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:)