Sad stories become songs, but sometimes songs also become sad stories. That's the case for Jon Pardi and "Starlight," the final song on his new Heartache Medication album.

The Dixon, California-raised country singer describes the sound of "Starlight" as a disc-bluegrass kind of country vibe. "We were talking about loved ones we lost in the past," he says. "Instead of it being kind of simple and kind of sad we wanted it to be like real upbeat and lifting to where you listen and you remember happy thoughts. You kind of feel like they're around with you."

Bart Butler and Jefferey Steele co-wrote the song with him in 2014, making it one of several songs dreamed up before the release of his second album, California Sunrise ("Don't Blame It on the Whiskey" was written in 2008!). There's no doubt fans will hear it as they intended. A jubilant banjo plays over melancholy chords before Pardi starts singing about angels and the comfort of eternal life.

"You're shining down on me / Showing me the way / Angel of the night / Here to save the day / Like a light out of the dark / Straight across the sky / Up there in that starlight, starlight tonight," he sings during the chorus.

Four years after "Starlight" was written, one of Pardi's good friends died. Jason Hairston's story was eloquently told in the New York Times last January — the 47-year-old Sitka clothing and KUIU founder quietly suffered from C.T.E. after a college and pro football career and took his own life at his family's home last September. Few people saw it coming.

"He was one of the biggest influences," Pardi says, adding that KUIU was an early sponsor. "He always pushed me to go to Nashville. He was always (saying), 'Ain't gonna happen in Dixon, dude' (laughs). He was always that real guy, you know."

Unable to make the funeral, Pardi instead sent a video message attached to "Starlight." He heard from family friends that the impact was immediate and remarkable — the song was helping do what he hoped it would: Lay a brick in the road to healing.

Maybe "Starlight" would have made the album anyway, but maybe not. It's an outlier on Heartache Medication — an album filled with traditional country themes and sounds — and he's clearly not afraid to kick a good idea down the road.

"A song always finds its way back to being heard again," Pardi says. Sometimes the circumstances of that journey are tragic.

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