Paul Cauthen's new video for "Prayed for Rain" is an ode to Dust Bowl-era sharecroppers and their strength to overcome a hardscrabble existence, which is what the song is about, ostensibly.
"Some of the strongest people lived and made it through the Dust Bowl," Cauthen says. "Hardships, famine, drought almost swept them all away. They had grit to say the least."
The song was written together with music producer and Texas Gentlemen guitarist Beau Bedford, Jason Burt of Medicine Man Revival and Arkansas singer-songwriter Ward Davis, co-writer of "Unfair Weather Friend" by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
"We wanted to write a song that was for the sharecroppers … Dust Bowl era, working with their hands and hearts for the blue-collar folks — that’s who this song goes out to,” Cauthen says.
There is more to the song than a simple gaze into yesteryear and thinking about how rough it must have been for folks back then, because, if you've noticed lately, there are still plenty of oppressive forces at work that people must struggle against daily to overcome.
"It’s a never-giving-up kind of song," Cauthen says. "It’s an inspiration and a lesson for myself. We finished the song, and it taught me how to cope. It was very therapeutic."
Though the song may not have a direct political message or social commentary, Cauthen and company have written a song that transcends its historical focus.
"You know some things will never change / I think about it when I pray for rain," Cauthen sings, knowing that there is also a chance that you can get "flooded when you prayed for rain." The fact of the matter is that the solution to any obstacle can be an obstacle in its own right.
"Whatever your political view may be," Cauthen says, "everyone will have a hurdle to overcome in their life. I wanted this video to be a universal song of strength and the will to persevere."
Cauthen and Vincent Monsaint, who filmed Cauthen's "Cocaine Country Dancing" video as well, picked Tate Farms in Rockwall as the location for this video. Established in 1962, Tate Farms is one of the last family-owned horse and cattle ranches in Texas.
It is true that some things never change. Just as economic and climate conditions threatened to destroy the farms of the American prairies in the mid- to late-1930s, factory farming is threatening to completely eradicate the family farm.
In March, The Guardian reported that "In 1990, small and medium-sized farms accounted for nearly half of all agricultural production in the U.S. Now it is less than a quarter."
In the video, there are two separate stories that converge over the progression of the song — one about a child, and another about the boy's deceased father, portrayed by Cauthen.
The child actor, Cooper Kimosh, is an 8-year-old student from the Dallas Children's Theater. He sums up the video's plot line: "It was about I lost my dad and had to do all the work now."
Kimosh says he enjoyed working with Cauthen.
"He's very funny and my mom likes him and he makes very good music ... he made me feel very good and comfortable and lucky," he says, but adds that it was hard to get into character grieving Cauthen's death while the singer was present on set.
"I was like, 'Did you (even) go to preschool?' He's right there."
The child actor symbolizes the youthful spirit needed to continuously push forward during hard times, and Cauthen, as the father, represents the history and the future of people who overcome those hard times.
"It's about the boy following the example of the father who has passed," Cauthen explains. "He has had to step up to the plate to take over the chores of the ranch to help his mother, and his father is still with him in spirit as a guardian angel."
Over the course of the video, we see a back-and-forth between shots of the boy and his mother handling the farm work, the boy grappling with the challenges of growing up too soon and the desire to remain a child, all while his father attempts to reach out to him on the other side.
When the father and son finally connect in spirit in the video's conclusion, there is peace and, indeed, rain. The universality of the song and video's message is one that Cauthen himself personally identifies with. These are not just lines in a song, but words of wisdom drawn from experience.
"All my friends, we were born survivors," Cauthen says, quoting the song's chorus. "We hustle, overcome, lift each other up, learn from the good before us and believe in the spirit."
That is all the advice Cauthen really has to give, and it's all he needs to give. In a world where every decision has a consequence, and a prayer for rain can end in a flood, what more can we hope for than the strength to carry on with a little help from our friends?
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So, how do we save the planet from the oppressive forces hell-bent on destroying it?
"Treat the earth like we treat babies," Cauthen says. "Protect and nurture it."
Watch Paul Cauthen's video premiere below: