It’s a Friday night, and I’ve turned up to The 1865 in Southampton on my own. There’s music playing, people coming together for a great cause. As I’m stood in the middle of a benefit show for someone I’ve only recently heard of, a flood of anxiety runs over me, why am I here? Is it bad that I came to see some bands I liked while other people came to support the cause? Then I stopped. I wasn’t just there for the bands. I was there, just to be there, at a show, in my element. I’ve loved Mystery Jets for years, and I am really into Band of Skulls. The people around me might feel the same, but they’re here for Delays, for their singer Greg who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know Greg, but simply by buying a ticket and showing up, I’m supporting him, his family, his friends. Like I said, I’m there on my own, and I feel a little bit odd, but I’m far from alone. The passion that filled the room, both musical and emotional was overwhelmingly beautiful, and it got me thinking about my relationship with music, the reason why I didn’t feel entirely uncomfortable to go solo, the fact that I just simply love music so much that I’ll enjoy it whether anyone joins me or not.
I’m not really sure when it started, I think there has always been a part of me that has been particularly interested in music, going to shows, getting to know people in the music scene. I must admit it was easier when I was just going to local shows every weekend, an idiot teenager who would make a fool of herself just to talk to people from the bands. You’d think that I would have just developed into a well presented young adult who had progressed into holding a fairly normal, sensible yet interesting conversation with those bands she meets today. Well, sometimes. It’s the launching myself into that situation that I struggle with. Not being around my lifelong friends who are happy to push me into any situation, no matter how stupid, just so long as it got me what I wanted. No, I’ve gone shy again, but if I happen to naturally bump into anyone, I’d say I can hold the conversation for at least five minutes. Perhaps. That’s besides the point.
I think the moment I really started to explore my relationship with music was when I came home from a gig one night and would not shut up about it. With just a few words, my mum lit up a whole new path that I had never considered.
“You should become a music journalist.”
I mean, sure. At the time I definitely imagined it to be a lot more glamorous than writing from my bedroom, but hey, there’s still time for this whole writing thing to reach higher planes, right? The main thing is that it actually pushed me to go to university. I had always considered journalism as an option for uni, I’m not sure where it came from, but the idea was just there. I felt like English was probably my best subject at school, but I didn’t necessarily love the lessons, so the idea of an English degree sounded too daunting. Journalism followed as a close second, but because of that, it felt like a fallback. It wasn’t a course I was necessarily interested in once I actually looked into it, something didn’t seem quite right. Then out of nowhere music journalism. It sounded perfect. I looked up the very few universities where such a specified course was offered. Southampton Solent, despite its low rankings, stuck out from the moment I discovered it, to the moment I had my interview five years ago. I remember feeling instantly welcomed, the course leader, Martin James pretty much (unofficially) offering me a place on the spot. It felt awesome. I knew immediately that this is where I wanted to be, and so my relationship with music really began.
If I had a pound for every time somebody has asked me what instrument I play when I tell them that I have a degree in popular music journalism, well, I’d probably be earning a lot more than a music journalist. The first few times I was asked this I thought that whoever I was talking to had just misheard me, or perhaps they just didn’t quite get it. Then I kept hearing that question time and time again, and I was surrounded by other people on my course who either played an instrument, sung, wrote songs, or had experimented here and there. Was I the one in the wrong? I mean, I did take drumming lessons when I was at school, but put me behind a kit now and I could maybe do a little something but that’s about it. I’d need at least 15 minutes to myself to get reacquainted with my snare and toms either way.
The more I heard the question, the more I realised that there is this assumption that a passion for music centers around being a creator of music, but that’s not quite it for me. It’s not that I’m not at all interested, I like playing around on synths and plenty of digital formats, but that’s just it, I enjoy playing around. Most of it comes down to a lack of patience and perhaps a fear of performing. I hated music lessons at school, being forced to play music in front of other people, particularly music that I was not bothered about. However when it came to exploring certain music cultures and genres, I was all ears. All ears. That’s it really, my relationship with music in a nutshell, all ears.
Some of my best memories are connected to live shows for many different reasons. It started off as fandom, sheer joy to see my favourite musicians in the flesh, hoping to get as close to the front as possible, perhaps lock eyes with them. I was fangirl crazy. Of course there were those regular weekend shows at home when it was all about the community, however I didn’t realise it at the time. I didn’t put my enjoyment of those nights down to the music, until I attended some of Southampton’s local shows. Maybe it was because I was studying music at this time, maybe it was just personal growth, either way, I soon came to realise just how much music had always been a huge part of my life. I went to gigs instead of the under 18 ‘club’ nights. It was important that I socialised with people I could talk to about my favourite bands, and I was very quick to judge on music taste alone.
As I’ve got older, this has developed into just taking a general interest in music itself, sharing the love for what it does for us, both as individuals and as part of a ‘scene’ or community. As much as I still get excited about actually physically seeing my favourite musicians, there’s nothing I love more than seeing the pure passion in their eyes as they are there in a moment of sharing not only their music, but their feelings, their energy, their everything. It’s intimate, and that’s exactly what music is to me. It’s intimate to me, it is everything to me. My last relationship was built largely around a combined interest in music; from the bands we liked, to the music he made, from getting to see his band grow, to finding new bands together, and being gifted a record for my birthday that I had never heard of, but he knew I’d love. On top of that a lot of my friendships that developed later on in school are built on music tastes, or are with people who I can talk about various different bands with. Of course there are my friends I’ve had for years, those that have known me before my fascination for music, we get on for a whole load of different reasons, but they respect that my passion is there, and are always ready to listen to me go on about whoever I might be obsessing over at any given time (at least I hope so). I live for the connections I make around music, listening to it, talking about it… it all just makes me so happy.
I guess my point is, music is so much more than its creation. It continuously shapes my life. It creates memories, takes me back to forgotten moments, makes me smile, makes me cry, keeps me up for hours, and most of all, keeps me alive. Now I’m aware that it sounds corny, but that’s just simply the way it is. The thing is, the moment I say I’m interested in music, I seem to be expected to know EVERYTHING about EVERY BAND I listen to. That’s not how I roll. Occasionally I’ll get in deep with a band, find everything they have ever done, know all their albums back to back, but to be honest, I’m kind of done with obsessing over one band at a time.
Since Spotify came along, I’ve been able to browse more artists and discover more genres that I like, but I don’t really get truly stuck in. When it comes to loving music I’m not necessarily going to devote myself to one act. There are a few bands that I love more than others, but when people ask me my favourite album(s) of the year, or ever, my mind goes blank. For me, it’s more like ‘current favourites’, who am I loving right this second? Yes I like that band, but it’s less than likely that I can tell you the track-list of the album that I have actually been listening to over and over. Music is fluid, and there is always this inner conflict going on with the fact that I review albums and live shows. What I think one day might be different to the next. I’ve written great reviews only to not give a toss about the band a few months later. Really, my relationship with music can be problematic, but if it wasn’t, it’d be a little boring.
This has turned out to be a lot longer than expected and in all honesty, I don’t know exactly what conclusion I intended to come to from writing this, so I might just end it here. I could write about my feelings for music endlessly, in fact I’m going to try and write a few more music related pieces that don’t come from Vulture Hound articles. Music plays a huge part in my life, but I feel like people don’t quite always understand what that means. Anyone could say that music is important to them, and it could be for a hundred different reasons. I used to think I wasn’t worthy to write reviews because I didn’t really play an instrument, but I realised that it doesn’t matter. I like music because listening to it makes me feel good, going to live shows makes me feel ecstatic, and as the recent #Give4Greg show demonstrated, music has the power to bring people together. I just love it.