A co-write with Natalie Hemby and Luke Dick, it finds two circus performers, Elaina and Harlan Giovanni, missing each other more often than they should, both frequently wondering “what if,” even though they know it was never meant to be.
Miranda calls it a “once in a lifetime” song, and in a recent interview with People, she likened it to what is probably the biggest hit (and most special song) of her career, “The House That Built Me”:
“It’s like a ‘House That Built Me’ feeling moment musically.”
She went on to say that, while the song is definitely sad and will break your heart, the beauty of it lies in the fact that, even though Elaina’s old life is over because the circus eventually left town, she can find a whole new adventure in this new chapter of her life:
“The beauty in the story being like how amazing this past life was for this woman, but then the beauty in finding a whole new life after the circus is left town.”
I think a lot of us have probably been there at some point (well, maybe not a circus performer, but I digress), and while it can be devastating to leave certain things behind that see impossible to live without, starting over is sometimes the best thing you can do:
“I feel like everything ends at some point.
How do you do it gracefully, and how do you not make it feel just like an ending but a beginning of something new?”
So she may not be at a crossroads in her life at this exact moment, but she damn sure knows how to write a song like she is:
“Any kind of artist will live in the darkness because they’re using it for art.
But at some point, I can actually be happy and be functioning and doing life and get in a writing room and go somewhere else in my mind or heart.”
What I love so much about this song is that the darkness and longing for a life this woman once lived is very palpable, yet she’s moved on to a new life and only remembers those times in little moments, notably when she hears a carousel, hence the title:
“Every show must end, every circus leaves town I didn’t know the magic left ’til all the lights went down Now I’m back in Nacogdoches And I swear I’m doing well I only miss my Harlan when I hear a carousel”
It’s nuanced, it’s well-crafted, and it might even bring a tear to your eye… I don’t think you can ask for much more than that in a country song.
If you haven’t listened to “Carousel” yet, do yourself a massive favor and check it out: