A Happy Keepsake: An Interview with burwell

Photo courtesy of Joey Wharton

Before Whitney Caroline writes a new song for her current project, burwell, she will usually save concepts to help spark ideas. Recently, the common theme she has been focusing on is coping through grief.

Right before the world experienced the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, her mother passed away. Writing about how she has been coping has been incredibly healing during her writing sessions, and she has seen her songs evolve because of that.

Her latest single, “can’t stop”, was written before 2020 took a turn for the worst.

“It was a happy song I wanted to work on when things got hard because it was a mood-lifter,” she said. “It’s been a good reminder for me that we can go through hard times, but still experience joy and light-heartedness.”

“can’t stop” was challenging not in its creation, but in terms of whether or not she was even going to release it. She has been focused on an upcoming EP and has been finding it difficult to determine which songs will make the final track listing. It was one of the songs, however, that she had been able to share with her mom before she passed. She always seemed to enjoy her daughter’s happier songs, and danced around to “can’t stop” when she played it for her.

The inspiration for the music video started with the daily walks she took during lockdown. First she started to notice teddy bears displayed in her neighbor’s windows. Then she got inspired to incorporate a dance routine that came about as she was listening back to the track. She reached out to a local hip-hop instructor, Gregg Whitlock Jr., who included his students from Spotlight Studio of Dance and their stuffed animals, as well as burwell’s faithful, fuzzy friend, Mr. Dot.

“I didn’t know what to do with the Zoom video footage for a while, but when I decided to release the pop/original version of the song, making a lyric video that integrated their dances seemed like a cute way to bring it together,” she said. “For me, the whole thing [feels like] a happy keepsake from an unusual moment in time.”

burwell is using “can’t stop” as a kickoff to a new season of music, showing off her grief and joy and everything in between.

“I hope this song inspires listeners to daydream and find joy, no matter how tough their circumstances may feel,” she said. “It’s okay to joy, sorrow and everything in between.”