"Relatively Easy" as written by and Jason Isbell....
Are you having a long day
Everyone you meet rubs you the wrong way
Dirty city streets smell like an ashtray
Morning bells are ringing in your ear

Is your brother on a church kick
Seems like just a different kind of dope sick
Better off to teach a dog a card trick
And try to have a point and make it clear

You should know compared
To people on a global scale
Our kind has had it relatively easy
And here with you there's always
Something to look forward to
Our angry heart beats relatively easy

I lost a good friend
Christmas time when folks go off the deep end
His woman took the kids and he took klonopin
Enough to kill a man of twice his size

Not for me to understand
Remember him when he was still a proud man
A vandals smile a baseball in his right hand
Nothing but the blue sky in his eye

Still compared to those
A stones throw away from you
Our lives have both been relatively easy
Take the(a) year and make a break
There ain't that much at stake
The answers could be relatively easy

Watch that lucky man walk to work again
He may not have a friend left in the world
See him walking home again to sleep alone
Or step into a shop to buy a postcard for a girl

I broke the law boys
Shooting out the windows of my loft boys
When they picked me up I made a big noise
Everything to blame except my mind

I should say I keep your picture with me everyday
The evenings now are relatively easy
Here with you there's always
Something to look forward to
My lonely heart beats relatively easy
My lonely heart beats relatively easy


Lyrics submitted by grabysmith, edited by bkabbott

"Relatively Easy" as written by Jason Isbell

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Relatively Easy song meanings
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7 Comments

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  • +5
    My InterpretationThis may be my favorite song on Southeastern, if it's possible to pin down one.
    I think the song makes a very good punchline to the album. Most of the themes of the album center around the downtrodden. Slices of life of people who have made choices that lead them to misery.
    This song continues that theme, showing a few examples of people who are in similar situations. Drug addiction, suicide, widowed. These stories are all tragic and represent extremes of the misery that can come with living.
    But the punchline is that "on a global scale" that our lives, no matter how depressing and hopeless they may seem, are relatively easy. There's always someone worse off, if that's any consolation.
    jfoxxon June 24, 2013   Link
  • +5
    General CommentOh man. The very first time I heard this song, the second verse -- "I lost a good friend..." to "nothing but the blue sky in his eye" -- brought me straight to tears.
    t2gon January 01, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is my favorite song on the album (and I think it's Isbell's best album).

    I particularly love the lines, "Is your brother on a church kick? Seems like just a different kind of dope sick." Brilliant.
    sharkycharmingon July 24, 2013   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningGreat albums always tell a common story throughout, and this is one of the greatest albums of this generation. Certainly, from Cover Me Up through Relatively Easy, this is some of the best songwriting of the last two decades.

    I do want to slightly disagree with jfoxx about the album being centered about the downtrodden. More than anything, Southeastern has to deal with redemption and Isbell's path to happiness and love in his life.

    This theme is hinted at in many of his songs; it's true, common themes are loneliness, alcoholism, drugs, death, etc. But in many of the songs, there's that "but..."

    Even possibly the darkest song, Elephant, he ends the song repeating "we just try to ignore the elephant somehow," hinting that despite the cancer they still have a special moment of real human connection. In Songs That She Sang In the Shower, at the end he says "the frost on the ground probably envies the frost on the trees."

    jfoxx is right in saying that this song is the punchline to the album. It strikes you as Isbell's philosophy on life, it was the whole purpose of Southeastern. Despite everything, he now has someone to look forward to in his wife, and his once lonely heart beats relatively easy.

    What an incredible album. Raw emotion, sadness, beauty, love, hope, and he does it all without using any awful cliches throughout. Jason Isbell is emerging as one of the great artists of our generation, and his music will be timeless.

    Also, this is my favorite song of the album, which says a lot.
    HiddenMusicon July 23, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAfter performing "Elephant" at the Ryman recently, Jason said that a man at a prior concert responded to the song by yelling out "Play a SAD song!"

    This whole album (Southeastern) reminds me of Springsteen's "Nebraska", which is very high praise from this NJ boy, indeed. And the fragile hope & optimism expressed in "Relatively Easy" is his "Reason to Believe."
    RayBobon November 09, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe only section I don't really understand is this one:

    "I broke the law, boys
    Shooting out the windows of my loft, boys
    When they picked me up, I made a big noise
    Everything to blame except my mind"

    any ideas?
    lemmy999on November 19, 2014   Link
  • -1
    Song MeaningThere are a lot of little clues in this song--my interpretations are bracketed:

    Are you having a long day
    Everyone you meet rubs you the wrong way
    Dirty city streets smell like an ashtray
    Morning bells are ringing in your ear

    [We can assume the subject doesn't live in a gated community--everyday problems of the nonwealthy--it appears he is talking to his significant other]

    Is your brother on a church kick
    Seems like just a different kind of dope sick
    Better off to teach a dog a card trick
    Than try to have a point and make it clear

    [Indicates subject has a disdain for religious fervor and its inherent lack of explanation and sensibility]

    You should know compared
    To people on a global scale
    Our kind has had it relatively easy
    And here with you there's always
    Something to look forward to
    My angry heart beats relatively easy

    [He seems to downplay the unenviable situation he and his girlfriend are in saying compared to the worldwide population they have it "relatively" easy. Of course, everything in the world is relative--it seems his angry heart only beats relatively easy, but compared to what?]

    I lost a good friend
    Christmas time when folks go off the deep end
    His woman took the kids and he took klonopin
    Enough to kill a man of twice his size

    Not for me to understand
    Remember him when he was still a proud man
    A vandals smile a baseball in his right hand
    Nothing but the blue sky in his eye

    [He laments the suicide of a friend that at one time was full of life.]

    Still compared to those
    A stones throw away from you
    Our lives have both been relatively easy
    Take the(a) year, make or break
    There ain't that much at stake
    The answers could be relatively easy

    [Again, relative to his friend's situation, he states he and his girlfriend's lives have been relatively easy. But she's not buying it and wants to take a year break from their relationship, which he downplays, saying there "ain't that much at stake" and "the answers could be relatively easy"]

    Watch that lucky man walk to work again
    He may not have a friend left in the world
    See him walking home again to sleep alone
    Or step into a shop to buy a postcard for a girl

    [A flashforward, we can infer he's lucky to have work, but he's sleeping alone. Clearly, the break with the girl is permanent, but he buys her a postcard nonetheless.]

    I broke the law boys
    Shooting out the windows of my loft boys
    When they picked me up I made a big noise
    Everything to blame except my mind

    [This is a flashback--without her, he goes off the rails, possibly addicted to something, and starts shooting out his loft windows, leading the cops to take him in. Presumably, he goes to prison, which would appear to doom his relationship with the girl. Without the girl in his life, it's trouble.]

    I should say I keep your picture with me everyday
    The evenings now are relatively easy
    Here with you there's always
    Something to look forward to
    My lonely heart beats relatively easy
    My lonely heart beats relatively easy

    [Now, he only has the girl's picture to accompany him. Still, he claims, the nights and his lonely heart are "relatively" easy. Clearly, he's underplaying the struggles of being alone, just as he understated their apparent financial struggles and the importance of her to him. A really sad ending to a great and artfully drafted song. Overall, I think the song's theme expresses a forced acceptance of a bad situation and the struggles of everyday folks. The acceptance is less than wholehearted, though.]
    Joemama1on October 18, 2016   Link

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