This month I’ve been revisiting the music that got me to where I am today. Let's jump right into it; I believe that my love of writing and performing music was born from my early love of listening to music. From as far back as I can remember, I have always loved music. I loved listening to music in the car with my mom as a child. When I was really young, about 2 years old, she would often listen to Frente!’s Marvin the Album. That could’ve been my first steady introduction to alternative songwriting. To this day I can still sing every chorus to every song on that album. How my mom discovered an indie alternative Australian folk-pop album is beyond me. She probably picked it out at the record store for the bright and sort of strange cover art. I highly recommend this album if you’ve never heard it, especially the song “Labour of Love.”
In elementary school, I specifically remember being at a friend’s slumber party and hearing “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira. As far as I know, this was the first time my very young ears had heard a current top 40 hit (my parents exposed me to literally every genre and artist from Marlene Dietrich to the Grateful Dead, but absolutely zero top 40). I vividly remember listening to this song over and over with my group of prepubescent friends. A whole new world of music had been opened up to me. Around the same time, I remember hearing the name Eminem for the first time. My childhood best friend, Matt, loved Eminem. My creep of an elementary school gym teacher would play an array of rap, hip-hop, and rock loudly in the gym as we ran laps. Even at that young age, I remember wondering how it was appropriate to have a bunch of 8-year-olds playing dodgeball to Kid Rock’s “Cocky.” I also think that’s the first time I discovered what giving someone the bird was, but that’s a trauma dump for another time. Alas, abuser-creep teacher or not (another story for a different time), that was the first time I was exposed to hip-hop, rap, and whatever Kid Rock is/was. Maybe I should sue the school system for my therapy bills now.
I had a babysitter when I got a little older that was really into music. She was only thirteen but had told my mother she was, “fourteen, my birthday is next week” and was hired… my mother thinking she was almost 15. When I got my first mp3 player, she added two songs to it. They were “Sadie Hawkins Dance” by Relient K and “SOS” by Rihanna. I must’ve played those songs a million times.
As the years went on and I went through my, “my parents can’t possibly like good music” phase and I became discouraged by the music my peers would listen to. Mid/late 2000s top 40, although catchy af, was not the best music to inspire a young creative to write. The only breath of fresh air I felt from popular music at the time was Taylor Swift, to whom I owe much gratitude for basically teaching me how to play acoustic guitar. I was just starting to write songs regularly and studying Taylor Swift was a game-changer. She taught me chord progressions and song structure. Most of all, she taught me that I had a voice as a young girl and what I was going through mattered. Thank you, Taylor.
My sister showed me Paramore’s Riot! in middle school. Around the time that we would sneak eyeshadow into school and take it off when we went home. Hayley Williams’ red hair, emo clothes, and loud instruments…I was hooked. That opened me up to a whole genre and world of music to discover. At the time, it never crossed my mind that I could do music anything like that. Hayley’s voice is a force to be reckoned with and my little classically trained voice was not ready. To me, it was not in the realm of possibilities.
As a middle school/high schooler, my voice was still developing and changing more than I thought it could or would. I was singing soprano in the school choir and studying classical music. I was told by my music teachers, “Popular music will ruin your voice.” The music on the radio was all powerhouse belting women, which just didn’t feel like me. Overall, I knew I loved music but I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. That’s when my high school choir teacher sat me down and wrote a list of artists I should listen to. The list was something like…Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Feist, Ingrid Michaelson, and Sara Bareilles. That was it, my life was changed. Thank God for Mrs. Christy, a 26-year-old high school choir teacher, who just happened to be sort of twee and very cool for the time. Imagine a more emo Zooey Deschanel. Mrs. Christy, if you’re reading this, thank you!… and I hope that you don’t mind me calling you emo or twee. Fiona Apple and Ingrid Michaelson were my go-to ride or dies for YEARS. They taught me that my voice could do anything I wanted. I could write whatever I wanted. Fiona taught me that I could be mad… that it was okay to be a young girl and be angry about life. I finally had an outlet for the teenage angst I was looking for.
I could go on and on about the music that shaped me, but these are the experiences that stand out right now. I’ve made a playlist for you. It’s my adolescence in song. Give a listen, go back in time, and grow up with little angsty me!
Until next time,