Brandi Carlile – “Broken Horses” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

At the heart of Brandi Carlile’s “Broken Horses” is a defiant anthem of resilience and liberation. The song reflects a woman who, after years of enduring and adapting, decides to stand her ground. It’s a symbol of breaking free from constraining societal expectations and realizing self-worth. The ‘broken horses’ serve as an allegory for individuals who have endured trials and tribulations, but have gained the wisdom and strength to break free and ‘run’. Brandi wrote this song to portray a personal journey, her own or another’s, of grappling with adversity and emerging victorious.

If you have a taste for lyrical depth and emotional journeys, keep reading. Let’s delve into the meaning behind the lyrics of this remarkable song.

“Broken Horses” Lyrics Meaning

The opening line, “I wear my father’s leather on the inside of my skin,” could be interpreted as a nod to the traits and qualities inherited from a father figure. It signifies the profound impact of a paternal influence that shapes our lives. Further, the line “I’m a tried and weathered woman, but I won’t be tried again,” reveals a narrative of endurance, resilience, and a firm resolve to resist any further trials.

This resistance to being ‘tried’ again could be seen in the lines, “Don’t think that you can come for me without your Sunday best / You had better call your priest and hope the devil gets the rest.” The song’s protagonist warns any potential adversary to come prepared, emphasizing the strength and determination that have emerged from past experiences. This fortitude is further enforced with the hauntingly potent phrase, “Before I do / Oh, and I will do.”

“I have worn the jester’s bells and I have vanished with the fools,” indicates a phase of self-denial, of playing roles to fit into societal expectations. But the defiance rings clear in “I have held my tongue too many scenes before the final act / With my children in the cheap seats and a zipper on my back.” No longer will she silence herself or compromise her integrity.

The chorus, “Tethered in wide open spaces / In fields that lead for miles / Right into the barrel of a gun / Mendin’ up your fences with my / Horses runnin’ wild / Only broken horses know to run,” encapsulates the song’s central theme. This showcases the struggle between confinement and liberation. Here, ‘broken horses’ symbolize those who have experienced hardship and yet have learned the strength to break free, to run.

In the verse, “I have ever so politely treaded softly for your grace / I have whispered through the tears and pleaded sweetly to your face,” we sense the resentment towards past submissiveness. However, the catharsis follows: “It is time to spit you out like lukewarm water from my mouth / I will always taste the apathy, but I won’t pass it down / It dies with you,” a powerful affirmation of breaking free from an oppressive situation.

The song comes full circle with a repetition of the initial verse, reinforcing the protagonist’s hardened resolve and illustrating a journey of personal growth.

The Story Behind “Broken Horses”

The powerful lyrics of “Broken Horses” mirror Brandi Carlile’s own experiences of dealing with societal norms, personal challenges, and the journey to self-actualization. Known for weaving her personal stories into her music, it’s likely that the song is born out of a specific period in her life, laden with struggle, introspection, and the subsequent rise.

Understanding the state of mind Brandi might have been in while writing this song adds depth to our interpretation. It underscores her strength as a songwriter, bringing raw and relatable emotions to the fore. These are not just songs; they are lived experiences turned into melody, making “Broken Horses” a deeply personal and profoundly impactful piece of music.