This is how The Lumineers described the inspiration for the song, and ultimately the album ‘Cleopatra':
“Cleopatra made me cry in the studio and I had to stop the take.
It’s inspired by a true story about a female taxi driver who, when she was younger, was proposed to. But her father had just passed away, so she didn’t give her boyfriend an answer. So he left the village broken-hearted and rejected and never returned again.
He was her great love and she wouldn’t wash the footprints off the floor after he had left.
I knew immediately that I wanted to write a song about the story because it was so haunting and poetic. And I got to meet the lady herself eventually and she was very honest and humble
She really affected me because of the sadness in her story.
In today’s world, we are just inundated with images of grandness and how great everyone’s life is. And it’s not true.
In fact, it’s depressing. This was a real and honest story.”