m too shy to dance, hiding my face behind both of my hands” No wonder I was so drawn to this song, it spoke to me. (Even though I’ve never, sadly, qualified as anorexic.) I was very immersed in pro-anorexia websites in high school, which was incredibly masochistic since I hated that I’d never be as “good” as the other girls, but I couldn’t help it, they understood what I was going through. And it was the internet, they didn’t know I was actually a size 10 and not a size 2. “Mama I’ve seen them the others like me, once I could see them it was all I could see”. The fact that Noe was able to capture the complex emotions of people who experience eating disorders, without ever having experienced it herself, shows how truly gifted she is. And it’s not just this song. I was actually going to write about another song of hers, “Say A Prayer For Beauty”, but my story of “Juniper” just came tumbling out. I highly recommend everyone check out her music. Visit www.noevenable.com. Oh, and not only is she a talented singer-songwriter she just got her Masters of Theologian Studies from Harvard University. This is a weird thing to say, but I feel like she’s the person I would be if I didn’t spend almost every waking moment struggling with eating disorders and depression. Which is kind of sad, haha, but oh well. We all have our own paths.

Here’s the video:

And the lyrics to “Juniper”:

mama oh mama I don’t wanna come down
not if it’s all like it was on the ground
hiding my feet ’cause I’m too shy to dance
hiding my face behind both of my hands

mama oh mama don’t make me come down
’cause I don’t know what will come out of my mouth
people will hear they won’t know who I am
people will hear and they won’t understand

mama I’ve seen them the others like me
once I could see it was all I could see
the silent procession that crosses the snow
in which skeleton ladies like skeletons go

mama oh mama up here where I’m free
I have seen beauty you wouldn’t believe
Juniper’s ledges and Juniper’s birds
where Juniper’s edges and mine become blurred

mama oh mama if you only heard
the reasons for living the freedom of words
the blooming balloon of a thought being born
safe in the branches of Juniper’s arms

mama oh mama I’m not like you think
some harrowing walker down narrowing streets
if I had my way I would bring the whole world
every sleepwalker and each hungry girl

mama oh mama and old uncle tom
my father the thinker my daughter the song
tell every bell to just wake up and ring
tell this whole choir to just shut up and sing

mama oh mama I’m holding your hand
in these glorious dreams in which you understand
mama oh mama we’re spinning around
mama oh mama don’t make me come down

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