I feel that this post should reflect my growth as a musician: where I have come from and where I am now. I have my fiancé Peter Baillie to thank for my musical education of late – but there is still a strong influence from flavours of my childhood that my father Chris McCarthy inspired me with.
Sadly like most teens I went into a dive around the age of 13 when radio influence killed any chance I had at forming my own opinion of good music as I followed the trends of the boy bands/girl bands and emotional pop hits. I am not ashamed to admit my fandom was based on hype and the deep needs of my teen self trying to empathize with a deeper meaning of life within the world of high school.
I did find some iconic influences along the way which I can name without cringing and would be happy to share with you.
1 – Queen, Greatest Hits II: Reference – my dad made me a guitar out of cardboard for me to rock out with: snapped this one of me! I actually remember this… love you dad! And why yes, it is modeled on Brian May’s guitar you can see on our old TV in the background.
2 – Jimmy Barnes, Two Fires: Reference – my mum brought this cassette tape back with her on one of her work trips away. Was one of my favorites to listen to on my tape-deck in the back seat on road trips throughout my childhood!
3 – The Beatles, Red: Reference – borrowed from a former boyfriend and greatly enjoyed on my weekly drives from our flat in Christchurch out to Rangiora where I was teaching singing while studying full time. Many a catch riff and fun groove to drive along the motorway with.
4 – The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love: Reference: One of the first albums my Peter turned me on to. The Rake’s Song was the most sadistic song I had ever heard…and yet the haunting melodies of this album hook you into this epic tale. I couldn’t get enough of Won’t Want For Love…it was some empathetic calling of folklore-like lilting melody and poetic substance I had not heard since my days studying Irish folk music and other art songs at University.
5 – Glen Hansard, Rhythm and Repose: Anything of his, has just opened my music world into an humanist approach to story-telling without fear of emotion and ‘heart on your sleeve’ poetic license. Like many a fan girl I swoon over his Irish-boy-next-door-ness and plot jokingly with my fiancé around how we could create the ultimate ginga baby. But in reality his work on the Once soundtrack, his work with The Frames and a lot of his later work just move me. I cannot recall a time when I have bawled my eyes out from hearing raw emotional energy. It’s like an emotional penny dropped and I still haven’t quite recovered. I feel it will be hard to top.
It appears to be symbolic for me that music is my time capsule. Whenever I hear it – it takes me back to that part of my life. It reminds me of my own musical journey of where I have come from and where I may be going now. As a songwriter myself, the debate between music for the disenfranchised masses and what’s considered mainstream frustrates me. Sometimes music has a place in time, even if it is no longer relevant. I make fun of myself when I realize that I have a fondness for old 80s-2000 hits that will never really amount to much in popular opinion as more than the candy floss of radio way back when…
It’s the true classics that we still play air-guitar to in the supermarket (Sultans of Swing), or catch ourselves adding to party playlists just because they meant something to us at the time, reminding us of a particular person we used to be.
If music we play, listen to, love in secret, or bop to at parties, has influenced our humanity then I say bring it on. I would like to think I am maturing in my musical tastes but it is similar to wine appreciation, being able to experience new tastes and qualities that are distinct, while still not so secretly loving dessert wine…I will say that also being a music teacher exposed some disgusting RTDs of the music world that make me bolt to turn off the radio and want to ask why?? And some small part of me dies a little inside when our young kids feel the music is deep and meaningful. But it is a part of their own human growth after all. Who am I to judge? But then I see their fleeting tastes and recognise the same spectrum of flavours I had exposure to. That they live in a digital age where albums are no longer the focus, where tracks are singled out to be included on playlists and it’s just the in-the-moment living where they want that flavor at that particular moment. Good on them I say. They can have depth to their humanity just like we can. They can come to expand their horizons and for those who have yet to, or resist, or don’t yet “understand” it’s not for us to judge – we have all been there.
So I will happily send myself up singing Hit Me Baby One More Time in my covers band. I will also remember fondly my earlier years when I listened to old classic hits. I will also continue to listen to more and more music. Just not One Direction, because that is not my future of music, even if it’s someone else’s present.
Music is a powerful thing. It can open hearts, bring people together and help you find yourself. Happy listening for wherever you are up to.