“This song for me is a truth-telling, a blood-letting, a real-life heart opening to what it means to be a grown woman,” Nettles wrote in an essay accompanying the song’s release on Medium.com.
The track opens with a call-and-response from two guitars as she sings about embracing both the positive and negative aspects of life rather than just one or the other. Drums and other backing instruments do not come in until the chorus, and their absence in the beginning create a raw, powerful moment between Nettles and listeners.
“When I was a young girl, and even a young woman, I indulged the duality, the tempting, dichotomous fantasy, that Life can be neatly compartmentalized into ‘wrong or right,’ ‘black or white,’ ‘happy or sad,’” the Sugarland singer said in her essay. “As I became a woman, and most certainly upon maturing into a mother, I came to see that we live in the ‘in between,’ in the grey, and that sometimes things can be both happy AND sad.”
This realization presents itself throughout the song with lines like “I’ve gained joy like I’ve never known but lost the lightness when I was a girl,” showing listeners that life contains joys and hardships.
“Sometimes it’s all way to heavy, and I weigh more than the sum of all my parts,” she sings in the bridge, bringing back the slow tempo and rawness heard in the beginning. She then goes into a triumphant final chorus filled with guitars, drums and a sweeping string section, bringing the tune to a satisfying end.
“I Can Do Hard Things” is the first solo release from Nettles since 2017’s “King Of The City,” which honored the lives lost during the 9/11 attacks.