One of life’s most commonly treaded paths on the way from childhood to adulthood is the experiences that shape you. You go from being a child who seems to do everything with their parents to determining your own independance. You choose your own friends, you determine how well it is that you’ll do at school and you begin to define yourself by the things you do. Some of us play sports, some of us play musical instruments, others invest themselves in books. It’s these years in our lives that reveal part of who we become.
In my teenage years sport was always a big part. Whether it was supporting my Balmain Tigers rugby league team or playing soccer, tennis and later cricket. Sport has always been a part of my DNA. But equally it is music that has been a big thing for me. I learned to play the drums for a brief while, tried to play guitar right handed, despite being a natural left hander. I loved attending rock concerts/shows/gigs. I’d seen the odd one in my teens but it wasn’t really till i hit 18 that attending these such shows became my normal.
By this point i was seeing close to a couple of gigs a month, often more. There was plenty to like about the experience. The bands, the bright lights, the deafening sounds and the fact that you were there with like minded people. It was great fun, and a relatively safe environment for a teenager to be in.
I’ve seen so many bands, too many to count really! My scene was pop punk bands generally. Sometimes they were heavier, louder, angrier and other times they were gentle, soothing and melodic. Over time you connect with certain bands, not just their music but the things that they stand for as individuals. You realise that these bands actually stand for things, important things. They stand as ambassadors to the ways of life that we can choose to live by.
A lot of them, if not all, will stand for loving and respecting everyone around them. But you do begin to realise that some hold these values closer than others. You end up being drawn towards the ones with likeminded thoughts and values to yourself. As much as a good guitar riff or hook sucks you in, it’s the connection you feel with a band or song that will pull you in properly.
I naturally was drawn to bands that were either positive, defiant, honest and real. Why? Because thats how i see life in general. I’m all of those things. It would be fair to say bands like Anberlin, Paramore and Switchfoot have become my anthems. Their like mindedness drew me in. I could empathise with what they said in their songs. I could understand and relate to things they said outside of their music.
To me music speaks not just of a band or persons creative talents but it delves so obviously into the hearts and minds of their existence. It reveals who these people really are. In Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman i see a guy who’s creative mind is one of the best in the business. He’s written some beautiful, inspirational and damn fine rock songs in his time.
He writes from the heart. Love, compassion, determination and wisdom are just some of things he likes to write about. Jon challenges you with his lyrics, like in 2000’s “Dare You to Move” where he writes;
Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here
Here Jon challenges us to act with more intent. That a life full of regrets, or missed opportunities, is a life that is one action away from becoming who we can and should be. He dares us to move and to become the person we can, should and hope to be.
Again in 2003’s “Meant to Live”, Jon encourages us to simply live for more than what this world has got to offer. When i think about this i tend to think back to the phrase that there has to be “more to living than being alive”.
What do i mean?
Well. you can go around in life working, creating your own path to security. Looking after yourself and your family – which is great! That though is the mantra that’s got us where we are today. But look at the world. Look at the poverty. Look at the brokenness of our world. Look at the brokenness inside our own cities! Somewhere we’ve failed our peers, our communities and our fellow man.
How do you do that though?
I don’t think it necessarily means we need to be cape wearing warriors on the street stamping out all evil and saving the day. But we can still be warriors out there fighting for what we believe is the right thing. We can be out there caring enough for our fellow man.
Another band i’ve always connected with is Paramore. Their front-women Hayley Williams has always been a vocal leader of her scene – the pop punk loving youth/adults of the world. But the thing i love most about Hayley is her honesty. She’s never been one to sugar coat her words. She has a heart which allows itself to be vulnerable and raw. She’s not afraid to admit her struggles, her faults and the battle that it tows along with it.
Real people are what i connect with. When i say real i mean real in the sense that I prefer people who will say what they’re thinking. We people are not afraid to admit that life isn’t always easy. That some days are hard. Some things plain suck! But it’s okay to feel that way. We all do! It’s just that some aren’t always open to admitting it.
There’s a beauty in all this actually. When people open up and you see them for who they actually are it opens the door for something to be let in to that moment.
Hope is like the anthem for my soul, my own soul. Hope is many things. Hope isn’t just a place on the horizon for those who are in a tough place. Hope is real. Hope is found in the relationships we’ve already built and loved. Hope is also found in the music and words that we come across.
Music has a way of speaking to us. Lyrics connect us to the music. This is the great unknown beauty of music. That until you listen to a song you have no idea how that song could impact you. Infact you could hear it one day and it could mean nothing. A week later you could listen to it again and only this time does it resonate with you.
Why is that?
Your circumstances will always trigger emotions and they will only ever need a tiny spark to turn in to bigger flames.
They say music is “good for the soul”. If that’s true then it’s probably also worth suggesting that lyrics are like the air that we breathe. They carry us when we’re down, they fill a missing piece in a place that feels void. They also remind us that what we feel ourselves is universal – that we are not alone in that place.
But perhaps the biggest compliment i can pay to songwriters in general is that their creative talents are quite often the voice that we cannot find. Their words become our missing link. Songwriters have a way with words that often we ourselves cannot find on our own.
“Where words fail, music speaks”
It’s true. Sometimes music speaks for what we feel inside. A lot of the time it is the lyrics which communicate perfectly what we simply can’t verbalise first. It’s perhaps a songwriter’s greatest gift to us all, the ability to speak in to us what we feel.
For that I am thankful. For the opportunity to get lost in the music and lifted by the power it communicates with us. For it playing a role in our story and helping us identify with what we feel.
They may well be the coolest story tellers in society.