My writing tends to be very inspired by music—either because I am listening to my 272-track (19 hours, 51 minute) Spotify playlist, Musica X Escribir (It’s private, so you won’t find it) or because I’ve created a mental playlists that speaks to a certain story I am putting together. For this post, I thought it might be fun to share some of those tracks with you all. Who knows, maybe they’ll become songs you play in the background while you write or, at the very least, fun new contributions to your everyday playlist.
Immunity – Jon Hopkins
I first heard of Jon Hopkins by way of the film How I Live Now, which he scored. I ended up checking out more of his work and really clicked with his 2013 album, Immunity. The title track is particularly special. I tend not to listen to music with vocals when I’m writing—I know myself, I will stop focusing on the work and sing along—but I somehow never have trouble with this song. That all being said, I want to stress that this IS an electronic music album, so I can’t advise anyone to listen to the entirety of this record when writing. HOWEVER, it is a very good album that I would highly recommend for a listen during a road trip.
It’s Not Your Fault (It’s How Air Works) – The Boats
I freaking love the title of this song. It puts a dumb smile on my face for sure, which is probably the main reason I’m listing this specific track. The truth, however, is that unlike the previously mentioned Immunity, the Boats’ Songs by the Sea is definitely an album you can listen to its entirety while you write.
Songs by the Sea is from 2004 but I did not come in contact with it until three years later when I found a lost ipod on the city bus. Having some time to kill until I made it downtown, I plugged my headphones in and hit shuffle. Musically, that lost ipod was one of the best things that happened to me.
If you’re wondering what happened to that lost ipod… Dear Reader, please know that I tried turning it in to the bus driver who told me to turn it in at the lost and found when we hit the station, but then, I forgot. I’m serious, I forgot!
It’s one of those things that keeps me up at night.
Anyway, Songs by the Sea was one of those albums that I listened to a lot—for writing, for studying—it did and does the trick.
Wede Harer Guzo – Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band
Did Beyonce recommend this track somewhere at some time? I only ask because the comments section of this link seem to allude to the fact. Huh.
Anyway, I don’t follow many other accounts on Spotify, mostly because I don’t go looking for them, but the one I do follow belongs to a friend of a friend. We’d all collaborated on a project together and during our lunch break said friend of a friend put on his playlist and this song came up. Something lit up within me. “This will go on my writing playlist”, I thought. And it did. And I’ve played the hell out of it, and maybe Beyonce did. I think you should too.
La Presumida – Trio Xoxocapa
During my high school years I was part of a Mexican folkloric dance group. I hated it. You had to smile a lot. Not my thing. The music, however, I really appreciated. A few years later, while working on a screenplay, I wrote a character who, unlike me, was really interested in Mexican folkloric dancing but, unlike me, was pretty terrible at it (who am I kidding, I was bad too!). One of the songs that she masters during the course of the story is “La Presumida” (The Conceited Woman). I thought it would fit perfectly for her snooty persona.
I’m not snooty, you are.
Love Is Strange – Buddy Holly
I don’t know why but I listened the HECK out of this song last summer. I really have no clue where I picked it up from but it seemed to be in my head all of sudden. I can’t say that I actually wrote while I listened to it. It was more like I would write a little and then listen, as some sort of treat. Good writer, good writer.
Mucha Muchacha – Esquivel
My earliest recollection of this song is by way of one of my favorite authors, Michele Serros. An early iteration of her website would play this song as an image loaded up of a coquettish Serros concealed by a mound of chicharrones (fried pork cracklings). A banner at the top read, “Mucha Michele”.
Man, I really miss her. (I could write more about her here but I will save that for a future post I have planned up.)
I remember at the time (how old was I then—14? 15?) I looked up the song, thought it was cool, but sort of left it at that. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that I was producing my play, Senorita Monthly Juice, via the Hollywood Fringe Festival that my brother-in-law reintroduced me to the song by way of his interest in its composer, Esquivel (Juan Garcia Esquivel). Often referred to as the “Busby Berkeley of Cocktail Music”, it felt appropriate to use “Mucha Muchacha” for a group dance number in the play.
That summer I ended up going through an Esquivel rabbit hole and started checking out more of his music, some of which I still listen to when I write, if the vibe is appropriate 😉 That being said, I’d like to show you the following song:
Popotito 22 – Burbujas
“Popotito 22” was one of many songs composed by Esquivel for the late 70s Mexican children’s show, Odisea Burbujas (Bubble Odyssey). I mean, how cool is this song?!
First of the Gang to Die – Morrissey
This one is hard to write about because man-oh-man: Morrissey, YOU HAVE CHANGED! But I feel the need to include it because this song really sparked something for me during the time I was writing my first play. I can still remember being sprawled out on the living room floor of my Santa Cruz undergrad residence, feeling stuck in my first draft, when this song came on—I shot up from the floor and knew where the story had to go.
Mossbraker – Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene is one of my favorite bands. They have really good energy and I’m glad to have finally seen them live for the first time about two years ago because for a while I didn’t think I’d get the chance. This particular track, Mossbraker, is from their debut studio album, Feel Good Lost. For me, this is a pretty good album to listen to when writing as the instrumentation is gorgeous and there are minimal lyrics. As my pal, Wikipedia, will tell you, this album is very much a stylistic predecessor of work by the band KC Accidental which can be classified as ambient, post-rock. I mention this because its important to note that Broken Social Scene’s style has had its own musical evolution thereafter. Just letting you know in case you go looking at their other records to play while you write.
Unknown Kohoutek – The Sun Ra Arkestra
Concert for the Comet Kohoutek by The Sun Ra Arkestra makes me happy. For some reason, this album reminds me of traditional Oaxacan music. I really don’t know why—I don’t have the musical background to be able to explain how that works itself out in my mind, but it just does. So I did a lot of listening to this album when I was writing the screenplay I’d mentioned above. Then I also went back and listened to it when I was working on a play that I’m still not sure how I feel about, so I’ll just leave it at that -_-
In case you’re wondering, here’s an example of traditional Oaxacan music:
MUSICA DE OAXACA GUELAGUETZA EN VIVO (REGION DE TUXTEPEC)
If you cut to the 4 minute, 10 second mark you will hear a song I am expected to dance with my dad at every Oaxacan party we attend because my mom sure isn’t going to.
That’s it for this post!
Please let me know if you listen to any of the tracks and have plans of incorporating them in your life or work, somehow. And please, tell me about the songs that have inspired your writing– I’d love to check them out.