I’ve had an interesting relationship with music over the years.
I fell in love as a heady teenager, passionately belting out original songs on an old piano while experimenting with my evolving voice. It was my drug of choice. At 13 or 14, I once confided in a friend that I’m not sure how sex could ever be as thrilling as songwriting! In a sense, this is still true. The rush of creating a new piece of music is truly unlike anything else, and I’m so grateful to have felt it.
Growing up in a strict Christian family and taking a lot of the fundamental teachings to heart, many of my early songs were directed at God. For those familiar with worship music, there tends to be a very specific formula! Loverhymes with above, fire with desire, and soul with whole. (You’re welcome. Go write a worship song.)
Things started to get interesting when I became a youth worker at a Christian campsite after finishing high school. My job each evening was to play some of my original songs about Jesus to young campers. I was a paid musician, you guys! I loved it, kids loved it, and it inspired me to hone my skills as a communicator. I had a message, and it felt so good to share it.
Over the years, I began to lose my faith. Or, more specifically, my restrictive ‘faith’ began to lose me. The narrow sense of spirituality I grew up with no longer fit the man I had no choice but to become. This was incredibly inconvenient. While this process of maturity caused a lot of confusion amongst friends and family, perhaps the most confused of them all was my music.
Am I a Christian artist? What is my message? Who is my audience? Throw a mainstream record label, some music industry politics and a bewildered, closeted twenty-something into the mix and you have all the makings of a depressed and highly anxious musician. Throughout my twenties I was able to create, produce and release some music that I remain proud of today. Still, it came from a place of much tension, sadness and confusion.
I wanted to make a difference. I just wasn’t sure how.
In 2013, I released a Christmas album. It was the first time I had experienced ‘lightness’ in creating music, and I loved every second of it. Sure, I didn’t write any of the lyrics, but I was able to create new melodies and arrangements, and produce a record from start to finish in around six months. The previous album took closer to six years!
However, when releasing Brand New Christmas, the uncomfortable truth began to sink in. I no longer know what my message is. There is no deeper purpose behind my music. I have no idea who I’m trying to speak to. Sure, Christmas songs are awesome (in the cheesiest kind of way), but I felt that the passion was fizzling out of my relationship with music. I was gutted. I had to make a tough decision.
I had to let music go.
So, I wandered into the wilderness. I went to therapy. I turned to academia. I completed a psychology degree. I travelled. I dove deep into books about thought, purpose and meaning. I journalled. I fell in love. I got my heart broken. I ended friendships, and started new ones. I healed wounds with myself and those around me. It was all painfully, beautifully, necessary.
Recently, something strange has started to happen.
It began last year. I felt it from the deepest parts of my soul. Melodies began to once again form. Ideas. Purposeful ideas. Words and music based on the things that bring us to life. Love, kindness, forgiveness, bravery, hope. Music knew where I was. Music decided to find me. I found myself in music.
So, I’m not sure what my next steps are. I’m currently travelling without a piano (you know, baggage allowances), and I have another couple of months of travel before heading back to Australia to work on what is most likely my next project. Will it be an album, in a traditional sense? Will it sound anything like my previous releases? Will it even be any good? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m ready to make love with music again.
I’ve missed you, old friend. Thanks for never giving up on me.