I was going to write a piece about pie and compare it to songwriting…which may very well be a cute and witty column for the future. Then it came up in a conversation at a gig the other day that “music is supposed to make you feel good, or rather, music is supposed to make you feel something.” In this case, music that he’d heard was making him feel “down.” It got me thinking that the fact that we know music CAN make us feel is a miraculous feat all unto itself. The elemental energies that come together to create moments and memories within the soundtrack of our lives is vast and profound.
Music makes memories with kisses and mountains and bars and back alleys. It’s not just the song we remember, but the space, the colors, the scenery, and the company. All senses firing, music becomes the key to emotion flowing and amplifies everything present and past. Underneath it all is the moment a song is translated through the songwriter. I say “translated” because essentially songs are seemingly pulled from thin air. Ideas mix with experiences, with moments with humans, with the day to day, and the conundrum of living. Is it the songwriter that creates the song or that they are more like a light bulb for music? The layers of moments that come together to influence the creation of songs is vast and profound. The stories are lived and live on over and over again.
I’ll tell you the story of one of my songs to illustrate my thought process. I’d hit the road on an eight-month, cross country trek in my RV, Bessie. I was making my way through a cold and muddy Texas and recovering from a fire ant attack in New Orleans. I was itchin somethin’ fierce. I had no power and the heat wasn’t working. Thirty-five degrees outside and three layers deep, I decided the best thing I could do was pick up the guitar. You know…Drop D into swampland and sit right there in that murky water. It was that mud in Eola and the creepy cowboys stoking the fire. It was the oppressed RV villages filled with oil workers, barking dogs, and families left behind. It was the winemaker talking with eyes closed, and the incredible grief of wishing my Mama was still alive so I could call her, and she’d tell me everything would be okay. I was aware of the heaviness that had seemed to set up shop in my body and couldn’t find a way to release myself from it. My song “Not My Home” was shouting out, “this is not me. I don’t have to hold onto this. I’m leaving this all behind.” The elements and the stars aligned and the song was a song that night.
The emotion of music is captured and can be shared because those stories are alive within us and outside of us and when shared, are amplified by sound and resonance. We are not stagnant. We are like water…literally…most of us at least. Songs are like water drifting along the banks of a simple, complex, calm, and raging river. Sometimes the banks are wide and sometimes closer together, but they’re always flowing.
Every song has a story. Every songwriter has a story to tell. Every music lover has a story of a song to tell.