Tuesday, December 21, 2010

how important is music to you?

Are you listening to music right now? If you're like me you are rarely not listening to something. I listen to music at work, on the road, on the computer, when I go to sleep, whenever I can.

What do you do when you listen to music? What does the song mean to you? Does it remind you of that one person you hung out with while listening to that song? Does it remind you of some time in your life? Does it bring up feelings?

My dear friend, Suzanne Stafford, made me a mixed CD when we first started playing music together. We were both broken hearted at the time, and channeled our emotions into our music to create the sound for Come Hell or High Water. That sound has now changed a bit due to our outstanding band mates, but now I'm getting off track.
The CD that Suzanne made for me still brings up a lot of feelings for me. Some tracks get me a little choked up. Some make me smile at our amazing friendship, while others put me right back in that living room where I first listened to the collection- over and over and over. I can smell the dog-eaten couch. I can taste the bitterness in my bourbon. I can see the old carpet on the floor. I remember feeling so lonely, but knowing I wasn't entirely alone. How could I be truly alone if all of these songs were written and recorded by artists who obviously felt the way I was feeling? How could I be alone if my friend also felt these things?

Some of the music I listen to is old, some new, some cool, and some not.

Suzanne's daughter, Ollie, has heard us play music her whole life. Come Hell or High Water played a show a week or two before she was born. Suzanne's guitar was pressed against her very pregnant belly. I can only imagine what that sounded like to the unborn Ollie. Suzanne's beautiful voice has been heard by Ollie since she was a blip on an ultrasound.
This year Ollie turned 3. Melodi and Harry and I got her a kid's size drum kit which she played like an animal. It was one of my favorite moments.

I just met Melodi's nephew, Sam, 4 1/2 years old. I brought my acoustic guitar on our trip to Brooklyn and played some songs for him. He really enjoyed strumming the strings while I held the guitar and made chords with my left hand. He sang and made up songs like Rockaway Christmas, Little Sister Go Away, and Elephant on the Roof (the last one was a joint effort between he and I about an elephant and a rocket ship on his roof- as neither of those things would fit in their brownstone). Sam hit his head earlier today and I was able to cheer him up by playing a punk rock version of We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and drawing up a sketch of an invention we were talking over in which an electric guitar could be fashioned to shoot flames out of the bottom. We later upgraded this idea to double as a jet pack.
I played the wrong chords to We Wish You A Merry Christmas- and every song that he wanted to sing that I didn't know- but it didn't matter. His freestyle about his sister (8 months old) touched on the fact that he has to deal with her getting more and more attention.

When you listen to music you use a very large percentage of your brain. Playing music uses even more as you engage in it physically. How can music not be important?

I wonder, occasionally, what I'm doing with my life; devoting my time to playing and writing songs. I want to play better, write better, and touch someone with one of my songs- like all of these songs and experiences with music have touched me. I wonder if it's all worth it, if music even matters. Then I hear that one song, or see a friend perform his or her new tune, or see that one band play with that great sound, and it moves the Earth. If I can one day do that for someone else- I'm a success in my mind. So to me, it matters. Music matters. Music is important to me- kind of like food, or my glasses.

Please comment below on this. Tell me I'm crazy- or you know what I'm getting at.
How important is music to you? What are you listening to?


  1. Yeah it matters. And you're good at it. Captain Beefheart (R.I.P.) all day yesterday and Flaming Lips today.

  2. Very eloquent. Very earthy. Very 'Matty.'

  3. Music is way better than anxiety pills, because it's full of secret messages from beyond that are cleverly designed to painlessly dissolve into your brain. It's kind of like eating gummy vitamins instead of vegetables, except more effective. I also like the fact that music tries its damnedest to help me steer clear of complacency and keep me out of trouble. I like it when other peoples' music reminds me to be honest with myself. Songwriting often requires me to be honest with myself, which is hard to swallow on occasion. Sometimes, I can't even finish a song unless I've begun to make at least some of the daunting life changes that go along with singing it. Sometimes I finish the song first, wondering why on earth it popped out, and then I find myself compelled to do what it says afterwards. In this way, music is sometimes bossy, but I know it usually just wants what's best for me, so I try not to sass back. My music is often too sassy to put up with back-sass, especially when I think it's sassing other people and then I find out that it's really just sneakily sassing me. Usually I don't find out if this is the case until my friend Marshall casually points out the self-directed sass. Sometimes I wonder if Marshall is secretly a Sassquatch, which would actually technically make him sassier than me and my bossy music put together.

  4. Wow, Em. There ya go. Banjo Players- whatayagonnado, huh?