“I got things in my head that just won’t quit/ I’m gonna kill somebody,” Luisa Lopez sings in “They Ain’t Gonna See Me Coming: An American Western.” It’s a track from her latest album, 45, whose noir-flavored video is premiering exclusively on Billboard below.
The singer-songwriter, who recently relocated to Nashville from Houston, isn’t killing anybody, of course. But Lopez felt that a first-person perspective would be most effective in this case.
“I’m a big fan of storytelling, and I love Johnny Cash’s murder ballad kind of thing,” she tells Billboard. “I just gave a lot of thought to what is it that’s going on in people’s brains? What kind of state of mind do you have to be in to take it upon yourself to go murder your neighbors? You make all this effort to plan and plot and take out people’s lives. What would make someone make that kind of plan? I think it’s so dark and it’s weird ’cause you’re saying these things, and it seems like it’s coming from you.”
The song’s video, meanwhile, juxtaposes shots of Lopez performing with gritty footage of the presumed killer preparing for action. “It shows the attentiveness and the coldness in which people finish out their plans,” Lopez explains. “I don’t think anybody can get out of the song that I’m celebrating it. I think of it like when you hear Johnny Cash say, ‘I shot a man in Reno to watch him die.’ I think there’s kind of touching the sun aspect to it.”
Lopez has her own take on contemporary gun violence too. As “They Won’t See Me Coming’s” subtitle indicates, she considers it a manifestation of Western film and literary culture, the shoot-first philosophy that made stars out of the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood.
“This is a revered kind of thing; The good guys and the bad guys ride into town and take people’s lives,” Lopez explains. “People think that’s so awesome, but actually it has consequences, and we’re seeing this now. These guys do think they’re the good guys, the white supremacists who roll into churches, even the folks who did the San Bernardino shooting or the guy who went down to the Orlando nightclub … They had in their minds they were doing something righteous. It’s bizarre and it’s out of hand, but it doesn’t feel that far away from what we glorify in those [Western] movies.”
“They Ain’t Gonna See Me Coming” is one of several socially conscious songs on 45, which came out May 31 — titled for the age when she began writing its eight tracks — and marked a sea change for Lopez, topically. “I think of it as a social commentary album,” says Lopez, who performed a show for the ACLU this year. The new focus has grown on Lopez, and she says she’s looking forward to playing the songs more on the road during the charged election year of 2020.
“This is my first time ever being this way,” Lopez says. “That album just rolled out of me. I think I’m finding my place in the music, in the social commentary and in the political arena. I don’t think my songs are very political; I try to tell these stories on purpose. If you live in Nashville long enough you end up rubbing elbows with some really amazing, Grammy Award-winning artists. One of them said he thought there was a lot more life in 45 — not the president, but my album. And I like that.”
Listen to “They Ain’t Gonna See Me Coming: An American Western” below.