I’ve loved writing my Sounds of Me series, and today marks the final instalment. Of course, as you’ll know, I can’t take credit for it. If you’ve read this series from the start, you’ll know that I drew my inspiration from my lovely friend, Dom, who is the voice behind the Instagram account @lyricallifebydg. Dom writes some incredible poetry around mental health, and he also hosts the podcast Lyrical Life Disorganised Waffle, where he interviews members of the writing community. I recently went way out of my comfort zone and was a guest on his podcast, which I absolutely loved. We talked about Sassy Cat Lady and how it came about, and we got deep into my experiences with OCD. I had the best chat with Dom and he’s so easy to talk to. Not only did we get pretty deep on the mental health front, but we also had a bloody good laugh, and we talked a lot about music, including (obviously) my love of Taylor Swift. If you’d like to have a listen (and perhaps put a voice to this weird-ass blog), you can listen via the link above – and make sure you listen to the other episodes too.
Anyway, to round off the series, part four is all about what I’m currently listening to, and the music that has meant a lot to me over the last couple of years. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll probably already know about some of them, so in a flippant attempt not to repeat myself too much, I’ve linked to the relevant posts throughout this one if you’d like to read more.
Becoming a Swiftie
Come on, you know she’s going to be mentioned at some point in this blog, so let’s get it out of the way. Yes, Taylor Swift makes up around 90% of my musical loves as an adult, and it was around 2014 or so that I became a full on Swiftie, after seeing a video of her performing All Too Well at the Grammys. Throughout 2015, my love of her music just soared, and while I spent most of the year planning my wedding and facing an intense battle with my OCD as a result, her 1989 album is one of the main things that got me through. In particular, Shake It Off was and still is one of my favourite songs of all time, to the point where I have it tattooed on my foot. Not only does the phrase “shake it off” apply pretty well to anxiety and intrusive thoughts, the song itself has the best memories attached to it. For me and my best friend, it’s our song. It’s the song that we danced to when we were drunk as hell on nights out, and it’s still the song that we dance and sing along to on nights at home while we drink wine and eat chicken nuggets (because we be grown ups now, obvs).
The other song from 1989 that sticks in my mind is Clean, as it’s the song I listened to while driving to my OCD treatment sessions in 2016, and the song that played as I drove home from my final session six months later. While the song is essentially about reaching rock-bottom and recovering following a relationship breakdown, for me, it has a lot of similarities in how I was feeling during my treatment, and the line “when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe” signifies the point where I realised I was really not well – it’s just so powerful and even know, listening to it gets me in the feels.
One of Taylor’s earlier songs also stands out as one that means a lot, and that’s The Best Day from her Fearless album. A song that she wrote as a tribute to her mother, Andrea, it’s nostalgic and reflects back to Taylor’s childhood and the relationship she had with her. It reminds me so much of my relationship with my mum, especially the second verse where Taylor sings about being left out by the other girls at school and how she and her mother went window shopping together:
“I don’t know who I’m gonna talk to now at school, but I know I’m laughing on the car ride home with you; don’t know how long it’s gonna take to feel okay, but I know I had the best day with you today”
Both Folklore and Evermore are albums that I will always hold dear, because they were released at a time where things were pretty shitty for us all, and they’re both just absolute lyrical masterpieces. I’d keep you here all day if I went through every single song that I love across those two albums, but I’m aware this post is already very Swift-heavy and there’s still a fair bit more to get through (soz), so I’ll keep it brief and narrow it down. This is Me Trying from Folklore is such a beautiful song and it has such a powerful message when it comes to mental health, and it always brings me so much comfort on days when I’m struggling with my OCD. You’ve also got It’s Time To Go from Evermore, which links in a lot with Taylor leaving her previous record label and her feud with Scooter Braun. For me, it was a song I heard at the right time – I was in yet another crappy job that was really messing with my mental health, and the lyrics to this really stood out:
“Sometimes giving up is the strong thing, sometimes to run is the brave thing, sometimes walking out is the one thing that will find you the right thing”
Now, I’m not saying this song is the sole reason why I went job hunting, but let’s just say it’s the song I listened to after handing in my notice to that shitty job, and it helped a lot with the anxiety of change and it reiterated the message that I was leaving for the sake of my mental health. So, in a way, thanks Taylor.
Finally, rounding off the Swiftie portion of this post, the most recent addition to my musical obsession is the incredible All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) – purely because it’s a song that I can’t stop listening to. Red (Taylor’s Version) is an amazing album and it’s been on repeat in my car since I got it for Christmas. In particular, the 10 minute version of All Too Well is the song I genuinely look forward to hearing, because it’s one of the best songs to sing along to. The lyrics are incredibly raw and intense, and they once again cement the fact that Taylor is an incredible storyteller. Plus, if you know the story behind the song, it makes it even more powerful.
Let’s rewind a smidgen and go back to 2015. While Taylor Swift’s 1989 got me through the OCD meltdowns I experienced in those months in the run up to our wedding, there’s a handful of songs that have a lot of memories attached to them because they actually featured in our wedding. We’ll start with Marry Me by Train, which is the song I walked down the aisle to – it’s just a beautiful song and when I first heard it in 2008, I knew it was going to be a song I wanted to feature in my wedding. Yes, that’s probably sad AF given that I didn’t even have so much as a boyfriend the first time I heard it, but we’re all aware of what a lonely little ugo I was so…what are you going to do?
Sadly, because I bolted it down the aisle due to nerves, our guests didn’t get to hear much of the song. Oops.
We had a few other songs that featured as part of our ceremony playlist (Mine by Taylor Swift was also stuck in there), but one of my favourites has to be the Smash Mouth cover of I’m A Believer, which many will know featured at the end of Shrek. There is no reason that I picked the song other than the fact it came on shuffle at some point during the planning and I was instantly reminded of the wedding scene at the end of the film. It was such a fun song and we ended up having it as our “walk-out” song after the ceremony, and it matched the atmosphere perfectly!
Finally, completing the wedding portion of this post, is our first dance, which was You and Me by Lifehouse. We agonised for ages when it came to choosing the right song – there were a number of options but they just didn’t feel right (if only Taylor Swift’s Lover was around in 2015…), and all in all, I’m not entirely sure why we went with this one. I think it was an option that came up after endless Googling of “non-cheesy first dance songs” and “unique first dance songs,” and upon listening to it, it just felt right. The lyrics were fitting, the pace wasn’t too slow, and it’s one of those songs that people don’t really know by name until they actually hear it.
You may find it incredibly hard to believe, but my music taste doesn’t just consist of Taylor Swift music. It makes up a vast portion of it, yes, but the remainder is a mixture of pop, cheese, and movie and TV soundtracks. My Spotify library is eclectic AF. At the moment, my current favourites consist of artists like Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U being my absolute favourite because it’s just the perfect rage banger – and a handful of songs that featured on Normal People (no, I’m still not over it. But at the time of writing, I’ve gone almost a year without watching it). In particular, Too Much by Carly Rae Jepsen and Did It To Myself by Orla Gartland are the ones I probably listen to the most because they’re just absolute bops, and I love the attitude of Did It To Myself. I’ve actually been listening to a bit more of Orla Gartland’s music as a result and she’s brilliant.
Now, things get even more eclectic. Another artist I’ve been listening to a lot of lately is Bo Burnham. I’ve been obsessed since watching Inside and his other Netflix specials, and the soundtrack from Inside is incredible. Alongside the comedic stuff, you’ve also got some pretty powerful songs in there that show a lot about mental health. All Eyes on Me especially hits hard, depicting how he quit performing live due to severe panic attacks, worked at his recovery over the years, and then made the decision to start performing again. But then, 2020 happened. It’s such a raw, emotive song, and while it’s incredibly personal to his story, I think many of us could relate to the feelings of desperation and how being stuck inside during the height of the pandemic impacted our mental health. That was certainly the case for me, and it has subsequently become one of my go-to “anxiety songs.”
One of the most recent additions to my favourites is Home to You by Sigrid. Unfortunately the story behind my discovering it isn’t a happy one, but I think it’s important to recognise that music isn’t just about what makes you happy. It’s about the stories behind them and how they make you feel – good or bad.
Last year, someone very close to my family died. He was someone who was in mine and my Mum’s life for years and years, and he was there throughout my entire childhood. I have memories of the three of us going on holiday together, him taking me swimming, and teaching me the song My Grandfather’s Clock. He was always there in the background and even came to my wedding. He was family.
Then, in October, he died from pancreatic cancer. Both Mum and I knew it was coming, but it was still horrible hearing that he’d gone. A few nights later, I stupidly made the decision to watch Stand Up to Cancer. I knew full well it was a bad idea, but nonetheless, I sat there with my wine and watched it, laughing along with the sketches, welling up at peoples’ stories and making sure that I donated. After one particularly emotional film, Sigrid performed Home to You. It was the most beautiful song, and I don’t know if it was the wine, the fact I was particularly fragile that evening or a combination of those things, but it was like it flipped my grief switch. It wasn’t necessarily the song itself, but I think it was more of a right-place right-time sort of thing (if that’s even the right phrase to use).
Anyway, the weeks in the run up to his funeral were weird. I didn’t really react other than the occasional drunk cry, but there’s nothing new there. On the actual day of the funeral, I was a nervous wreck – largely because at the ripe age of 29, I was lucky enough to have never been to one. I kept things together right up until the end, but I recovered pretty quickly, and we chatted to his relatives and friends at the wake. As I was driving home, I felt really proud of myself that I’d held my shit together. But then Sigrid came on shuffle. I don’t want to get too sappy, and I’m not religious in any sense of the word but there was a small part of my mind that thought “he did that – he was telling me it’s okay.” Cue me letting out 3 weeks worth of crying on the half hour drive home. To add insult to injury, the next song was Visiting Hours by Ed Sheeran. It was not pretty.
Where the song pretty much got me to let my highly suppressed emotions out, I feel now that there’s a positive side to it – instead of thinking of that meltdown I had in the car as I drove home, whenever I hear it, I think of him, and the memories we had together.
Okay, so I don’t want to end on a sombre note, so I’m going to finish off with a song that I’ve become familiar with in the last 2 years or so, but that sums me up so bloody much. You may not have heard of it if you’re not familiar with musical comedy – the song is Drank Too Much by Flo and Joan. I’ve talked about it in a previous post, but it’s just 100% me – thinking you’re mature because you’re drinking wine, falling down some stairs, generally making a tit of yourself – it’s all me.
My goal ultimately is to learn to play it on some sort of instrument, but we’ll add that to my list of things that probably won’t happen because I’m too lazy/stupid/busy. The reason I’ve given it a mention is because very recently, we went to see Flo and Joan’s latest show, and it was AMAZING. While the show was largely new content, I was buzzing my tits off when they opened the second half with Drank Too Much, to which (after a bottle and a half of wine) I sang word for word. It was probably my favourite EVER comedy show.
Phew, so that was quite the emotional rollercoaster. I hope you’ve enjoyed this weird ass journey through my musical tastes. Once again, thank you to Dom for ultimately giving me the inspiration for this series, and please make sure that you go and check out his podcast!
Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
Clean – Taylor Swift
The Best Day (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift
This is Me Trying – Taylor Swift
It’s Time To Go – Taylor Swift
All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) – Taylor Swift
Marry Me – Train
I’m A Believer – Smash Mouth
You & Me – Lifehouse
Good 4 U – Olivia Rodrigo
Too Much – Carly Rae Jepsen
Did It To Myself – Orla Gartland
All Eyes On Me – Bo Burnham
Home To You – Sigrid
Drank Too Much – Flo & Joan