Today at work I was talking to my co-worker about The Swell Season (they were in town tonight, but I’m not a crowd person and decided to skip it). She knew one of their big songs, but hadn’t really heard of them, or seen Once, the film they and their music star in.[If you haven’t seen Once, please go do that.]
The album after the movie soundtrack has been in my car since we bought the car in October 2010, and before that, the CD was in my old car. The CD has been in the car I’ve driven to work since I started working there, nearly two years now.
I was trying to articulate why, but I didn’t do a good job of it.
The thing is, that album isn’t my favorite album of all time. There are several more CDs in my car, and they’ve changed in and out over time. But this one—I can’t take it out.
Let me try here:
The first song (side one, track one if it were vinyl) is a song that calms me, every time. In the beginning of the last two years, I needed it. I relied on it. I listened to that song, sometimes on repeat, every day on the way home. It became a code, a signifier. When I heard that song, I was leaving one version of myself behind and picking back up the version of myself I liked better. I was going back to being Lori, the writer.
I listen to music while I write. Most of the time, at least. I have a handful of songs on heavy rotation right now that have become code, but a different one. When I hear one of these tunes, I know that I’m writing. I put one of them on repeat until I can’t stand to hear it one more time, but in the process, I produce a few pages.
Which song depends on what kind of scene I’m writing. At this point, I’m in the thick of things. My characters are about to sail into some trouble, and the song that I use right now—”Sail” by AWOLNATION—hypnotizes me completely.
Back when I needed the help of The Swell Season to get home, I listened to whatever was on the radio on my way in. NPR was too depressing to start my day, so I found music I didn’t hate, caught the traffic reports of areas of town I wasn’t going to get near.
One song kept popping up. That’s what happens when you don’t have actual DJs, right? (I hate the actual DJs of Chicago. I cannot stand Lin’s Bin or whatever it’s called. SHUT. UP.) The song? “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne.
Maybe you’re stable enough as a human being not to read too much into song lyrics as you’re driving toward a job you’re not sure you’re capable of doing. I was not. I kept hearing:
“Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive”
Jackson Browne, I didn’t want your damn help.
I heard that song today. I finally don’t feel like slapping Jack’s face when he sings this part.
In other news, I’m also making progress on my book. I’ve managed to get a whole lot of characters with a lot to lose in one place at one time. Two big chapters and two shorter chapters away from The End, I think.