A story, at its best, pulls your feeling-self along on a journey, plucking at your heartstrings—like a song. That said, I never listen to music while I write. It is my time for silence and words on a page. But before, between, and after—it transports me to the story’s world. The present day heroine of my story, Maggie Carter Smith, is an amateur genealogist searching the 18th century frontier for a female ancestor, not an easy task in a world where women count for so little that official records, other than church and probate, rarely named them.
If Maggie listened to music that carried her into Mary Hutton’s story, the following would be her playlist. Anyway, it’s my playlist, and I want to share it. I hope you search out these artists, buy their songs, and enter what, for me, was the feeling-world of The Scattering of Stones. Better yet, buy their albums, because each album holds may more heartfelt songs. All are available on i-tunes, Amazon, or where ever you purchase your music. And PLEASE, don’t just listen to stations like Pandora. I’m not knocking them. I discover artists by listening on those sites, but they skip over so much these artists have to offer. I believe in supporting artistry with my pocketbook.
Song Bird by Eva Cassidy Eva Cassidy is an old soul. She left our world a long time ago, but her songs and gorgeous voice live on. I find the feeling of love, especially the innocence of a first love, unscathed by time, difficult to capture. The songs come off as saccharine and silly. Not Song Bird. It expresses beautifully the belief that one person can transform your world—though that belief may be short lived.
Second Chances by Gregory Alan Isakov My favorite, favorite new songwriter! He infuses words with the feeling of place. The Scattering of Stones speaks to the crossroad between place and feeling. Second Chances speaks to the forgiveness we find there.
Storm Comin’ by The Wailin’ Jennys The Jennys are harmony at its best, like being transported to a church in the wildwoods long ago. Storm Comin’ sings to facing the storms in your life straight on and finding the gifts therein.
Ghosts That We Knew by Mumford & Sons One of the more popular bands on my list and I love them. Every album contains a wealth of songs with words spun like silk. Ghosts informs what real love is about, beyond first blush, when the ache of living intervenes.
The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov (different album) This songwriter weaves words into worlds. The Stable Song sings of the pull of Ohio and what it holds. I feel it, Maggie feels it, and so did Mary. Beautiful lyrics, and I do so love soft-spoken banjo pickin’ with feeling.
Sand and Water by Beth Nielsen Chapman No words come when I think of this song. I discovered it long after the book was written. Anything I say would be a spoiler. Chapman’s voice and the words create an atmosphere that… Like I said, no words. Listen, and if you don’t cry—what’s wrong with you?
Long Time Traveller by The Wailin’ Jennys (different album) A cappella harmony—I want it played at my wake. Oops, is that a spoiler?
Build a Levee by Natalie Merchant I lean toward alternative, blue grassy, folk-style music with transformational lyrics. This comes from my husband’s blues-rock leanings, and it is perfect. Ever needed a song to keep you strong against a seduction? This is a woman’s song. And the instrumental is great.
Take Me Back by Sarah Jarosz My most contemporary find, her new album came out after my book was written. This song is an anthem for my book.
Transcendental Reunion by Mary Chapin Carpenter Mary’s words are always gorgeous. I recommend her everything. She has been a long time favorite of mine, and this song captures perfectly the intersect between Maggie and Mary’s worlds.
The Things I’ve Gone and Done by Carrie Newcomer A message spoken through song is Carrie Newcomer’s thing. Her messages are hopeful, spiritual, and instructive. I ran across this song after the book was finished, though I’d listened to it many times in the past. If I could point to one song that was the theme of my book it would be this one and…
String of Pearls by Rhiannon Gidden A song of life—what struck me was that I found this song and a science special about string theory’s definition of time within the same week. My left brain/right brain absorbed them, twisted the two representations around and became a manifesto that morphed, and morphed again, into the first pages of my book.
The Scattering of Stones is at the publisher now. I had to let go, and letting go is like pushing a child from the nest. You know you could have done better if you knew then what you know now, but you love her. You think she’s pretty damn special, and she will do just fine out there. Besides, other children need your attention now. You have pictures (or a playlist) to visit whenever you like, a place to relive that world, so long ago.
“It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.” in honor of Ursula K. Le Guin—a pearl resting in peace
Which songs and artists make you think?