Windows Down, Volume Up: Our Spring Driving Songs

Spring has finally arrived to the parts of Virginia and West Virginia that we all inhabit! Sunshine and warm air makes your favorite tunes taste even sweeter. Add that music to a drive when the world is stirring awake after winter, and you have that proverbial cherry on top. Today we’re sharing our favorite songs for a spring drive. Join us for the ride.


Photo by Amanda. Narrows, VA

If you spring trip with me, prepare for exposure to loads of Lynn Anderson, Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison and Heart. No compromises. Every season of every year receives a unique playlist from me, and each season evokes an explicit genre vibe to inspire playlist tracks. Spring ends up being the buttered toast to a classic rock and classic country jam. And one song in particular ALWAYS makes the spring edition, Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” The quick tempo and turbo riffs in “American Girl” rush me into the fresh, luminous days my soul pines for after a long, paltry winter. This song requires you to thunder the steering and earnestly belt along. Gear up—hair pulled back, sunglasses on, max volume—and windows rolled down. Wait, do we still roll? Hell yeah, we roll!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (featuring Stevie Nicks) – “American Girl”

Remember—never help an injured creeper lift his chair into a van, especially if you see a Q Lazzarus “Goodbye Horses” single in his floorboard.

When the weather starts to get warm, as it is now, and I’m out riding around listening to music I don’t really have any certain musical preference(s). I like to play all types of music – just as long as it’s good to me. As far as whole albums I love to listen to either Creedence or John Fogerty’s solo work with the windows down. Try playing Fogerty’s Centerfield with the volume turned up and the windows down sometime.

I also play a lot of mix CDs which has music by my favorite artists such as: Willie Nelson, Sam Cooke , Dr. Hook, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Laura Branigan and – just like the title of one of her albums – Dolly, Dolly, Dolly.

I have sought respite in my car every spring since I was 16. When you grow up in a super rural place, there’s not always a lot to do, but once the ice melts from the roads, one thing is for sure: you can get yourself lost on some back roads, music blasting, dreaming about what’s next. My first instinct for this writeup, was of course, The Avett Brothers. But I blast them in the car regardless of season or temperature. My second instinct was a variety of classic rock acts including CCR and Tom Petty, and judging by two of my comrades’ write-ups, one more thing is sure in this world besides taxes and death, and that is classic rock and your car and your windows down = perfection. So obviously I HAVE to link you to “Runnin’ Down a Dream” because it miraculously applies more pressure onto my gas pedal as I hit the back roads. I’m coming for you, future! There’s something good waiting down this road / I’m picking up whatever is mine.

Also, I had a moment where I thought, “Oh, this was released in ’89 so I guess it isn’t classic.” Guess what, folks, that was 25 years ago, instead of 10 like I always think. Alas, it has also been 12 years since I was 16 and not two like I always think. But when this song is playing? Everything is ageless.

Can I tell you something about “Surf Wax America”? It’s by the rock band Weezer, from Los Angeles, CA. It’s about surfing. And I love it. I listen to it when I first get to drive with my windows down each spring. “But Jeremy,” you’re saying, “That’s stupid. You grew up by the prairie. You live in the mountains. You’ve never shown any interest in surfing, ever. Why this song?” I’ll tell you why. (Also, don’t tell people their opinions are stupid. That’s dumb.) Because this song isn’t about surfing; not really. Surfing is just a metaphor, for freedom, for doing what you love, whatever that may be. “I’m bailin’ out because I hate the race / Of rats that run around and round in the maze.” The images are surfing but the feelings are universal. This is the ultimate driving song because it’s ultimately about being away from desks and cubicles and out under the sky, whether it’s earth, water, or asphalt beneath you.

It also happens to have the perfect music, starting with that amazing guitar hook. I dare you to listen to those first cascading notes and not think, “I have to go outside. Right. Now.” The music in this song is upbeat pop rock at its finest, and impressively non-90s — an indie band from the last decade easily could have released this song. (In an alternate universe where a band could be as good as mid-90s Weezer.) It’s perfect for a summer drive, punctuated by an exciting tempo kick after the “LET’S GO!” at 2:57.

When the wind is rushing past my ears and the final lines are repeated, I’m never thinking about surfing, only about the pull of the endless road: “All along the undertow / Is strengthening its hold / I never thought it’d come to this / Now I can never go home.”

What do you listen to when you hit the road the first warm day of the year?