Story Behind the Song: Martina McBride, ‘Independence Day’
In 1994, Martina McBride released "Independence Day," a single that became one of her signature songs. Written by Gretchen Peters, the tune shares the story of a mother and daughter living with an abusive husband, told through the eyes of the young girl. On July 4th, the lyrics go, the daughter walks down to the fairgrounds -- and while she is out, her mother burns down their house, with her husband inside, and achieves her own "Independence Day."
Read on to learn more about Peters' process of writing the song, why it took her so long to complete it, and how she decided to narrate the event from the perspective of a child.
What I remember writing about it, number one, was that I had the idea for the chorus first. The chorus, if you listen to it by itself, does not give you a whole lot of information about what's going on. So I was in this situation that I often find myself in, in songs, where I'm like, "What the hell is this all about? I like it, but what's going on?" There was this process of almost solving a mystery: Something cataclysmic has happened here, but what is it, and who are the characters involved?
It took 18 months to write it. As I lived with it, the story of the mother and daughter started to come, and I knew that obviously the "Independence Day" thing was a metaphor for [the mother in the song] finding her freedom. How does a woman in that situation find freedom? I was still a relatively young songwriter, and I really, really wanted to find a happy ending, or at least one that wasn't so dire and dismal. That's why it took me so long to write the song, because I kept trying to make things work out okay.
At the end, I realized that it was kind of ironic that I was going through the same process that the mother in the song was going through, of trying to find a way out that didn't involve death and destruction. In the third verse, where the daughter says "I ain't saying it's right or it's wrong / But maybe it's the only way," that was my way of saying that, sometimes, this is what happens. I'm not telling you it should be what happens; I'm telling you what happened to this particular family.
When I think back on the song, I realize that I used this thing that I often use in songs, which is what I think of as the "omniscient child": That's where the child is the character who's telling the story, because children see everything and just tell you what happened, very simply. They're like little reporters, children are. So it made sense for me to tell the story from the perspective of a child, because she could just say what happened and let you, the listener, figure out how you feel about it.