I freely admit that the position of my muse has a fairly hot and heavy turnover rate; so while my current raison de l’art is Dwight Yoakam—specifically singing “Wild Ride” and “Fast As You,” more specifically rockatwanging terms like slim, side to side, along with my pride, sumpum, you’ll learn, shakes me . . . makes me, girrupoffa my knees, and do thangs right—the title has previously belonged to plenty of musicfolk. Freddie Mercury (the perennial). Sia. Syd Barrett and the boys (especially whichever one’s Pink). Tracy Chapman. The One, the Only Lady G. Dreamboat Annie and Heartthrob Nancy. Marilyn Manson. Vienna Teng. It’s no short list.
And those who “make the cut” remain and are recycled even after my initial fever for them breaks, at which point I can liaise with them writer to animus with a whole new long-sighted sense of security. Still. That honeymoon phase with some fresh muse is a hell of a rush.
As for why I nominate for this coterie from the world of music . . . well, (a), I don’t know that I do. I wake up, I hear somebody sing something I’ve heard a million times before, but this time it’s in mint condition—there’s some sharp jewel inside the lyrical diction I’ve never felt the shape of before—and then it’s rather helplessly off to whatever YouTube-looper website is currently functioning for days of obsessive repeats and writing writing writing until at least mildly satisfied I’ve produced something that is, if not a description of that wild and wonderful jewel, a better than half-assed tribute to it.
(b): Music just makes sense as a stimulating field for writers, inasmuch as sounds spun, romantically or with a series of jolts, together can open onto verdant visual landscapes while plucking at lay-about memories and tying some easy emotion to a more remote, obstinate one in the length of a single verse. Where else you can find quite that density of sensory riches I’m not sure.
But also (c): Do you ever experience moments when the fact that some good thing was ever committed and is therefore now real seems to create an exquisite burden of worship for you? You witness an act of apparently simple art and then you’re something like baptized in it. Its creation striking you as valiant rebellion against inertia, content mediocrity, nothingness. And perhaps this is why it isn’t just fandom: it is worship; whatever triumphs over nothingness insinuates itself in that sacred old territory of salvation—if nothing is death and death nothingness, then any worthwhile something can be a savior. And it may be true the sting of the artist’s own mortality is assuaged by the moment of art itself, already well preserved and diffused; the missing factor here isn’t some vainglory errand to grant some (for instance) musician eternal life through secondary art but to concretize your own capacity for reverence.
What is writing if not a nondenominational prayer to everything worth putting into words? Your own moments that are cardinally worthy of literary exploration may or may not involve he of the one-time skinny jeans and hip thrusts who launched a thousand rockabilly cover bands; any sort of sound, well executed, can spark a phlegethon.
(And if southern rock is your Sunday school: “Fast As You”—twenty-four seconds in. The way he sings “who’s.” How? With what squadron of spirits oh-so-boldly controlling that voice?)
In summation: what inspires me to keep writing, and, if we’re being honest, to get out of bed in the morning, is a vaguely religious lust for music. A desire to embed a given musical phrase so deeply in my brain that even when there are no headphones, no Pandora, just a writer alone with her notebook in the quiet, there can still be heard a “little voice with a gold-plated vibe,” as a glorious man once sang.