“Racing the Dark” embodies everything that makes Jackson such an incredible country artist. It calls back to his roots while also inspiring hope in those who listen. And he has Mattie to thank for the powerful message and key themes behind the song.
Mattie Jackson Selecman lost her husband, Ben, in a tragic accident in 2018. She’s struggled with her faith and her grief over the years, but recently, she channeled all of those emotions into an inspiring memoir called Lemons on Friday: Trusting God Through My Greatest Heartbreak. The book releases today, on Nov. 16, the same day Alan Jackson released the duo’s new song.
In an exclusive interview with Outsider, Mattie opened up about writing the song and sharing it with Alan Jackson. She began writing it around the two-year anniversary of Ben’s death, a timeframe that is actually referenced in the song.
“It’s about a young woman losing her husband, and in the course of that song, she basically represents every urge I had to run away,” Mattie shared. “She doesn’t want to face the pain at all. She doesn’t want to be where they lost their life together. And she’s running and questioning God and being like, ‘Why aren’t you going to heal me?’
How Alan Jackson’s Song ‘Racing the Dark’ Ties Into Mattie’s Story
Right from the get-go, “Racing the Dark” sucker punches you with heartwrenching opening lines. These powerful lyrics speak directly to Mattie’s urge to run from her memories and emotions.
“There’s a red outline // where that diamond used to be // another time-stamped love // ends in casualty,” Alan Jackson sings. “A one-bedroom apartment // is now her greatest fear // as the crash of all the memories // ring from ear to ear.”
These lyrics create an incredibly emotional image, especially paired with Jackson’s rich voice and the hopeful melody. During the chorus, Jackson dives into the woman in the song’s urge to drive away from all these memories. “Chasing I-95” and “racing the dark” as she goes.
But the sad undertones of the song quickly turn around after the first chorus. She’s “starting to see” God’s plan, and “her life is hers again,” not quite belonging to the dark. This leads to the woman eventually confronting her grief, which Alan Jackson and Mattie sum up in a beautiful twist on the chorus.
Instead of “racing the dark,” the song ends with the woman “facing the dark” of her grief. And that’s exactly what Mattie’s learning to do.
“At the end, she’s persuaded to come back to face her pain head-on. Once you slow down and face your pain and quit racing away from it, that’s the only way you can truly begin to heal,” Mattie told us in an exclusive interview.
After she shared the bare bones of the song with Alan Jackson, Mattie joined the production process. And now she’s ready to share her story with the world, both through “Racing the Dark” and her memoir, “Lemons on Friday.”
“It was a really, really cool process and not something I really ever imagined I’d be doing with him. But it’s very special to me now,” Mattie said.