BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — It came to Eric Donnelly in the middle of the night, just as suddenly and unpredictably as when he learned of the death of his parents at the hands of a gunman in their Fairfield jewelry store.
“Somewhere in America, a phone is about to ring. Nothing can prepare you for the news it’s going to bring.”
So begins the chorus of “Somewhere in America,” the song it’s taken Donnelly, guitarist for The Alternate Routes, 11 years to write. A starkly profound tune, the song recalls the 2005 murders of Tim and Kim Donnelly and speaks to the current debate on gun control and violence in this country.
“I have been trying to write this song for many years, but it didn't come together until my son was born,” Donnelly said of 6-month-old Nathaniel, his first child with his wife, Elizabeth Donnelly. “In earlier forms of the song, I don't think I was clear on what I was trying to say.”
The Bridgeport-based band released the YouTube video of the song on Facebook on June 17, just days from the Senate filibuster on gun control led by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
While Donnelly said he strongly supports “common sense gun control reform,” he said it took years of editing to make sure the final song was not “angry or righteous."
“It is a song about empathy, not judgement or blame,” the Bridgeport resident said. “We may not agree on the solution, but it starts by acknowledging that there is a problem.”
Donnelly said the response to the song has been overwhelming.
“I was very nervous to share it, but I am grateful that we did,” he said. “Some people have expressed that they did not know the story, and expressed their sympathy, which is very nice, but not the point of the song. I understand that it is hard to see past the narrative, but the point of the song is that my parents story is one of hundreds of thousands. And more are happening every day.”
Donnelly said band co-founder and fellow Fairfield University alum Tim Warren has been supportive of the song over the years. He even added the bridge: “How long is too long before the words you can't say, just speak for you?”
While the song has already gotten national attention — Murphy tweeted it and Upworthy posted a story on it — Donnelly said he’s not sure of future distribution plans. He hopes it will be included on the next Alternate Routes album, due at the end of the year.
He also hopes “Somewhere in America” will resonate with people on all sides of the gun control debate.
“There are a lot of people who I love and respect who I know have very different opinions than I do on this matter,” he said. “That is ok. I want them to feel included in the song as well. That is the only way things can get better.”
Listen to “Somewhere in America” here .
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