Maps take us places. They bring us home, lure us to cities we’ve never been to before, remind us how to return to corners we’ve seen once, but couldn’t revisit without directions. Of course, in many ways, music does the same thing. Through song, we’re able to return to our childhoods, remember our first crush, an era we miss, spend time with a person we’ve lost or people we still love. This collection of more than fifty essays by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state, melds all of this—geography, lived experience, and music—in one.
The songs (each of which you can listen to, embedded within the essays) span decades and genres, and reflect experiences and places as diverse as the people who have written about them. Sometimes, the pairings are on the nose (Bon Iver, Wisconsin; Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey); but other times, the musician is not from the state the writer has linked them to, yet their music evokes something more nuanced about the character of that place.
Through this music, writers have recalled their grandparents, childhood road trips, understood better the places they’re from, have dreamed of being from somewhere else, and reconciled with themselves—or just learned to appreciate, if not love—their hometowns. In this sense, this is not just a drawing of our country segmented into fifty sections, each labeled with a song; it is a chart of human experience, lived in each of those places, unearthed through the power of music. And, in turn, the songs and their stories bring each of the fifty states to life in a far deeper way than a map covered in millimeter-wide highways, and dots representative of the places evoked, ever could.
You can listen to the entire Musical Map playlist, located at the bottom of the post (it is an awesome hodgepodge, and worth your time), and read the stories that accompany each track and state below.


W  E  S  T

Alaska “Sleep Forever”–Portugal. The Man | “Whoomp! There It Is”–Tag Team
Arizona “La Charreada”–Linda Ronstadt
California “California”–Joni Mitchell | “The Next Episode”–Dr. Dre
Colorado “America”–Kenny Knight
Hawaii “Kaua’i Beauty”–Gabby Pahinui
Idaho “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked”–Minus The Bear
Montana “Big City”–Merle Haggard
Nevada “All These Things I’ve Done”–The Killers
New Mexico “Love At The Five And Dime”–Nanci Griffith
Oregon “Float On”–Modest Mouse
Utah “A Better Son/Daughter”–Rilo Kiley
Washington “Indian Summer”–Beat Happening
Wyoming “Homecoming”–Kanye West

M  I  D  W  E  S  T

Illinois “Aloha Spirit”–Seam | “Sunday Candy”–Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Indiana “Jack and Diane” — John Mellencamp
Iowa “Not Fade Away”–Buddy Holly
Kansas “Kansas City”–Wilbert Harrison
Kentucky “As Long As It’s You”–The Deloreans
Michigan “Techno City”–Juan Atkins
Minnesota “Connection”–Elastica
Missouri “Ride Wit Me”–Nelly
Nebraska “Nebraska”–Bruce Springsteen
North Dakota “The Deadroads”–The Rural Alberta Advantage
Ohio “Move To California”–Times New Viking | “Bloodbuzz Ohio”–The National | “Ohio”–Jason Frederick
South Dakota “South Dakota”–Liz Phair
Wisconsin “The Boys Are Back In Town”–Thin Lizzy | “Holocene”–Bon Iver

S  O  U  T  H

Alabama “I Saw The Light”–Hank Williams
Arkansas “Riches And Wonders”–The Mountain Goats
Florida “Sink, Florida, Sink”–Against Me! | “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)”–The Backstreet Boys
Georgia “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”–The Allman Brothers
Louisiana “Lafayette”–Lucinda Williams
Mississippi “Why Not Me”–The Judds
North Carolina “Rowing Song”–Patty Griffin | “Raise Up”–Petey Pablo
Oklahoma “Endless Oklahoma Sky”–John Moreland
South Carolina “Only Wanna Be With You”–Hootie & The Blowfish
Tennessee “Hold On, I’m Comin”–Sam & Dave
Texas “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)” — Lyle Lovett | “Texas Me”–Sir Douglas Quintent

N  O  R  T  H  E  A  S  T

Connecticut “The Man Who Murdered Love”–XTC
Delaware “Is This Thing On?”–The Promise Ring
Maine “The Sixteen Counties Song”
Maryland “Samir’s Theme”–DJ Debonair Samir
Massachusetts “Walcott”–Vampire Weekend | “Hey”–The Pixies
New Hampshire “Broom People”–The Mountain Goats
New Jersey “Thunder Road”–Bruce Springsteen | “Keasbey Nights”–Catch 22
New York “Put It On”–Big L
Pennsylvania “Ragged Wood”–Fleet Foxes | “Allentown”–Billy Joel
Rhode Island “Weston Road Flows”–Drake
Vermont “Mouthwings”–Mountain Man
Virginia “Pony”–Ginuwine
Washington, D.C. “Chocolate City”–Parliament
West Virginia “Take Me Home, Country Roads”—John Denver