I bet you didn’t know I used to be a rock star.
In my suburban bedroom.
Beyond singing into a hairbrush, I spent my teenage years with an acoustic guitar, a black and white composition book, and an eight-track recording system. Holed up in my bedroom, I created forlorn love songs for 8th-grade crushes and 10th-grade heartbreak. Unrequited love fueled years of musical creativity, heard by no one but the occasional boy I gifted with a demo tape.
Fancying myself an undiscovered talent, I mailed off handmade demo tapes to record labels like Sub Pop and Matador, who promptly fired back rejection letters. I was no Liz Phair. But I still thought I was pretty damn good.
My brand of sexualized lyrics did not go over well at the school talent show. A handful of open mic nights in high school and college drew small crowds of supportive friends. But it was unlikely I would be discovered. Especially before the age of the Internet.
When I met my future husband at age 20, all that romantic angst sort of fell by the wayside. I suppose the downside of contentment is the loss of some creative passion. Or just rechanneling it into different outlets.
I focused on my career. Marital strife led to a few jots in the notebook, but the feeling just wasn’t there.
When I was 28 and on the verge of procreation, I decided it was my now-or-never moment to get back in the guitar saddle. I sought out other musicians to collaborate with, fizzling quickly into just me and my guitar again. But this time I had shiny new recording equipment and Garage Band!
I managed to produce a few new tracks and excitedly posted them on MySpace (it was 2007). I was going to be discovered. By someone.
Or just by a single 14-year-old girl who listed my name under her favorite artists. And at the time, it felt like all I really needed.
Years later, with two children and in the midst of a home remodel, I sold my recording equipment cheap to make room for more Legos. But during that clean out I also rediscovered my guitar and an ancient Casio keyboard with a missing key that can make notes that sound like a barking dog.
I couldn’t remember how to create the intricate chords of my own songs if there was a gun to my head, but I can still eek out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And my children love “jamming out,” pounding away on the instruments and creating their own music.
Sometimes, when I plug my iPhone into the car and put the music on shuffle, one of my own songs comes through the speakers. My six-year-old son is both confused and impressed that this is (was) mommy. And he asks to hear the songs again and again, humming along in tune with the melody.
So maybe that was all I really needed.
p.s. You can hear the chronicles of my youth set to music here.