BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#237 - "Suitcases" by Dara Maclean
Where did the luggage metaphor originate? NRT's Kevin Davis finds out.
 



Musical depth and Christian joy have rarely come together as compellingly as they do in the music of Dara Maclean. Hers is a joyful mix of pop idioms and eternal truths, danceable beats and the good news.

“I love making music you can move and groove to," she says, "but at the same time, as Christian artists we have a responsibility to speak the truth in love."

A singer of incredible grace, power and control as well as a gifted songwriter, Maclean has, with Dove Award-winning producer Ian Eskelin, put together a debut album that is as fresh and vibrant as any in recent years.

Entitled You Got My Attention, the project combines the soul and urban pop influences that infuse her musical approach with elevating vocals in service to intelligently uplifting lyrics.

Dara grew up outside Fort Worth, Tex., in a family that encouraged her love for music and ministry from her earliest days. She began singing at age 8, then went on to lead worship and actively pursue youth ministry. Maclean continues to serve with her family in their local church.

Heavily Influenced by the era of Motown as well by contemporaries like Adele, Natasha Bedingfield, Ray LaMontagne and Marc Broussard, Maclean has also incorporated the funk and soul she grew up loving into her music. She credits The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill--specifically, that album’s unique use of Scripture--with helping her discover who she wanted to be as an artist.

“Music has always equaled ministry to me,” she says. “Ministering to the broken, unloved and discouraged and ultimately showing people God's better way is what's in my heart. It's how I'm wired."

“Suitcases” is the debut single, driven by an infectious beat and a vocal approach alternately intimate and soaring, is an offer of true release from "your burdens, heavy like gravity." I had the chance to interview Maclean about her hit song “Suitcases.”


Please share the personal message behind writing the song “Suitcases.”

My dad teaches a class on Sunday mornings at the church I’ve attended since I was eight years old. He’s been teaching this class for the past seven years. I had just led worship for his class and he kind of randomly said during his class, “You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases.”

It was so interesting and it struck me so I wrote it down in my journal. The very next day I flew to Nashville to meet with my producer Ian Eskelin to work on a song for the album. I remember I opened my journal on the plane and I started to write the song and the chorus and the melody came to me and then I finished the song with Ian. The song is really about freedom and redemption and what is available to us as children of God. I think about a little kid sitting in front of a mansion playing in a puddle of mud, not realizing that the door of the mansion is already open and the keys to the mansion are in our hands. God has given us an inheritance as our Heavenly Father. As Christians, do we ever claim what’s already been given to us? We must, in order to do impossible things for Christ in the Kingdom.

Please tell me about the Bible verses you used in writing the song.

Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

What's the take-away message for listeners?

This song is about celebrating that Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly. That Ephesians passage is what this song is all about. Freedom from the weight of sin is really available to us. I’m glad this song is a metaphor, and we imagine people being able to relate to the picture of the burden of their sin bursting out of overflowing suitcases like a baby blanket and pictures of old boyfriends and girlfriends depicting having their fears and insecurities released. Why do we hold on to these burdens like treasure when they stop us from walking, let alone running into to the fullness that God has made available to all of us? I want to paint a picture of God's complete restorative love and how through Christ, we have an opportunity to live free. This song does just that.

Here are the lyrics:

How can you move when they’re weighing you down
What can you do when you’re tied to the ground, yeah
You carry your burdens, heavy like gravity
Just let them go now, there’s freedom in release

You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases
It’s a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart
Lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid

Just breathe, your load can be lifted
There’s a better way when you know you’re forgiven
Open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don’t have to be afraid

Can you imagine what it’s like to be free
Well, send those bags packing, they’re not what you need
Abandon your troubles on the side of the street
Just let them go now, believe me

You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases
It’s a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart
Lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid

Just breathe, your load can be lifted
There’s a better way when you know you’re forgiven
Open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don’t have to be afraid

There’s nothing hold you back now, just run

You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases
It’s a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart
Lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid

Just breathe, your load can be lifted
There’s a better way when you know you’re forgiven
Open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don’t have to be
You don’t have to be afraid


Here’s Asbury’s Bible commentary on Ephesians 3:20-21: “What does Paul ask of God for these believers? There are two requests. First, he asks God to strengthen them with the power of the Spirit. Paul hopes that as the reality of spiritual power grips them, their resolve to maintain faith in Christ will grow, for they will realize that Christ is all they need for salvation. Second, he prays that they will be empowered to grasp the extent of that love by which they have been saved and made secure. If they can personally approve or acknowledge the love that they cannot comprehend, if they can experience the fullness of Christ's love for them, they will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Divine power is at work in God's people to bring them to divine fullness. Thus God is glorified in the community of redeemed persons in whom the Spirit is at work.”

I absolutely love this song and this album, which is flawless in my opinion and is my top album of the year. I have 3 young daughters and I love the metaphor in the song comparing the burden of sin to the weight of carrying suitcases. When I travel on an airplane for an extended trip with my wife and 3 daughters, trying to keep our suitcases to less than 50 pounds is an immense challenge. I can never quite get the suitcases down to the required weight to not pay a baggage fee penalty.

This song is all about how Jesus has already paid that penalty for the weight of our sins by dying for them on the Cross. God can do immeasurably more than anything and everything one can ask or even imagine and this song is a true celebration of the great biblical truth of “Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” from Ephesians 3:20. The song is an offer of true release from “your burdens, heavy like gravity.”

I was immediately hooked right from the opening notes and I love how Dara gorgeously sings “You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases, It’s a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart, Lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid.” Amen!

(You can watch Dara performing the song here.)

Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ.

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