So last night was a night like most others save for the fact that a new song started to take shape. I posted the rough first take to Soundcloud and asked the missus to take a listen.
She reacted the same way she always does. “It’s sad.”
We have this discussion every time I write something new and I go back through my demos and point to this song or that song and say “look it’s happy, it’s even in a major key!” and she says “NO…it’s SAD!”
She’s hears my music differently than I do but last night as we were going back and forth on the nuances of sadness verses melancholy I finally had to admit that yes, the new song, and even the song I used as an example of a happy one, are both kinda sad.
That got me thinking.
This morning I played through my entire track list on Soundcloud.
She’s right…there is an undercurrent of sadness, of reflection, self-doubt, and melancholy that runs through everything I write.
Last night, and often when this discussion comes up, she asks me if I am a sad person and takes it personally when I confess that, well, yeah…I have always kinda been more of an Eeyore than a Tigger…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m “sad.”
I’m content with my life. I think I have a great life. My wife and I have built something pretty awesome. We have a beautiful home full all the luxuries middle class America (and credit cards haha) can afford us.
Most importantly we have the most gorgeous, perfect, incredible child anyone in the world could ever wish to have.
My parents are a blessing and, while I have but a few friends, they are true friends.
But that doesn’t change the fact, I am very melancholy. When I think about myself it’s usually in terms of what I can’t do, what I didn’t do, what I should have done. I worry. A lot.
I always have. There’s just no getting around it.
Two years ago, on my 38th birthday I wrote a song and the line says “Funny you should ask, yeah it’s birthday. 38 and still full of my teenage angst.”
That’s as true now at 40, as it was then at 38, at 28, and at 18. I’m sure it will be true at 48, 58, and 68.
The song also says,
“But through it all I’ve found myself in a good place
I’ve got a good wife and a kid on the way.
Though I’m always down, and I like to complain
That’s just how I’ve always been and always will be.
But oh my love, I love today.”
I think, as much as anything I’ve written, that last bit captures where I’m at in life, certainly since getting married and even more so since the birth of my son.
As much as there are parts of my day-to-day, parts of my overall life that infuriate me, depress me, or act as a hot wet blanket, I am very grateful, very humbled, and yes “happy.”
That doesn’t mean I’m not still addicted to my sad. I still bathe in self-loathing, doubt, and the frustrations that come with carrying a lifetime of baggage around with me…but that’s just how I am.
It doesn’t mean I’m not “happy” with my wife, son, and life in general. It just means…well, I guess it just means I’m “THAT” guy…I’m that guy that writes sad songs because, well, it’s how I get it out.
I don’t write songs with anything in mind. I never have. I began writing songs out desperation. I needed the combination of words AND music to get certain feelings out of myself. Most of those feelings, I guess have been sad in one way or another.
She challenges me to write a “happy” song. She’s not the only one to have done so over the years.
From the perspective of a songwriter, someone who approaches it as a craft, it makes sense to stretch myself but when I’ve tried to do that, it feels disingenuous. I’ve never sat down to write a song as an artistic exercise…at least I’ve never succeeded in completing a song like that. I always toss it away because it just doesn’t feel right.
When I sit down to write, I’m not thinking about quality or structure or style, I’m just trying to get something off my mind, or out of my guts.
Sometimes I sit back and listen to what I’ve created and I think “hey, that’s not a bad song.” It seems almost coincidental though…like I managed to get my feelings out AND it might be enjoyable for someone to listen to.
I don’t know. That’s not really for me to judge though. I just sort of judge my songs on whether they sound good to me and whether they expressed what I needed to get out.
Bottom line, my songs are a reflection of who I am…obviously. And while it’s true that there has always been a thread of melancholy in both my life and my songs, it doesn’t mean my wife has failed me or that my son does not inspire anything short of jubilation.
Besides, “sad” songs are almost always “better” anyway haha…when I think of all the songs that cut to my core, that inspire me, that embrace me soul, they’re all sad songs. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.
Like I said, I guess I’m just “that” guy…38 (well 40) and still so full of my teenage angst. 😉
You can visit my “sadcloud” here. 😉
Be Well and Kind,