In my early twenties, I 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 my experiences. At that point in my life, songwriting wasn’t something I had any experience with, and singing was only something I'd done in a choir. Still, I couldn't shake the desire.
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. I formed an indie band with my friend, Danna, called “rosewood,” and we had a show lined up almost before we had our first 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 needed to clear our heads and step away from the piano. I remember crunching through the snow, singing snatches of new melodies and watching our breath spool before us. 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 found form in haunting melodies and raw lyrics. It became something that lived outside of my body, and the weight of it all began to lessen. Joy and purpose replaced the ache, and I felt as if I had stepped into a world of pure magic.
One night we were playing 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 whole bar on both levels was quiet as we sang, leaning forward to hear. They were still and silent as we sang, suspended with us in this intimate world. 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.