by Rachel Cholst, Senior Editor
Editors’ Note: this is the first article in ‘Invisible Burdens,’ our new series of articles that focus on the intersections of mental health, queerness, and the country music community. Read more about it in our recent announcement post. -Ed.
It’s easy to feel dispirited by the conditions of the world at this point. In fact, if you aren’t, it’s because you’re on a different plane of reality. But in “Apathy Blues,” North Carolina-based experimental folk artist Ashley Virginia reminds us that nihilism only allows the status quo to win.
Chugging along with a ‘60s groove, Virginia and her band strategically bend strings to remind us that something in this song’s focus is off-kilter. As Virginia’s husky voice shepherds us into the song, it’s impossible not to feel comforted, even as she rattles off the injustices of our present day.
“Apathy Blues” was inspired by a quote she heard in a movie: “If you get shown a problem, but have no idea how to control it, then you just decide to get used to the problem.”
“This song was my way of processing all of that was going on during the Trump administration, and really, it’s the advice I needed to give myself,” says Virginia. “I love ‘60s music and the culture in general during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The music of that time was really rooted in protest and cultural change, which I find very inspiring. The times we are living through now really aren’t all that different.”
“Apathy Blues” is one of the many counterculture-inspired songs off of Virginia’s album And Life Just Goes On Living, which came out on August 13. The album chronicles Virginia’s battles with mental health throughout having been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and complex-PTSD. “This album is basically my diary,” says Virginia. “In general I tend to have big feelings and writing music and being creative is therapeutic for me.”
“‘Apathy Blues’ is a protest song about how constant consumption breeds apathy,” she tells Country Queer exclusively. “I wrote it as a reminder to myself to not give into the disassociation and doom-scrolling. Our attention is one of the most valuable assets a person can have. With a never ending stream of content at our fingertips, it’s pretty easy to grow apathetic and get used to issues that shouldn’t be normal, but have become normalized.”
For Virginia, And Life Just Goes on Living is an alternative to the constant grind. “This album, I think, very well encompasses and represents my life over the past few years,” she says. “It has been my journey of healing through that trauma and pain.”
Rachel Cholst is an educator, comic book writer, and music journalist in New York City. In addition to her role as Senior Editor of Country Queer, she produces the podcast and blog Adobe & Teardrops, as well as the podcast Country Queer Spotlight. You can find her on Twitter at @adobeteardrops and on Instagram @adobeandteardrops.