riley opened her interview with a sweet recall of her first memories of music: her father singing her to sleep with johnny cash's "folosom prison blues"; the song that every child loves listening to before they drift into a deep slumber. as visions of johnny drifted through her head, a child-size riley swayed to the folk tunes from her father and the goofy educational tunes from "they might be giants" that her mother played while driving.
after discussing the roots of her musical identity, we started to discuss her formative years in music. during middle school, riley was drawn to artists such as john mayor and taylor swift - two artists that were quite popular among her peers at that time. however, in an effort to form a unique identity, riley describes how the influence of being perceived as "cool" directed her musical consumption. while the initial rational for changing her music habits came from the evils of surface-level, middle school insecurities, she describes how exploring music lead to exploring herself. her words were quite reflective of the vulnerability during this developmental time. by attaching an in-depth and "cool" taste in music, she gained a greater sense of confidence in herself. acquiring a greater sense of self-confidence through music is an absolutely outstanding trait of music (and other forms of art). stories about music's ability to harness strength started flooding my mind: singers overcoming speech impediments, silenced survivors finding their voices in song, and so many other beautiful ways music has allowed people to see thier own strength and beauty and overcome barriers.
while riley's middle school and high school music was about finding identity and having confidence in this identity, her music consumption now is focused more simply on what she enjoys listening to. "the wombats" are a great representation of her current taste in music. after throwing out a wide collection of genres, artists, and types of music - i asked riley is she could pinpoint a specific theme throughout her taste in music. her response touched on possibly the most human aspect of music: its ability to story-tell. riley finds connection within specific lyrics that craft an artist's experience. within the narrative style of taylor swift and the qwirky lyrical interviewing in the Juno soundtrack, riley outlines her connection to music through listening to a collection of unique lyrics conveying stories. i appreciate riley's emphasis on songs with concrete details because it brings to light the poetry within lyrics. often times, music is driven by market audiences, rather than an artist's meaningful experiences. therefore making this view of lyrics, as a means for reflecting the realities of life, all the more refreshing. in a time when music is so heavily intertwined with the high speed consumption of the entertainment world, real world lyrics are so powerful. riley's favorite lyric reflects the great impact of lyrics who are crafted outside of the constraints of mainstream music, "do it for the living and do it for the dead do it for the monsters under your bed do it for the teenagers and do it for your mom".
tune back in next episode to hear more about college student's highlighting the intricacies of thier music taste!
stories told by musical enthusiasts !
The Musical Mosaic offers a weekly podcast, playlist and publication based on an interview with Andrea Simms and fellow musical enthusiasts. Here is a place where mere mortals can make sense of this world by discussing our relationship with music.