An essay on music, one on the songs that have served as the soundtracks to our lives. An exposition on what some tiny piece of music can mean, on how it can shape us, soothe us, bring us hope when we swear there is none to be found. This is a piece on some of that melody, on one artist that has done this for years, that does it still. This is a piece on a musician that will blush, then pale, then promptly delete this entire newsletter before he even gets to the words, because he’ll be sore at me for writing them. Still, I’ll write, for he’s a brother now and I know he’ll forgive me sooner or later. He hates hearing praise, but sometimes, it’s praise that’s unavoidable, sometimes you have to speak in hyperbole when trying to describe emotion, trying to describe being moved. This is that time.
I cannot remember nor pinpoint the precise moment I first heard Gregory Alan Isakov’s music. I cannot remember where I sat, what I wore, what weather of the day. I cannot remember the song, really, not the exact song, but I know it was on Pandora, and I know it stopped me in my tracks. I know I thumbs up’d it, I know I saved it, I know I froze for a moment, then unstuck myself in time to turn up the volume, before freezing again. I knew, right then I knew, I’d found the music that felt like I felt, that sounded like my insides felt, that gave a depth and tone to what before I hadn’t known how to describe in myself. It was home, really, and I feel funny saying that all these years later, knowing the man how I do, him knowing me the way he does, but it was, it is, and it will remain, true. I scoured everything to find more of his music, YouTube, Google, Pandora itself, frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t JUST play his music, I had to sit through all these other artists that didn’t understand for another of his songs, the ratio off. Found more, I did, and fell in love with every different sound, every different chord played.
I remember the sharing, the telling of everyone I knew about this artist I found, I remember the frantic shushing as I would play songs for family, for friends. I remember the eyebrows raised one by one on the faces of all those that heard. I know, I’d say, I know.
A few albums, a Grammy nomination, an acoustic first dance song later, my eyebrows do it still. A few lines co-written on a few songs, a few grins of recognition when certain verses are sung, I still shush others to introduce, I still share the music that has become the soundtrack of my life. I say it without exaggeration or aforementioned hyperbole, but his songs have helped me endure more than I know how to say, helped soothe me while I was window staring and waiting to live the life I knew I wanted to live. His songs have been the background tracks to wild foreign adventures, to early morning drives through far-off mountains, through Irish rain, through Scottish snow, through Jamaican heat, through thunderstorms on Caribbean shores. There are some memories I hold close to chest, soundchecks in strange cities, peeks at new songs on front porches, but they all melt together to become one thing, one sound, that home I spoke of earlier. Funnily enough, I know I’m not the only person to feel this way of his music, and as such I feel no ownership, no private connection. I know he moves others the way I am moved, and for this, I feel lucky to be among that group. I feel lucky to have found those songs that day, to find those I still do today. I feel lucky to have a soundtrack to my life.
If you’ve not yet found his music, click through the song below and feel your eyebrows raise. Dive deeper, feel your heart change. If it’s a soundtrack you’re after, he’ll provide it. What I also want to know is, who is the soundtrack to yours? Who will raise our eyebrows?
For me, I’ll just say Thank You. Thank you to Gregory Alan Isakov for the saving of this life, many times over. Thank you for the friendship, thank you for being my brother I wasn’t born with. Just thank you. Keep doing what you do, my life would be awfully quiet without it.
A soundtrack to life,
music that keeps us hoping,
songs that soothe the soul.
Song of the Week
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I can’t name just one artist but many that when their music comes on I’m transported to a chapter in my life, I am grateful that I listened when you recommended Gregory, I very much love his music , he is very compatible with many activities especially yoga and writing . My younger self loved Jewel, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Portishead, Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Coldplay, Norah Jones, just to name a few. The Morning Phase album by Beck is our fav jeep drive sound track. I stopped and told everyone when I first discovered Flora Cash, and also Gregory Alan Iskavov recently. My girlfriends and I love to see The Avett Brothers live so they hold a special place in my heart as well. Music is a powerful, wonderful art.
I love this piece because Gregory Alan Isakov is also part of the soundtrack of my life too. I know I shared before that my husband and I always remember driving through the Rockies at dusk to That Moon Song feeling like our love and our little red car was cradled by all of the magic in the whole Universe. I also especially love 3 AM and the lyrics “I wish I was a sailor so I would know just how to trust, maybe I could bring some grace back home, dry land for each of us…” Amazing (and goosebumps) every single time whether I’m driving, or elbow-deep in soapy dishwater in my kitchen. His music is a gift. Truly.
If you’ve never heard of Joshua Radin you might enjoy his music as well. He has also been an important part of the soundtrack of my life and you might just like him a lot too. His song What If You is the soundtrack of the midnight dances that my husband surprised me with at an historic castle landmark one time, tucking his cellphone into the front pocket of his dress shirt on the other side of where my head rested against his wildly beating heart as we danced there, just the two of us in the moonlight. Everything’ll Be Alright has soothed my heart many times and Winter literally feels like the first snowfall to me. Check it out. You might just find you like him too :)