Recorded for the 2020 online edition of the Newport Folk Festival, the stripped-back rendition of Welch’s 2001 classic sees Barnett playing a sparse guitar accompaniment while Bridgers adds gorgeous vocals along the way.
While this bedroom recording gives fans an idea of what they missed out on with 2020 putting a temporary hold on live gigs, supporters of both artists may have in fact heard them both perform this song previously in their own live sets.
While Barnett has performed the track live frequently, she famously played the tune during her performance on The Tonight Show back in 2018. Meanwhile, Bridgers has covered the song frequently, having teamed up with the likes of Julien Baker and Anais Mitchell to perform it as a duet at festivals such Eaux Claires and, of course, the Newport Folk Festival.
“It’s incredible to me that Gillian wrote a song essentially about the internet, and managed not to compromise her style at all,” Bridgers told Rolling Stone for a feature on the song’s popularity. “I love that the chords don’t change, and that the verse melody is exactly the same as the chorus, but it’s so strong you never get bored of it.”
Discussing the song’s origins during the same feature, Welch recalled that the song came about following the expiration of her record deal, while “some piece of news that had to do with Napster” helped serve as the catalyst.
“I don’t want to pin it down and say the song was about Napster, it wasn’t. It’s about feeling like my personal creative independence was threatened,” she recalled. “What I realised over the course of writing the song was that the power I retained was the threat of withholding.
“I hate those people who get on their high horse and say, ‘Art is pure. Do it anyway.’ Of course I’m going to do it anyway, you jackass. But I’m not going to do it outside of my house. This is what I do. It’s what I’ve done since I was seven years old. But from the time I was seven until I was 18, I only performed my songs in my bedroom. It was only once I realised that I was going to have to get a job that I started to do it professionally.
“There were a number of songs I can remember crying while working on them, and that was the case with this one. I really thought that we were going through enough of a sea change that I felt inconsolable. I was like, ‘I can’t believe it. I got to this point. I’m a professional musician, and now I’m not going to be.’ I really felt that threatened. So, did that come to pass? Yes and no.”