Why I Sing

In my early twenties, I suddenly found myself in a painful season that could not be circumvented. All around me was falling away and I wavered between depression and anger, and finally decided that  I wanted to sing about it, though songwriting wasn’t something I had attempted at that point, and singing wasn’t something I had done outside of church choirs. As I began to dip my toes in the water, a few people in my community began to get behind my creative efforts and push. My friend, Danna, and I formed an indie-folk band with me (called “rosewood”) and we started to write together, and had a show lined up before we had a set-list finished. She and I fell in love with writing music and what followed was a perfect flurry of late nights, with voice memos bouncing back and forth, poetry, whiskey neat, and rumpled pages scribbled with chord progressions and tentative lyrics.

There was a pub down her street that we would frequent when we couldn’t write anymore. I remember crunching our way through the snow as flakes drifted down, singing snatches of new melodies and watching our breath spool before us, knowing I’d never forget this. The warmth of the pub embraced us and we’d throw our scarves and jackets with the others atop a rickety table, and order lagers and play ping-pong and try to convince everyone we met to come to our next show. The months to follow opened up a whole new world for me... For a time, it was my reason to keep moving forward and rebuilding. The pain in my life was released into haunting melodies and raw lyrics. It became art that lived outside of my body and the weight of it all began to lessen, and slowly, joy and purpose took its place. 

And it was pure magic.

One night we were opening at Valentines (across the alley from Voodoo Donuts) and the sound guy didn’t show up. The bartender didn’t know where the mic cables were, so with the approval of the audience, we did the entire show acoustic—just our ukuleles, the built-in keyboard speaker, a cajon, and our voices. The entire bar on both levels was quiet as we sang, leaning forward to hear. You could have heard a pin drop when we paused to breath, but they were still, suspended with us in this intimate world, their faces so close I could see my pain mirrored in their eyes as they nodded and shared my experience, adding their own to it.

And I knew then, that I was not alone, that it was not just my pain, but ours. We carried it together that night and thru the nights to follow, in dim rooms lit by candlelight and glowing faces, each of us feeling lighter as we sang—as if we’d all been seeking a way to release grief that none of us had been able to find until the music brought us together.

Songwriting saved my life that year—I have no doubt of it.