Gregory Alan Isakov – “If I Go, I’m Goin” 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.

Gregory Alan Isakov’s “If I Go, I’m Goin” dives into the complex emotional relationship one has with their home and memories. The house in the song is almost a living, breathing entity holding secrets, history, and the emotional weight of its occupant. It explores themes of change, desperation, and the complex emotional decisions of leaving or staying. If he leaves, he leaves shamelessly, fueled by hunger or anger. If he stays, it’s also a daring choice. It’s not just a physical space; it’s a repository of experiences, shaping and being shaped by the person who lives in it.

Craving a little lyric wisdom? Stick around to peel back the layers of Gregory Alan Isakov’s poetic masterpiece “If I Go, I’m Goin.” Trust me, there’s more here than meets the eye.

“If I Go, I’m Goin” Lyrics Meaning

Starting with “This house / She’s holding secrets,” Isakov personifies the house as a keeper of concealed truths. You almost feel like the walls are whispering the stories they’ve seen. By hiding change in a coffee can “just in case I have to leave,” the songwriter captures the tension of being ready to bolt but also of remaining tethered to the past.

“I will go if you ask me to / I will stay if you dare.” These lines are packed. They capture the internal conflict—between desire and fear, between past and future. It’s almost as if the house itself or someone in the house has the power to compel him to stay or go.

“And if I go I’m goin’ shameless / I’ll let my hunger take me there.” The song makes it clear that leaving would not be a quiet exit. It would be a choice fueled by something primal—hunger, anger, even madness.

As for the line “She creeks and moans / She keeps me up,” it reinforces the idea that the house is a living, conscious entity. The idea that “the photographs know I’m a liar” adds an emotional charge. It’s not just a departure from a physical space, but a break from who he was in those captured moments.

“The shingles man they’re shaking / Back door’s burning through,” evoke the imagery of a place falling apart, yet still holding strong. These lines beautifully capture the essence of struggle and resilience.

Lastly, “If I go, I’m goin’ crazy / Let my darlin’ take me there,” injects an element of love or affection. Whether ‘darlin’ refers to a person or to the house itself, the emotional tether is undeniable. It’s a cycle—of contemplation, of grappling with emotions, and ultimately a choice to stay or leave.

The Story Behind “If I Go, I’m Goin”

Gregory Alan Isakov is known for his poetic lyrics and the emotional depths of his songs, often inspired by his own experiences and state of mind. When Isakov wrote “If I Go, I’m Goin,” he was likely in a contemplative mood, wrestling with his own sense of place and identity.

Isakov is no stranger to the concepts of home and displacement. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and later relocating to the United States, his life has been a tapestry of different places and experiences. This song captures that perpetual state of in-between, often felt by those who have their feet in different worlds.

His musical career, too, has been a journey. Isakov didn’t catapult into fame; he built his audience over years, creating a space for himself in the folk music world. The song is a beautiful distillation of these years of introspection, grappling with the very essence of what makes a ‘home.’

One must also consider the timing. “If I Go, I’m Goin” is part of his 2009 album, “This Empty Northern Hemisphere,” a collection of songs rich in emotional exploration. This period was significant for Isakov, cementing his reputation as a songsmith capable of capturing complex human experiences.

So, when you listen to “If I Go, I’m Goin,” you’re not just hearing a song. You’re tapping into a moment in time, an emotional crossroads, artfully crafted by a man who understands the eternal human struggle to find and define home.