There are those pieces of music in our lives, the songs and albums we have deep, emotional relationships with — the music that reminds you of a fucked-up love affair and sends daggers through your stomach as a result of it*, the album that takes you back to riding in the passenger’s seat of your father’s van at five years old, or the song that was playing on the radio when you received word that your best friend died.
I listen to music every day and have for years now, just not feeling quite as full as I do when I give myself a good, long drink of beautiful, analog sounds in my ears. I’ve enveloped myself in a myriad of ways — back in L.A. it was driving Deborah with six Pioneers on board, in The Bay it’s a solitary walk after a good, long smoke. I tend to be monogamous, spending long spans of time with the same piece of music, albums and playlists alike. Sometimes I gravitate to something because I relate to it somehow, in the moment of my lived story. Sometimes just because it’s new and I dig it. Sometimes it’s so I can feel close to someone I’ve lost. Regardless the reason, each is a thread in the fabric that comprises what is, essentially, the soundtrack to my narrative.
There are The Constants: Rufus Wainwright, Letters to Cleo, & Fiona Apple, to name a few — the artists whose music reflects the things I’ve felt and feel, even who I am, at times, it’s the music that makes up my history. There are Those Who I thought Would Remain, But Didn’t: No Doubt immediately comes to mind, although I still do think Gwen was underrated as a songwriter. And then there are The Girlfriends, artists particular to that one relationship: Ben Folds, Fiona Apple, & The White Stripes, who I couldn’t listen to for months after each inevitable end.
A wise man wrote that “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” I’ve always written to music, though there’s no one way that I use it. Sometimes I’ll listen to a song or an album because it’s particular to a character or the scene that I’m writing, sometimes to evoke a mood or a feeling in myself, in the hope it’ll come through on the page. So, too, does it give life to the past — helpful in composing one’s origin tale. I’ve been in the habit of building playlists for my writing for the last few years now and did again when I began work on “a f*cked-up fairytale.”
Many of the songs are taken from lived moments: Fiona Apple & Innocence Mission, “Rendez-Vu” (Basement Jaxx) in Las Vegas, naming my Mustang “Debra” (Beck). A few I added because of their mood: Elton John is one example, Janis Joplin because I often had discussions with my friends likening the spirit and ethos of the sixties to rave culture, to our philosophy of “peace, love, unity, respect,” in particular. I ended up referencing all of the songs by name in the narrative, save for only one instance (as an emerging writer, I have to say, igniting the ire of corporate lawyers is not my idea of fun).
It’s an exciting time to be a writer, in this Digital Age of ours, given the tools at our disposal. In the course of writing “a f*cked-up fairytale,” I found fifteen year-old photographs of the now-shuttered, NYC nightclub, Twilo, in which I set a scene; lost remixes of “Electric Avenue” and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech I’d heard spun in the underground, both of which I write about, as well. Just as important to me as research is, as the access I now have to different mediums is, is also the ease with which I’m able to connect with my readers in different ways, like sharing a playlist, for instance.
Below you’ll find the playlist for “a f*cked-up fairytale,” which is comprised of every song directly referenced in the novel.
Listen & enjoy!! And thank you again for following my journey down the rabbit hole.