The Lumineers explain story behind number-one single “Cleopatra”

ABC/Lorenzo BevilaquaThe Lumineers are back on top of Billboard's Alternative Songs chart with their single "Cleopatra," the title track from the band's sophomore album. The folk-rockers previously made it to number one with "Ophelia" and their breakthrough single, "Ho Hey."

As lead vocalist Wesley Schultz explains, the song was inspired by a woman he met who lives in the country of Georgia.

"She had fallen in love with this boy. They were 16," Schultz tells ABC Radio. "Her father ends up passing away, and in the midst of all that, [the boy] asks her to marry him, and she doesn't have an answer. And so he leaves, heartbroken and rejected, and she never sees him again."

"He leaves town, it's a small town in the Republic of Georgia," the story continues. "And he tracked out these muddy footprints on her rug, and she refused to clean them. She wouldn't wash them off, and they remained."

The track opens with the line "I was Cleopatra, I was young and an actress," which Schultz says is meant to reflect the "archetype" of the iconic Egyptian queen.

"To me, that was trying to say, Cleopatra, this archetype of I'm gonna be this force of nature," he explains. "The world will see who I am, and if I don't I'll make them. And that's how we feel sometimes in our youth, this destiny idea of greatness."

Schultz adds that the subject of "Cleopatra" eventually became the first female taxi driver in Georgia.

"She's kinda got this tough gait," he says. "She walks hard, you know? She's had, I think, a hard life, she's been hardened by life." 

The Lumineers are currently on tour in support of Cleopatra.

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