I've always had a propinquity to the dark side. I can remember at age 9, going to volunteer with my grandma at a little gift shop outside a railroad depot in Calumet, MN. I was in charge of running the concession stand. I had just begun to understand the concept of death and was grappling with the bleak notion that eventually, everybody just went away. Forever. Not having been raised a Christian, I had no security blanket about a glorious world beyond this one- whereupon I would reconnect with all my loved ones and bask in eternal lightness. Rather, what I understood was that once the fates decided it was time for me to be done living, there would simply be nothingness. It was a terrifying concept for a young kid and I became slightly consumed by negative thoughts and went into a depression. My parents tried to figure out why I had stomach aches all the time and what was at the root of my sadness. It was simple. I was sick because I didn't want anyone I loved to go away forever.
It was Christmas. Under the tree, with my name, were two gifts. A David Bowie record album and a small, acoustic guitar. We had recently watched "Labyrinth" and I had instantly fallen in love with David Bowie- but I hated the 3/4-sized wooden instrument, so proudly bestowed upon me by my parents. It hurt my fingers- and being that it was the 1980's, I saw that guitar as a boy’s instrument and wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted a piano. David Bowie however, played a big part in sculpting my world. Music has a way of doing that. I idolized him and he helped me get happy. My parents indulged my obsession by getting me all of his cassette tapes, alerting me to the various films he was in so I could watch and memorize them, and even letting me express myself through Bowie-inspired fashion choices that would have been considered a bit flamboyant to most. Eventually, I stopped being consumed by thoughts of death and began to be consumed by ideas for songs.
My parents eventually gave in and bought me a keyboard when I was 12 or 13 and that's when I started to get more serious about songwriting. Up until that point I had been awkwardly co-mingling spoken word and interpretive dance in a kind of pre-Lady Gaga, unbridled, pubescent free-flow format. I think the keyboard was purchased solely so I would stop doing the thing I just described. I didn't really have a natural aptitude for playing the keys. I had nobody to show me how to do it correctly and thus, my form was archaic and my technique was clumsy at best. But I started to write songs. I still have some of the cassette tapes from those days. If only I had a tape player with which to listen to them... or maybe they are best laid to rest in obsolescence. This went on for a number of years and turned into a short career with a classmate which you can read about in Blog #13.
I didn't really tap into my true musical capabilities until I decided to pick up a guitar. Initially, I did have flashbacks of my 9-year old self, sitting by the Christmas tree and struggling to grab a "B" chord, cringing and crying all the while. But this time I decided to push through it, learn a few chords, and develop some calluses. And I sure am glad I did. I found that rather effortlessly, I could write, play, sing, perform... no- I could ENTERTAIN!!! Once I was able to conveniently accompany myself, the world opened up. I was the live music at every party, I was the brash girl with the pipes. For the first time in my life, people actually seemed to give a shit about what I had to say. Through the years, my voice has been my greatest asset and my most dangerous weapon. It has led me to unimaginable delights and immense disappointment. It has caused some to swoon over me and others to despise me. A gift and a burden. I have always preferred to write songs that will bring people to tears because for me, the most depressing songs make me feel better. The most intensely tragic lyrics bring me comfort. I'm no longer the little girl at the concession stand obsessing about death, but darkness still hides in the shadowy recesses of my brain and peeks at me. Maybe it will always will be there. When it comes, I write...