I was listening to a Pandora station yesterday that had heartfelt female songwriters featured (think Brandi Carlisle, Annie Lennox, etc.). Though I typically go for funk, blues, bluegrass or Grateful Dead-esque tunes on Pandora, I was really moved by these ladies and had forgotten how soulful music can change your inner landscape. Duh, it’s often been the kind of music I write, you’d think I’d remember this truth. But it’s usually not the music I choose to listen to, mostly because I like to tap my toe and groove a little when I’ve got music on. In the middle of an Eva Cassidy song, I suddenly felt myself on the verge of tears. The song had reached a melodic hand right into my diaphragm and given a gentle tug.
Oooohhhh, I thought, awash with emotion. So that is where grief from my father’s death is living. That is where my overwhelm at not having enough time alone sits unnoticed. That is where my longing to write songs lives. Somehow Eva Cassidy found it-right there. And a big longing washed over me. I miss making music. Muuuuuuuusic. Grown-up, philosophical, moves you to the bone music.
One of the great sacrifices of becoming a mother has been the interruption of the flow of my creative life. It just hasn’t been the same in the two years since I’ve had my son. Before having a baby, I wrote music alone. Usually staring out a window at nature, with a glass of wine on the coffee table, a guitar in my hands, and a notebook and voice recorder next to me on the floor. With a toddler, three parts of that equation must disappear. Voice recorder & notebook- toys too fun for him to leave alone. Guitar- ditto. But most importantly, a fourth and essential part of the equation- the alone part, has almost entirely disappeared. Is the sacrifice worth it? Is having a child worth not having time to write & play songs? Yes, but the longing to have both is not something I can let go of. Having my son is worth more than anything. But walking around with a sorrow at not actively and regularly making music is…well, it feels like a big hole to fill, not having that creative outlet. No matter how much I love my son and am thrilled with him and who I’ve become because he exists, I still have that hole inside that makes me feel a little like swiss cheese. Maybe the longing to make music is part of what defines this part of my life. Is that part of motherhood? Longing to do the things you don’t have time to do?
I remember seeing an interview with Annie Lennox once and she was saying how important it was for her to maintain her own vision as an artist when in the recording studio. Often, a producer will come in with their own ideas and try to steer a musician one way or another to create their own vision of what the artist’s music should sound like. Annie’s take was that such a relationship was tantamount to someone standing behind a master painter saying, “I think you should add more blue over there in the corner. And red sparkles up there by the bird.” She would not have people messing with her medium. Music and its production was her art to shape and form and she would only work with producers who would help her vision come to life, not morph it into something that was not hers. I love that.
It’s a nice philosophy to try and strive toward in life- to only have people, activities and interests that help shape and form your vision into reality. Part of my struggle has been to quiet that intrusive producer within me saying who is saying, “You must spend all waking time with your son. You must be attentive at all times and build a rich and colorful life for him in every way. You must set your own needs aside to be with him.” When the artist in me is struggling for breath and, quite honestly, the vision for my life includes a rich and colorful life for me, not just for him. A simple necessity of that vision is alone time- time to hear my own rhythm, time for music. The vision is pure. Time alone for creative outlet? Children? I want both.