Sunday, January 19, 2014

"one's in the grave. and the other should be."

I love it when Southern Living does a many-page feature on new artists. It's as if one of their swank journalists scrolls my iPhone, ignoring (and rolling their eyes) the occasional Ace of Base and N'SYNC, and focusing instead on my favorite music. The singer-songwriter, alt-country, rockabilly bluegrass gorgeousness that makes me want to write beautiful stories and fall harder in love and wear red lipstick. Everybody has a kind of music that makes them feel most alive, I think. It's all magic to somebody. Mine is in the bluegrassy-banjos-&-pretty-lyrics camp. (But it's darn fun to workout to N'SYNC. And Florida Georgia Line. Don't judge me.)

So when Southern Living, and Garden & Gun, recommend music, I gobble it up pretty fast. Typically, the music they recommend is something my brother told me about months ago that I just never got around to downloading.

Exhibit A: A Brooklyn based band called The Lone Bellow. There is no need to write about the magic they make. Just listen. And listen with your headphones on, so you can hear the snow crunching beneath their boots:

I've got the shivers, you savvy?

Certain songs make my skin prickle. I don't often listen to music with lyrics while I write. (Fun fact: I do often listen to an app that simulates a rain sound). But when I lose my way in a story, or when I need to stir some wonder back up again, I listen to music like this. Lyrics so gorgeous, they beg to be screamed. Music so beautiful, you swear it matches the rhythm of your heartbeat. The stuff that makes a person feel prickly. I like to think the pricklies are proof that there are good things - good stories - aching to get out.

There's a character in A Snicker of Magic named Florentine. She's a drifter, and a poet. She's restless. She carries around lots of baggage (literally and figuratively). In one scene, she says to Felicity:

“Stories aren't peaceful things. Stories don't care how shy you are. They don't care how insecure you are, either. Stories find their way out eventually. All you gotta do is turn 'em loose.” 

It's not always that easy for me, to tell a story. I feel like there are days I have to wrestle The Muse to the ground and demand one sentence - just one stupid sentence - that I can actually use. But there are other days I'm my own worst enemy, when it comes to writing. Some days, I just have to stop over- thinking it. I have to stop worrying about what a mess it is - I can fix the mess later. (And my editor, bless her, can help me fix the mess.) I don't have to worry about continuity, not yet.

Sometimes I can, as Kathi Appelt says, type like my fingers are on fire. I can write until a story spins me out and makes me tired in the best way. That's when I'm having the most fun. That's when I never want to stop.

Some days, the best days, all you have to do is turn it loose. On days like that, there's nothing in the world I'd rather be doing. (In case you're curious, The Lone Bellow's self-titled first album is out now, and it's worth every cent.)

What have you been listening to lately? 


  1. Some of my favorites lately have been Down by Jason Walker and Hazy by Rosi Golan. Music has an amazing way of inspiring and motivating. Thanks for this post!

  2. Have Mercy! What a BAND! And yes, that is perfect, rowdy, rousing, full-of-meaning music. I will definitely download that one. Thanks for the new favorite! You always know EXACTLY what I want to hear. --Wanda

  3. Love their sound! Thanks for sharing! I just discovered James Morrison's music and am "prickly" from it this week. Especially his cover of "Man in the Mirror."

  4. They have amazing energy! There was so much good new music last year that I've fallen into a comfortable little pattern: the Avett Brothers are ever present, of course. Then The Civil Wars, The Vespers, and a lovely duo called Handsome and Gretyl. I've also been listening to Jars of Clay's latest album a lot. (I've loved them for about ten years now, but just last year I remembered how awesome they are. :)

    By the way, there's no shame in N*Sync. I loved them, too, though I loved the Backstreet Boys more. And lately I've randomly heard a couple of BSB songs and they made me feel so nostalgic for my preteen years. :) I've been secretly considering putting some of their songs on my iPod- I still have the CDs!

  5. I definitely have those days. When the words just come out and my fingers ache from typing so fast. I love those days. And I'm also more of a Backstreet Boys fan as well, Kristin. :)

  6. Wow I feel like they were having a revival moment at the end of take me home. Wow... Just wow... :)