If you don’t recognize me at all, it’s because I’m new to All the Write Notes. (When this post is over, you can thank--or blame--Jay Spencer for my arrival) I’m so totally not new to music and writing, though. In fact, they’re just a few of my favourite obsessions (you might recognize part of that last line—just a friendly nod to Frank N. Furter). I was going to do a playlist as my first post. Then I realized it wouldn’t quite work out. Then I thought, maybe I could do an interview. But that will have to wait for another day.
You see, I’m—in a word—swamped. Funny I should mention that word. One of my musical obsessions just happens to be Swamp by Talking Heads.
But I digress. I’m not here to talk about the Talking Heads.
By now, you might be asking yourself, “Why can’t he do a playlist?” Well, It’s because the playlists I create for novel writing mostly consist of ONE SONG. Yep, that’s right. I’m so obsessive that I will listen to just the one song—over and over again ad infinitum—for an entire novel. Don’t try to do the math, it will boggle your mind. 50,000 words x 3 minute song divided by 15 chapters…let’s see, carry the 4 and multiply by the number of years…yeah. Fugetaboutit.
There is a catch, though. I don’t spread my novel writing over years. I write my novels in 48 & 72 hour marathons. So, although it sounds like madness to listen to the same song on repeat for the entire duration of a novel…it really only amounts to 72 hours at the most. That’s only, like, 1,400 plays. That is NOT obsessive. I do a little thing called the Muskoka Novel Marathon every July. It raises needed funds for the local literacy network, but it’s also an amazing retreat wherein thirty writers barricade themselves into a room for 72 hours and attempt to write complete novels.
I’m an addictive personality. If you know me, you know this. So…for my first marathon, I listened to Anthem by Leonard Cohen for 48 hours straight. What came out of the marathon was a finished novel called Sebastian’s Poet. Now I could create a playlist link here for that marathon, but I don’t see the point. Nothing is sadder than a one-song playlist. If you were to scan the pages of Sebastian’s Poet, you would probably notice that the boy’s ‘poet’ is a reincarnation of Leonard himself. I mean, it’s ridiculous. Anthem is just such an incredibly awesome song, though. It drove me to write that novel non-stop for 48 electrifying-ly amazing hours.
After that marathon was over, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s people. I wish I could say I had my people contact his people, but I’d be lying. I received permission to use, ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ (Anthem lyrics) as the epigraph to the novel. To go one step further, I then got it tattooed on my arm. Yeah, I’m not obsessive.
That novel also has a real-life celebrity in it. Gordon Lightfoot shows up in the last chapter. One of the last orders of business that Lightfoot’s agent, Barry Harvey, did before his death was provide me with permission to use Gordon as a character in the novel.
I should let you know right now that my tangents are so wide and chaotic, they require a bus route. So, you’re either on the bus or off the bus (my nod to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). This post is actually about my favourite NEW obsession. Let me introduce you to Medicine for the People (and the song I will have on repeat during this July’s Muskoka Novel Marathon!)
(click on the album covers to go to MftP's website)
I stumbled upon Medicine about a year ago, and from that point on the obsession has slowly taken over my life. After I obsessed over their first album ON THE VERGE for several months, they were kind enough to recently release their second album DARK AS NIGHT. This band, and their peaceful reformative vision, really pumps my blood. They are FolkMusic2.O Or, rather, 11 on the volume knob of my obsession scale. Before I totally lose you, I’m going to leave you with something from their new album. ALOHA KE AKUA will inspire you to sit. To write. To marathon that next novel. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly writing Hawaii in as the novel’s setting.
Here’s a challenge for you. As a writer, can you pick just one song? Choose the definitive one-song soundtrack for your work in progress. And spin that puppy ad infinitum until you keystroke THE END on your novel. It’s transformative. Really.
You can follow NAHKO, the lead singer of Medicine for the People, on Twitter: @NahkoBear
Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People
When you become a fan of MftP (and you will) you will call yourself #MedicineTribe on Twitter. And it will be good.