Bartees Strange has teamed up with the suicide prevention nonprofit Sounds of Saving to share an emotional cover of The National’s “About Today.” Watch the artist perform the song below.
“I chose to cover ‘About Today’ by my friends The National and talked about how vital music and community has been to my own mental health and to making it through some of the darker moments of my youth,” Strange said in a statement. “The more we share these stories of hope, the less stigma will exist, and the more comfortable we will be opening up to each other and getting help if we need it!”
Sounds of Saving emphasizes the importance of music in comforting those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts — something Bartees Strange attests to before his performance for the organization’s “Song That Found Me at the Right Time” series. “I feel like when I was at my saddest points (when) I couldn’t express how I felt,” the artist says, drawing a line between making music and staying alive.
Looking back at growing up as one of the few Black people in a small Oklahoma town, the artist remembers feeling a “low-level fear at all times” and constantly trying to fit in and avoid drawing attention to himself to stay out of trouble. He credits a group of crust punks for helping him out of his shell — first because being Black proved way less eye-turning than having facial piercings and colored contacts, and later because the music was moving and accessible.
Rather than performing a cathartic hardcore number for the campaign, however, Strange turns The National’s folksy acoustic number into a slow meditation on reaching out to your friends, complete with slow, minimalist piano and a subtle drum machine. With the artist’s gravelly voice, the song’s main lyrics — “Today you were far away and I didn’t ask why” and “How close am I to losing you?” feel especially striking. Watch the full Sounds of Saving video below.
Strange is a longtime fan of The National, having released an EP titled Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy covering their songs in 2020. He recently became labelmates with the band after signing to 4AD, marking the occasion with the single “Heavy Heart.” Meanwhile, The National are set to play festivals including Seattle’s Day In Day Out and Connecticut’s Sound on Sound later this year.