Why do we listen to music? I’m sure everybody’s got their reasons: nostalgia, joy, sadness, motivation, distraction, escape. But as I sat here trying to come up with witty and insightful things to write for this week’s edition of Music Monday, I realized none of those reasons I listed are why I love music. At the core of my need to collapse in my apartment after a long day and put on a record or pump up the music in my car just a little louder is that, for me, finding just the right song is like coming home.
There’s been a lot of transition in my life. I’ve lived in five different houses, four different cities, and I attended a different school every year of middle school. When people ask me where I’m from, there’s no one place I think about as home. Home, for me, isn’t a physical place as much as it is an internal contentment with where I am at the moment, a peace in present circumstances that sometimes only music makes happen.
So, listed on my playlist are some of my favorite songs that bring me back home, and in the rest of the article I’ve expounded some on a few of the highlights.
The first one, Anthony Burger’s “It Is Well With My Soul,” is a song I’ve heard my dad play on our ancient piano late at night over and over again through the years. No matter what city we were in or what new school I was starting, laying in bed listening to the soft strains of the piano simultaneously reminded me that my dad was vulnerable, but he was still strong enough to protect me. My freshman year of college, some nights I fell asleep listening to piano music on my iPod because I couldn’t relax without it.
The second, Elvis’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ is another nod to my dad. I remember long car rides to the mountains for hikes and bike rides when he’d play the king’s CD’s even though he knew how much my mom hated Elvis. I watch from the back as he’d turn it up and belt out the lyrics and my mom would roll her eyes, annoyed but resigned to my dad’s antics.
Needtobreathe’s ‘The Outsiders’ made me feel secure in my constant insecurity. The first time I heard it was my freshman year of high school, which was my fourth new school in as many years. I didn’t really fit in anywhere because I’d been too busy being the new girl all the time to really stop and think about who I wanted to be. Needtobreathe helped me figure it out. Seven years later, they’re still the band I turn to when everything’s upside down and I just want to remember what I’m sure of.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a song my best friend and I can belt out together word for word. We’ve known each other nine years, and she lives in Alabama now, but if I called her and started singing she’d jump right in. When I’m lonely, this is the song I turn on to remind me distance can’t break friendships.
When I listen to ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ by Ben Sollee, it takes me back to the small town of Versailles, Kentucky that was one of my favorite places I’ve lived. It also reminds me to look for beauty wherever I am. In West Tennessee, it’s the sunsets. In East Tennessee and Northern Thailand, it’s the mountains. In small Kentucky towns, it’s the horse farms. In Portugal it’s the beaches. It doesn’t matter where you are, there’s something beautiful to take note of. Remembering that reminds me I don’t have to hold just one place special in my heart. Home can be a lot of places.
The last two, Coldplay’s ‘Death and All His Friends’ and Switchfoot’s ‘A World Where We Belong’ are two of my favorite, because they’re all about the impermanence of this life. They remind me that I’m not crazy for never feeling at home anywhere here, because I’m not home yet.