Amanda Gustafson and Eric Olsen, husband-and-wife songwriting team who currently comprise half of the Vermont rock band Swale, penned the song “If You Get Lost” for their friend who was struggling with addiction. It was released on their 2012 album A Small Arrival, and has since been a fixture of the band’s live rotation. In a tragic irony, however, they ended up performing the song at a funeral for another friend, Madelyn Linsnmeir, after she succumbed to addiction-related health complications while in police custody. The performance was captured on video and submitted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series this past April. During the performance, Gustafson dedicated the song, for the last time, to Madelyn’s memory, reflecting on her last few moments she had with her family. Madelyn’s obituary went viral after her sister, Kate O’Neil – writer for the Seven Days series “Hooked,” penned the frank, honest and compassionate farewell.
The Enduring Message of Swale’s “If You Get Lost”
Although Swale didn’t take top honors at this year’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, their resonant and unforgettable performance landed them on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. During the interview, Gustafson and Olsen recounted how substance abuse affected their own lives, including Olsen’s own personal struggles with heroin addiction, from which he has been clean for 11 years. While “If you Get Lost” was written for a friend of theirs, Olsen readily admits that it could have been written for him. “The thing about addiction — losing an addict or living with an addict — it’s heartbreak. And I think that’s why this song kind of sounds like a love song. It is a love song,” Amanda shares.
At the end of the day, when the last key is pressed and the last chord is struck, Swale’s “If You Get Lost” represents a universal message of hope for a population that can very easily feel as though they’re entirely alone in addiction. When we hear, and actually listen to songs like this, it can ignite the spark of motivation to seek help, and allow us to realize that a better and freer tomorrow is possible.