Songs That Made Me 

     When I was a child, one of my favorite toys was a small plastic Fisher Price record player, complete with plastic records. I listened to it so often the incessant, repetitive, music-box-style renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “It's A Small World” drove one of my older siblings to throw the pastel-colored discs like frisbees into the expanse of our overgrown back field. The wild wheat and sorghum rendered them unfindable until the family lawnmower chewed them up and spat them out in broken pieces.

    Our family's real-life record player lived on top of the crayon-covered upright piano in our doublewide mobile home's add-on entryway. The record collection was a pile on the floor beneath a bunkbed in an adjacent hoarded room. It was a combination of my mom and dad's tastes. Mom had collected 1970's folk revival classics; Dad preferred jazz, show tunes, and Golden Oldies. 

     For the duration of my childhood, I had no idea I'd make a record of my own and no inclination toward becoming a singer-songwriter.  I just enjoyed music. I learned to play instruments and sing as part of a family tradition, and valued the opportunities for friendship and connection music created. When I chose music as a career path in my early twenties, my relationship with music changed. 

     Music became my job, and I started listening for pleasure less and less. I'd listen to recordings as reference for learning a song, for teaching a song to others, and as a way to research arrangement ideas for recording my own music. I started listening exclusively to talk radio, podcasts, and books on tape for pleasure and entertainment. Year after year the email that was supposed to deliver my Spotify Wrapped declared “You have not listened enough this year to get your own Wrapped.” As a musician, I started to feel estranged from my medium.

     Estrangement gave way to bitterness, so I chose to take a break from music-as-work. This was in part a result of life-changing events that were beyond my control, and in part a much needed and long overdue choice to step back from the hustle. As I take time to reacquaint myself with my love of music, I remember which recordings inspired me to write songs in the first place. 

 I recently put together a playlist called Songs That Made Me. It is a curation of some of the songs that helped make me the songwriter I am today. Some of the songs were recommended to me by siblings and friends, others I discovered on cassette tapes I purchased at thrift stores in my late teens, and a few are straight off the records my parents hoarded under the bed in our mobile home all those years ago.

     This playlist is not exhaustive. I've included only songs that deeply impacted me when I first heard them, and which directly influence what I write. I'll probably add to it as I think of songs I've forgotten, but for now please enjoy Songs That Made Me!