Stolen by Song

How many times have you found a song that’s so mesmerizing, it actually transports you somewhere else while you’re listening to it?

Songs have always haunted me, especially the lyrics. Whether it’s the opening melody to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as I zoom through the forest toward the castle, or the heartbreaking soundtrack from Once, my brain slips into another realm where inspiration encircles me, swirling within reach.

Music’s powerful effect on me has led to interesting discoveries.

To get in the head of fifteen-year-old Calvin for my novel in progress, I’ve found some fantastic Linkin Park songs that take me into his fear and anger.

Or when I need to conjure wonder and images of mists, green hills, and Celtic seas, I’ll play Loreena McKennitt’s mystical pieces.

Music lifts my soul and wrings my heart. I can get addicted to sad song songs. Just like watching tear-jerker movies is nice sometimes, too much isn’t healthy.

Most people don’t get it when I reach for the radio to turn off certain songs. They say they just listen to the beat or the melody, and don’t even hear the words.

But when a scintillating symphony of sound combines with a message that darkens my skies, I take a long time to recover. Call me sensitive, if you like.

I wrote a short story about a girl waiting for the ghost of her love to find her on the shores of a river, inspired by a high school choir song. I used a piece form the Donnie Darko soundtrack as the theme for the novel I’m writing.

What songs haunt you? Are they sending you a story to tell?


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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Probably the song lyric that most often (and inexplicably) gets stuck in my head is The Smashing Pumpkin’s song “The World is a Vampire”. I find this ironic, as this is a song I LOVED as a non-Christian, but whose bleak outlook I now disagree with (though I can still enjoy the song). One song that I have to turn off whenever I hear it on the radio is Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer”. It puts me in a mental place I don’t care to be, though I used to listen to that band all the time.

  2. Yep, it’s weird how songs can force us into mental spaces that are almost impossible to fight while the music’s still playing. I like that you can still enjoy a song you disagree with. I think sometimes those give us an edge on creating arguments from points of view we don’t personally hold. Thanks for sharing, Scott!

  3. One song that haunts me – that I find myself wanting to listen to even though it’s heartbreaking – is “Ghost” by House of Heroes. I always used to skip any such sad songs when they’d come on, I often find myself “needing” to listen to them, to understand the darkness, as if it will give me a window into the lives of others. I have to be careful, though, because listening to such songs often helps me into a period of depression and darkness, such as cuts me off from my creativity and sends me into a downward spiral. Blah. Artists with songs that help me out of such a mindset are ones like Sons of Korah, John Michael Talbot, and Downhere.

    BTW – I’ve only recently started reading your blog, but I was given Moonlight and Oranges for Christmas and loved it, so was delighted to find you here. :o)

    1. Hannah, how fun that you found me via a Christmas present! Thank you! And lovely to meet you! I too am uplifted by John Michael Talbot. I discovered him around the time when the Lord of the Rings movies were coming out and I still associate his music with some scenes from Middle Earth for some reason. 🙂 I have to go listed to Ghost now. It’s appropriately titled for something haunting!

  4. When I write Billy Purgatory, I’m usually listening to Clutch. The music just fits his standard tone. My lately inspirational bands/albums: anything by The National, Alabama 3, The Damned, Willie Nelson and Tom Waits are big lately. The Tron2 soundtrack by Daft Punk. Paul Oakenfold & Thievery Corporation sets/mixes – sometimes Underworld & KLF.. Delirium and Conjure One are huge to write to. When I was writing the sequel I listened to a lot of Muddy Waters and old school blues. Oh yeah…and Hall & Oates (I’m so not kidding)

    1. Jesse, I’ve heard that the Tron2 soundtrack is fabulous. And I still haven’t seen the movie! I love that you’ve found music that fits Billy’s tone. That’s pure gold when you need to get into the mind and heart of your character. Thanks for sharing this list!

  5. Elise – music is so important in my life and it carries with me into my writing. My current book I’ve been listening to a lot of Zero7, Delerium, Tori Amos and Goldfrapp. The grooves get me into the writing zone and allow the words to come onto the page.

    1. Christina, cool list! It’s great that you’ve found a great way to focus and hone your craft via the muse of carefully selected music.

  6. Does a live performance intensify your response to a song? I loved Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” Then, I witnessed him perform that song live in 99 degree heat, and his concert lasted one and a half hours. He transported the whole audience. We could have walked away, and found a pool of shade. Nothing doing! As long as Charlie was singing and fiddling, we didn’t move. His itinerary was our itinerary. More than awesome!

    1. Meg, that’s a great point! Although I can’t have a live musician playing for me while I write (I can add that to when I’m a billionaire list!) there is definitely a power to a life performance that a studio recording on an album can’t capture. I love your story of the Charlie Daniels concert! That’s a perfect example of transportation. The rest of your senses melted away because he’d ensnared you. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh Elise, yes this. Exactly this.

    I can picture music in every scene I write. And if a song “takes me” to my characters – I go! {Which doesn’t bode to well to my other work!}

    Love this, girl. {so much}

    1. Music for every single scene! Your writing sessions must be magical, Galit. 🙂 And getting yanked into another world can occasionally have strange consequences–I remember coming out of a spell intense writing and my hands were numb from a long time in the basement. I hadn’t noticed! Glad you enjoyed this!

  8. This is so lovely. I write in silence, always, but it’s true that certain songs come into my life and insist that I play them on repeat (mostly in the car) – over and over and over, I can’t get enough! One Day by Matisyahu, some songs from Crazy Heart, The Story by Belinda Carlile, Fix You by Coldplay, and Breathe by Eddie Vedder have all done that. I should listen to the story they’re bringing me! xox

    1. Thank you, Lindsey! It sounds like you have a story that the songs are resonating inside you! I actually tend to write in silence, too, since I do it in the mornings before my head fills with work, worries, etc. But editing or reworking something helps with music. I’m especially enchanted by the title of the Belinda Carlile song. 🙂

  9. If I was a writer, I`d probably listen to music like Pink Floyd while working.
    Also, first time I heard Lorena, I was truly “enchanted”.

  10. Vladimir, Loreena McKennitt is bewitching. I’m right there with you! 🙂 And her songs always seem to rouse the most passionate stories, too (at least in my mind). I don’t know how she does it.

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