RI Musicians Play Their Hearts Out: A playlist of local love songs

Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon on Unsplash

We asked readers to share their favorite local love songs and why they’re worthy of your Valentine’s playlist. Here are 28 songs of love and loss from 24 local artists. 
“‘Skate’ is basically a sloppy love letter to Parker Posey, an end-of-summer lament,” says Benji’s vocalist Aryieal Francis. "‘Bad Sign’ is about the melancholy side of love when things don’t work out, the letter that you don’t send.” 
“‘Kiss My Cheek’ is about a couple having a tough time or arguing more from the exhaustion of life,” Barron says. “However, what keeps them going is that simple kiss on the cheek. Honest and sweet, it puts all things in perspective and reminds them of their love.” 
“Capone and I shared unconditional love,” Jimmy West says of his touching ode to his dog. “We were there for each other and made each other happy. He was my friend and I loved him. This song is a reminder of the great years we spent together. I miss him every day.” 

ERIC AND THE NOTHING: “DOWN TO THE CITY“They’ve written a bunch of beautiful love songs, but ‘Down to the City’ really touches my heart,” says Alyssa Lynn Tuchon. “I never expected someone would write a song about me, but it happened! Years later we're still going strong, though a lot has changed. I've become disabled and dealing with all the things that come along with that. Hearing how proud I made him feel then, even now despite things I can't change. I think the song encompasses that struggle of love’s ups and downs, but in a dancey, enjoyable way.” 

MIKE GENDRON: “UNTIL IT’S NOT“People often immediately think of a ‘love song’ as a song that needs to be sappy and full of big, tear-jerking chords, arrangements, and lyrics dripping with mush,” Gendron says. “People forget about the underbelly of true love, if you're fortunate enough to find it: how sometimes it can be a struggle to maintain understanding and the integrity of the whole ‘give & take.’ This song focuses more on that aspect, and that to make something work, if it's worth it to you, you have to endure and accept the dark, if you want to feel and appreciate the light.” 

J. MICHAEL GRAHAM: “BACK FROM MEMPHIS"‘Back From Memphis’ is a good love song because love is the driver of the song,” Graham says. “The speaker left his love behind for a life on the road, only to find desperation and regret…Long story short: success, fame, and fortune mean nothing without the muse.” 

HEATHER ROSE IN CLOVER: “TRUE NORTH“‘True North’ was written as a thank you and a promise to my wife Lisa,” Rose says. “It’s about finding your person and having the privilege to navigate life with them by your side. ‘True North’ has a very ‘It’s you and me against the world!’ vibe that Lisa took even further by recording a bass track that truly supports and elevates the song.” 

HELEN AND THE TRASH PANDAS: “LONELINESS IS THE DEVIL,” “AIN’T NOBODY“How ‘Loneliness is the Devil’ came to life is a love story. I was performing with my band when the next band came strolling in and one of them had a new fella. They had just gotten through a tough time in love and this new person shot up all the red flags. I glanced over to my bandmate and song co-writer Jay Scheffler and said ‘You know what that is? Loneliness is the devil.’” 

When you’re lonely and your heart is aching, you might do things you wouldn’t normally. The devil is the loneliness and it lures you to love something that might not be best for your heart. 

“‘It Ain’t Nobody’ came from letters I wrote to an ex of mine. I put them in my notes app, not to send but to get out of my mind and heart.” 


“‘Lorelai’ is about how love can change you against your will,” Hunsinger says. “The narrator tells Lorelai throughout the song that, despite how exciting his life is, he has only been lonely and unfulfilled without her. The upbeat nature is an indicator of how manic and nervous he is while saying all this. His heart and mind are moving fast, so the song has to move fast, too. It also doesn’t give the listener any resolution. It ends with the question: Do you ever think about you and I? His feelings might not be reciprocated at the end. Love is always worth it though, even if it hurts.”
JENN LOMBARI: “AFTERLIFE (HAPPY ANNIVERSARY)“I wrote this song about fate, destiny, kismet,” Lombari says. “Feeling like you’ve found your person and you want to be with them lifetime after lifetime. However, the person I had in mind when I wrote this turned out to be horribly emotionally abusive. But it does come off as a beautiful story with ups, downs, and understanding. It’s a reminder of what to strive for.” 

MARY MCAVOY: “LONELY LOVE"‘Lonely Love’ by Mary McAvoy is a classic lost love song,” says fan Michael Panico. “This is a true heartbreak song, direct and to the point. It’s about that time we’ve all been through, when a relationship ends before you’re ready. It’s painful but you must live through the pain. It’s hard, but at least you’re feeling something as Mary says in the lyric: I guess I would rather have you than have nothing at all. I've seen her sing this live and you really feel it when she gets to the chorus. She belts out ‘Lonely Love’ in such a passionate way you almost feel that pain yourself.” 

THE MCGUNKS: “LOVE SONGSo you want a love song/ Well you ain’t gonna get one here/ I think by now I would have made that clear…I find myself falling down/ Crawling back to you…It’s sarcastic but sweet,” says Bob Kadlec. 

BRIAN SHOVELTON: “STEP BY STEP"‘Step by Step’ by Brian Shovelton is a realistic love song that conveys a sense of hope and redemption,” says fan Jennifer Dunford-Roskos. “The message behind ‘Step by Step’ is that as long as you can hold on to love, anything is possible. A loving relationship will help you get over past mistakes and deal with present hardships. Additionally, this song is absolutely beautiful and has a catchy chorus.” 

MADDIE SKELDON: “HEART STILL LONGS“Love is complicated,” says fan Michael Skeldon. “In looking back at a relationship’s end, you can focus on trying to move on with your life or you can grapple with longing for a relationship that was less than perfect.” 

“The song is a love song about betrayal and the pain of being cheated on,” says guitarist Nils Freiberger. “Being in love can be a wonderful thing but it also leaves one vulnerable should such a thing happen. Crumble is another love song about breaking up and wondering what happened, how the other person can be so indifferent, and is it even worth trying again?” 

CORRINE SOUTHERN: “HONEY“‘Honey’ is a sweet, little song I wrote about the feelings that accompany new love,” Southern says. “The excitement you feel when you realize you’re smitten with someone. It’s lyrically cheeky and sexual while remaining genuine and maintaining a sense of humor. It’s a simple message of desire that has strong imagery.” 

“Nothing else matters when you're stuck,” says Sun. “You only see that one special person in a room full of people.” 

DAVID TESSIER: “HEY MARY“I don’t know that it makes for a good love song, or that it’s a good song at all, but it’s about the yearning to be near someone while life’s responsibilities keep you apart,” Tessier says. “Hey, Mary, I want you to see… Though the days and the nights and the dark and the light are conspiring, I want you here by me. It’s not Shakespeare, but it was definitely real when I wrote it.” 

“‘Part Time Lovers’ stands out as a rap love song that touches on the flakiness of dating and how people tend to only work ‘part time’ for things that didn’t meet their expectations,” explains vocalist Mike Jencks.