Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Good Stuff

Back in 2008, during the time Meg and Dia (the band I play guitar for) began touring and releasing records consistently, I started to take music more seriously, and developed a rather concentrated routine of analyzing music. There was no more whining along with Dashboard Confessional, throwing my aching heart to the wind. There was no more driving around in my car, blowing off steam and screaming out my window with Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World.... "And how long would it take me to walk across the United States... all alone!"

I was a professional now. I didn't listen to specific bands or certain artists any longer. I'd just listen to whatever anyone else was playing in the van, or whatever music was playing in the background of restaurants. "Ugh huh, ugh huh" I'd think to myself. I would listen to each instrument separately, focusing on drums first. I would listen more intensely than a master chef concentrates on the tastes of a secret recipe to discover the coveted ingredients. Then I'd move to bass, and rhythm guitar, and lead and so on. I had fully convinced myself that I had figured out why that particular artist had chosen that particular guitar tone, and decided to insert that particular riff at measure 6 and again at the end of measure 17. I focused on how the mixing of the song was arranged. "Why are the drums buried in the back on this track?" " Why are the vocals 10 decimals louder in this one?" "Is it really necessary to repeat that last passage 7 times?" 

I kept this "perspective" of music for many years up until just recently. I wouldn't say I was enjoying it. I was working too hard trying to "figure it out" to enjoy what the artist created.

Today, while I was driving back from my yoga ride (a pleasant bike ride around Lady Bird Lake and the South Congress bridge, followed by yoga on the grass as the sun was setting. Boo ya!) a rock song came on. The D.J. bellowed in his booming voice that he was delivering to us listeners "rock from the decades!" I believe that the songs were randomly played one after the other in a sort of musical montage jumping from the 70's to the 90's to the 60's.  I can't tell you what the songs were exactly.

That didn't keep me from belting along. While riding on the tail end of my endorphin high from my bike ride, I yanked my water bottle up to my lips as my microphone, and began nodding my head frantically and shouting the words, any words really to these rocks songs. I pictured myself on stage. It was a beautiful daydream. Then I returned to reality, put down the water bottle, and glanced to my right just in time to notice the judgmental face of the driver next to me who had witnessed it all.

I would have been embarrassed had I not just experienced a major epiphany. A Nirvana song came on just then almost as a confirmation to my epiphany. "Come as you are...as you were...as I waaant you to be" and I listened to Curt Kobain and his raspy fed-up voice coming through my car speakers, and I can tell you right now, Curt sure as Hell wasn't concerned about time signatures and quarter note snare hits when he wrote that song.

 He knew how he wanted the song to feel, how he wanted people to feel when they listened to it, and he wanted them to know they were listening to the good stuff.

You can tell. Anyone can tell when music comes from the heart or the soul or both, usually both. Anyone can tell when a song isn't fabricated mindlessly and when it was created with honest intent.

You know, I can use what I learned today metaphorically with anything. I love shopping at thrift stores because I always find gorgeous, vibrant clothing. Items I can tell some person somewhere created with soul. When I'm wearing that dress or that scarf I don't count the stitches. I don't measure the length of the sleeve and make sure the pleats in the skirt are even. I just know that when I wear it, I feel confident, and I feel happy.

From now on, when I'm writing, I'm not going to think so much about every tiny detail. I'm going to simply sing and play and get my song out and recorded so that it make me feel just like I want to feel, and it will make people feel just like I want them to feel, and I want them to know that when they listen to my music, they are listening to the good stuff:)



  1. Wow, this was exactly what I needed right now. 'Cause this is exactly the same way I feel when I write short stories. I'm always obsessed with things like not repeating a certain word too often or if a paragraph is too long.

    Also, I've noticed that whenever I read a book, I'm always analysing how that author writes and his techniques and try to accommodate that into my stories. It helps my writing in one aspect, but it somewhat takes away from the joy of reading the book. I've just got to relax and focus more on how I want the story to feel for the ready.

    Thank you for this piece of wisdom, Meg.

  2. i like how you always link music to something. i have to admit that im actually quite obsessed with doing it in the perfect way, which is to look into every single details. i remember my teacher once said, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. hopefully someday, i can do it like a dude without thinking THAT much!!

  3. Hi Sunny, Yes! That's exactly what I mean. Next time you try to write something just write. Don't nit pic everything. It's so freeing! ha ha.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I think i kind of had a mini-epiphany reading this. I had a similar experience with music myself. When i was a kid, i was a band geek. All i could think about was getting into a music conservatory and becoming a classical musician so when i heard a song, i would always critique and tried to break it down. When i played pieces, all i could think was "how is my intonation? "The timpani was late on that note" or "the clarinet was flat on that run." I wouldn't think "oh this song is wonderful and amazing."

    Then one day, one of my favorite bands, Motion City Soundtrack came out with "Even If It Kills Me" and that just overwhelmed me with emotions and it was like a breakthrough. I saw music in a new light and I wanted to experience those vast range of emotions in which that album brought to me. Of course, the pieces that i'd been playing all those time had those emotions within them, but i'd been too busy to recognize it. Like a month later, i was accepted to a conservatory on a full scholarship but i decided not to go. I was happy with the way i saw music and i felt like if i were to continue with that sort of music education, i would end up thinking like that again and i might loose it. I still play music now since i still have my trombone and tuba but i don't play like that anymore. I just do it for the fun of it and there isn't going to be a teacher yelling at me for missing my cue or for being flat.

    Now on to the part with my mini-epiphany. I'm currently a wannabe comedian and i spend most of my time filled with anxiety wondering if people are going to like my sketches or jokes. I would constantly rewrite my sketches since i though that people wouldn't get this, regardless of the fact that i though it was hilarious. Maybe i just need to do stuff i think its funny and maybe others will be able to see it. Time to get out of the house and find some place to write. (this post was really long)

  5. I really love this blog entry. It made me more interested in music and it made me giggle haha :)

  6. Love Love Love this post. I for one have major writer's block when I sit down to write. You've totally described what I've come to realize lately; that I must write from the heart. If I do that it doesn't matter to me what other people have to say, as long as I'm being true to me! Can't wait to see if or how this will change your lyrical genius!

  7. Just wanted to say this was inspiration and made me think about my habits more. Thanks Meg!

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  9. Awesome advice. I really like the way you write Meg!