Being Vulnerable Through Music
A version of this blog post can be found on my ReverbNation musician page. If you like my music, please share it with everyone you know.
Music is powerful, sometimes way too powerful for its own good. In the world of music therapy, songwriting is used as a means to express emotions and feelings that are otherwise hard to express. It’s also used for other things, but generally, emotional experession.
While songwriting is good in therapy, it’s also good for personal emotional expression. Songs, poetry, and stories follow similar processes: identifying the emotion being felt and finding ways to express it, whether it be through metaphor or whether it be through simply stating, “I’m angry/sad/happy because…”
Sometimes I write songs as a means of emotional expression. A lot of times I just write songs because I have a great idea and work it until it’s decent. But sometimes, I experience something that I know no other way to talk about it than to write a song about it. One of the most significant times I’ve done this is when a good friend and great inspiration of mine passed away in November. The news hit me hard, and all I could think of to do was sit down and write. In a short while, I had a song: “Superhero.” I entered it into a video contest, and got into the Top 25. I then performed it at Wartburg’s “Battle of the Unsigned Artists” competition and it helped me win first place. Most significantly, I gave the lyrics to the Hansen family. I haven’t heard from them, but I’m almost positive they greatly appreciate it.
Which brings us to the reason for this post. After a pretty significant break-up, I had no where else to turn but to music. I wrote a couple of really straightforward songs (including one entitled “Really? Seriously? I Hope You Die”) before I decided to stop focusing on my feelings and rather about the situation. Eventually, I came up with another song, and named it after the girl. I was fully expecting to never have to deal with her again, so the end of the song is a little emotional and a little disappointing.
However, I forgot one thing: she’s going into the same profession that I am. I would have to deal with her professionally forever and ever. Which made me think about posting that song on my artist page linked above. I posted it and instantly wondered how she would react to it if she found it. Would she understand that it’s artistic expression, or would she get really angry about it, further destroying our professional relationship. In the end, I realized that it didn’t really matter, so I posted it, and even had it up for sale.
Putting so much of my personal self into a song was a risk that I was more than willing to take. And I thought that was the end of that. Except that we were both attending a conference. At first, I was nervous about seeing her again, worrying about feelings that would come up again. Needless to say, those feelings never materialized, and we both sat down and talked it out. We talked about the weird vibe between us, and how we need to keep ourselves professional and friendly. It was a good, healthy talk, and we’re on good terms again.
But that left a problem: the song no longer worked. I tried singing it, and it felt weird to sing about feelings I no longer felt. The song needed to be reworked. So I took it down, removed the bridge and rewrote the third verse. It’s now a more mellow song; what was once a song about longing for something I can no longer have turned into a song about life coming full circle, from love to loss to love again.
I recognize this is a very vulnerable post, and something that is out of the ordinary for me. A great mentor of mine, Weston Noble, once said that sometimes it’s perfectly necessary to be vulnerable. So what’s the necessity of this bit of vulnerability? It’s to show that, yes, it is perfectly fine to be publicly vulnerable.
And in a way, it’s able to teach a message: sometimes the situation seems beyond your control, and you can’t see beyond your current situation, much like my “break-up song.” But with enough time and little bit of awkwardness, things will change. People will change, situations will change, and it’s best to be flexible and vulnerable. And sometimes it really helps to write a song about it.