Listening to music and being sad

I listen to a lot of music. Less than some people, more than most people. I know the words to most of the songs on my phone’s playlist, and the playlist is over 200 hours. Id I’m out of the house alone, on my way to work or the store or nowhere, I have to have my headphones on. It’s not that the world around me doesn’t sound good on its own. It’s just, you know, everything’s better with a soundtrack.

We like the music that, I guess, “tunes in” with how we feel. That’s what most music tries to do, as an art form, generally it aims to move you. Some genres or artists or even specific sounds speak to an individual more than others. Maybe you like music to make your heart race, or maybe you like it to mellow you out. It changes depending on the time of day and year to year. Blah blah blah, you know what I’m talking about.

Lately I’ve been listening to Meg Myers a lot. I got hooked when I saw the video for “Desire”, I think it was two years ago now. I ended up listening to Make a Shadow over and over again; I still do. I love her sound. It’s kind of got this raw emotional edge to it, it’s familiar but unique. Her voice is so captivating, and that guitar is just… perfect.

I recently saw her new video for the song “Motel”. I don’t think it’s the best song from Sorry–it’s a small album, but there are a lot of great songs. There’s just this one part, later in the song, that I keep going back to. It’s when the music plays along with an audio clip from a Townes Van Zandt interview. Never heard the interview before I heard the song. He gets asked why most of his songs are sad, and he says,

“You don’t think life’s sad?”

Blew my mind.

There’s some pretty severe mental illness in my family. I’m close to people who have to work hard to keep a balance, or stay in control, or even just to find the motivation to function in their daily lives. It is scary, when you’re growing up and you see it untreated and it hurts everyone, and it can be just as hard watching someone you love struggle to keep it in check–especially when most of the world seems to want to ignore it.

I always thought I had to be really careful about my own feelings. I don’t think it’s just me, but sometimes I get hit by how much I’m told to stay positive, be happy, don’t let it get me down. You’ve heard it: “Quit moping around!” A lot of the time, life seems like a constant fight to avoid and deny sadness. Just the sadness that everybody feels, is it that awful? So it’s a little refreshing to hear someone talk about it like it’s okay. Not like it’s going to be okay. It is okay. Now, you’re crying, you’re feeling, it’s not funny, it’s not pretty, but it’s not bad. It’s not going to kill you. If you let it, let it out, it’ll heal you.

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