The Meaning of Tyler Childers’ “Follow You To Virgie”

Tyler Childers live at Railbird Festival in 2019. Photo by Christian Stewart.

Tyler Childers’ “Follow You To Virgie” is one of his most popular and heartfelt songs, although like “Shake The Frost,” it does not appear on any of his studio albums. Rather, most have heard the song via the version released on the OurVinyl sessions compilation (although I prefer the one from Live at Red Barn Radio). Nevertheless the song is a staple in Tyler’s live rotation, and many fans resonate with its nostalgic beauty.

The lyrics to “Follow You To Virgie” are about the passing of the grandmother of Tyler’s friend Cody, whom Tyler remembers fondly from his younger days. Her death causes Tyler to reflect upon growing up and recalls the things he and Cody used to do back then, such as “getting high and skippin’ class.”

No matter how much trouble those boys got into, they were always looked upon as saints in the eyes of Cody’s grandmother. So now that “heaven’s angels carried her away,” all of Cody’s childhood friends are coming home to attend her memorial service.

This story is told in the first two verses:

Back before these calloused hands and all this work
We used to sit up at the flats
Acting like we’d live forever
Getting high and skipping class

Yeah, I reckon we were heathens
But in her eyes, we were saints
Now you’re calling all the boys home
‘Cause heaven’s angels carried her away

First two verses from Tyler Childers’ “Follow You To Virgie”.

When Tyler sings of “Virgie”, he isn’t referring to Virginia, as one might assume from hearing it. He’s actually singing about the rural town of Virgie in Eastern Kentucky, the region where he grew up and often sings about. This is where they’re holding the funeral for Cody’s grandmother, and where the reunion of Tyler and all of his childhood friends takes place.

Tyler recognizes the spirit of Cody’s grandmother watching over them “through the pines” as they lay her to rest that day. She must have been a very special “mountain beauty”, the way that he sings about her. The emotion in his voice brings about a familiar feeling for all of us, whom may have come together with old friends and family in a sad way a time or two.

So, I will follow you to Virgie
Although it hurts me so
To lay to rest this mountain beauty
That the Lord’s called home
And I can’t see her up in glory
I can see her through the pines

Chorus to “Follow You To Virgie” by Tyler Childers.

In the third verse, Tyler sings of the days before he made it as a musician, when he and the boys would sit around learning how to play their guitars. They would talk of dreams and write songs and there would be old Cody’s grandma, in the corner “singing along to all our crazy dreams.”

Back when all us boys were tryin’
To make sense of all these strings
I can see her in the corner
Singing along to all our crazy dreams

Third verse to “Follow You To Virgie” by Tyler Childers.

In the end, “Follow You To Virgie” becomes a song about friendship. He sings that friends are there to have each other’s backs during hard times, and to pick you up when you’re down. While Cody’s grandmother may have had a deep impact on Tyler’s life as a kid, he knows that it could not have been as deep as the bond that Cody himself must have shared with her.

Tyler offers words of comfort in the final lyrics, as he points to the sky and reassures Cody that she’s up there looking down on them. She wishes them well, “saying boys be good.”

And I will follow you to Virgie
‘Cause that’s what us boys are for
To help you out when you get weary
And you can’t go no more

Can’t you see her up there, Cody?
I can see her through the pines
Saying boys be good

Final verses of “Follow You To Virgie” by Tyler Childers.

“Follow You To Virgie” is just one example of the incredible songwriting talent of Tyler Childers. This song, however, has a special feeling to it. He has never recorded it in the studio, but every time he plays it live you get the sense that it really means a lot to him.

In a session with Red Barn Radio in 2016, Tyler explained the story behind “Follow You To Virgie” before playing it, and says that the last time he was at Red Barn was the first time he was able to get through the song without breaking down. Watch that session below.

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