I can’t write while listening to music.
Actually, I can’t write while listening to music with lyrics. I can have classical, swing, jazz, world beats, or techno playing in the background, but if someone starts singing words, my mind gets distracted. I find this a little strange as I used to do homework in front of the tv growing up, and that wasn’t only an audible distraction, but a visual one as well. Maybe it’s a side-effect of growing older.
Music Growing Up
My dad was in the US Navy Band, so I grew up listening to everything. My earliest musical memories were of Frank Sinatra (now a favorite of my 9 year old because my dad introduced her to him as well), Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, and the Bee Gees, to name a few. Our house was more Elvis than Johnny Cash, more Beatles than Rolling Stones, and as a kid, no one at school could relate to me. It was bad enough that I never fit in, but I was singing about being a dancing queen while all the other kids wanted to whip it, whip it good.
Things evened out as far as music went once I hit junior high, then high school, and college. I rolled from pop (NKOTB) to hairbands (Bon Jovi) to rap (Run-D.M.C.) to metal (Iron Maiden) to R&B (Boyz II Men) to alt and grunge (Counting Crows, Nirvana) with the rest of my classmates, but at home we’d still march around the house to the theme song of each branch of military service, and my sister and I would make our Barbie dolls do dance routines to Heartbreaker by Dionne Warwick which involved triple flips off the top of the Dream House to impress their teddy bear boyfriends. (We didn’t own any Ken dolls, and having my little GI Joe guys courting the humongous Barbies seemed silly.)
Then, I got into death metal, but that was more of a “background music for my life” kind of thing which I still enjoy every now and then.
It’s funny how powerful music really is in our lives. We map so many memories back to what we were listening to, and while I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, I can still sing all the lyrics to All for Love by Color Me Badd. Why, brain, do you do this to me?
Listening to Little Stories
I’m not a music snob. I’ll listen to just about anything, so I can go from an Irish punk band show (Flogging Molly), to putzing around the house (Grouplove), to dancing with my daughter (Imagine Dragons). I’ll listen to country, but I don’t seek it out like my fellow Nalu do. And I will always do my darndest to get to a Chou Chou and Doc Scantlin and the Imperial Palms or Good Shot Judy to pretend to swing dance with Mark.
Music is life, and even though I can’t write when there are songs being sung, I love hearing a song and thinking “oh my gosh, this is a soundtrack for this thing I’m writing.” I’m sure that whatever the artist is singing, whatever little story they are trying to tell, has nothing to do with the story I’m trying to tell, but it’s funny how the music speaks to you anyway.
Sometimes, it’s just a lyric. For example, I became a Walk the Moon fan after hearing their song Anna Sun because of the part that goes “this house is falling apart.” At the time, I was writing about various Houses in Uniting the Heavens, and that one line just grabbed me. I’m glad it did as I’ve enjoyed going to their shows and dancing my head off.
Sometimes, it’s a whole song. One of my favorite bands is The Naked and Famous, and on their Simple Forms album is a song called The Water Beneath You. Every time I hear it, I imagine it’s the scene where Aren and Lake are talking in Tiede’s House baths. Want to see if you agree? Check out the section called Rumors, chapter one (page 185 if you have a physical copy).
Do you have a music story you want to share? Comment below! I’d love to hear it!