I love listening to music when I write. Part of it is that I’m horribly ADD and need to drown out as many of the crazy radio static channels running through my brain as possible. I also count on music to help me set the mood and tone of my story. I don’t necessarily set out to create playlists for each project in advance, but by the end of the process they all end up with one.
From the very beginning of the process the music I listened to for Awake didn’t feel right for Atone. I listened to quite a bit of Taylor Swift and other similar happy/pop acts while writing Awake, and while editing it I was almost exclusively putting the band Thrice on. When thinking through Atone I spent a lot of time going through Jennifer Knapp’s Kansas album, which I love. The themes in that album are many of the themes in Atone. The problem is I can’t listen to Jennifer Knapp when I actually write…I literally will stop writing to listen/sing along. Kind of defeats the purpose.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some struggles with Atone. I wrote almost 40 thousand words – some of them great, some of them crap – before deciding to largely scrap that first draft and start over. I was trying to do something I wasn’t comfortable with, set the story somewhere I didn’t have the right feel for. I set Awake in Los Angeles because I love Los Angeles. I’m from there. It’s in my blood. When I first envisioned Atone it was set in L.A. as well, but I tried to twist and squeeze it into something it wasn’t supposed to be because I thought it made more story sense.
When I finally admitted to myself that I needed to start again and set the novel back in Los Angeles, I knew it would change how I was writing…and what I was listening to. Currently the soundtrack for Atone is a band that makes FEEL like I am back home when I listen to them: Counting Crows. At the risk of dating myself horribly, their debut album August and Everything After reminds me of cruising around in my parent’s little red station wagon with my friends in the South Bay (and yes, it came out in 1993, but I was really into it in the mid to late 90s, just to clarify!) I have visceral, physical memories attached to that album, all of which are location based.
I’m listening to most of their other stuff too, but especially the Hard Candy album. There are a few scenes with Becca and Nicholas that happen in the same place over a series of nights – and they’ve all been written to the song Goodnight L.A. You can listen to it free on Grooveshark. It’s really a brilliant tune.
So what do you think? If you write, do you write to music? What albums feel like “home” to you?