Caleb Kopta: Burning House

The first time I ever heard music from Caleb Kopta was in a room filled with no more than twenty people in the back of a coffee shop. And when I say “the back,” I mean way back. It feels like a completely different building back there. It was in a small town out of state, on a stormy day, maybe an hour after my recently purchased car had been assaulted by pingpong ball-sized hail. I was standing in that modest room platonically beside a girl whom I had told was pretty almost one year prior. Suffice it to say the night was an irregular one. But here’s the thing about atypical experiences: they’re memorable.

And Caleb certainly was that. He was opening that dreary night in that sleepy town just because he happened to be passing through between headlining shows, and it’s honestly doubtful anybody was in attendance for the purpose of seeing him perform. There was hardly anyone in attendance at all in the first place. Yet on a Tuesday night during pouring rain, in an otherwise dead environment, Caleb was inexplicably and unendingly full of life. With just his voice and his electric guitar, he poured himself into that back-back room as if it were a sold-out stadium. He sang so heartily and danced with such vigor that his clothing was layered in sweat before his set was even halfway finished. I was dumbstruck, in awe. This was what live shows were all about. This was what music was all about. And even though I only understood every third word he sang that night (due to the muddy mix and mostly my already atrocious hearing), I knew what he was saying was important. The message didn’t need to be heard; it could be felt.

How I felt then as I watched Caleb in person is exactly how I feel now as I listen to his recordings. And his new single, Burning House, is no exception. It feels important. It feels passionate and honest. There’s a vague mystery to its story that is just as relatable as it is cryptic.

Found you laying on the floor
In the dried up dust
I stuck a foot in the door
I tried; you know I tried
To help you out when the fire began

Though the listener doesn’t know what the fire specifically represents or what has brought the individual addressed to the floor, it is easy to identify the idea of sacrifice—failed sacrifice, even. “I tried,” is such a dismally relatable sentiment.

You’ll never find love if you’re always alone
Yeah, but you run from me when I try to get close
You know I tried
Baby, I tried

The song’s lyrics paint such a vivid picture of unrequited love while still keeping the specifics of its narrative behind closed doors. We’re given just the theme, and the result is resonant. We get it. We feel it. It’s all too real, and it’s nearly unbearable. So where is the hope amidst all the pain? The chorus, though simple and short, is quite profound in its implications:

Tonight I’m living in a burning house
And, oh, it’s mine
Tonight I’m living in a burning house
And, oh, it’s fine
Baby, come on

It can feel like the world around us is crashing down, burning away despite all the passion and effort we throw at it. The goals and relationships we pursue can remain constantly out of reach. But though love can all too often go unreturned, it’s fine. A love without requital or reward is a true love. It is a necessary love. And the truth is all of us live in a burning house of one sort or another. But it’s our house. And we’re trying. And it’s fine.