Listening to music and being sad*

This post is about listening to music and being sad. I hope the title made that clear.
drawing of an eye crying musical notes

I listen to a lot of music

I listen to music most of the day at work, in the 3+ hours I ride the TTC every day, and at home when I’m writing. I feel weird if I’m walking around outside without my headphones on. I even walked around Italy listening to the Assassin’s Creed 2 soundtrack a few years back. It’s not that the world around me doesn’t sound good on its own. It’s just, you know, everything’s better with a little music.

We like the music that “tunes in” to how we feel. That’s what most music tries to do, as an art form, generally it aims to move you. Some genres or artists or even specific sounds speak to an individual more than others. Maybe you like music to make your heart race, or maybe you like it to mellow you out. Maybe you need it to help you sleep. It changes depending on the time of day and year to year. Am I making sense?

Lately, I’ve been listening to Meg Myers a lot. I got hooked when I saw the video for “Desire”, which was a few years ago. I ended up listening to Make a Shadow over and over again; I still do. I love her sound. It’s got this raw emotional edge to it, familiar but unique. Her voice is so captivating, and that guitar is just… perfect.

How come most of your songs are sad songs?

The song “Motel” gets in my head fairly often (clip below). I don’t think it’s the best song from Sorry; it’s a small album, but there are so many great songs. There’s just this one part, later in that song, that keeps running through my head. It’s when the music plays along with an audio clip from a Townes Van Zandt interview. Never heard the interview before I heard the song. He gets asked why most of his songs are sad, and he says,

“You don’t think life’s sad?”

I do.

Mental illness is a part of life for everyone, whether you have it or you don’t. I’m close to people who have to work hard to keep a balance, or stay in control, or even just to find the motivation to function in their daily lives. It is scary, when you’re growing up and you see it untreated and it hurts everyone, and it can be just as hard watching someone you love struggle to keep it in check—especially when most of the world seems to want to ignore it.


I always thought I had to be really careful about my own feelings. I don’t think it’s just me, but sometimes I get hit by how much I’m told to “stay positive,” “be happy,” “don’t let it get you down.” You’ve heard it: “Quit moping!” A lot of the time, life seems like a constant fight to avoid and deny sadness. Even just the normal sadness that everybody feels at one time or another, is it that awful to just feel it?

So it’s a little refreshing to hear someone talk about it like it’s okay. Not like it’s going to be okay. It is okay. Right now, you’re crying, and you’re feeling, and it’s not funny, it’s not pretty, but it’s not bad. It’s not going to kill you. If you let it, feel it, it can actually heal you.

*This is post has been repurposed from an old blog I had that lasted four posts before it died. Very sad.

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