Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Gretta Ray — Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling
Dear Once I Was An Eagle,
I remember vividly when we first connected. Seated in the front room of my high school singing teacher’s home at the age of 16, beside my dear friend Thea, you were introduced to me. Right as you entered the space, the room fell silent. There are few moments in my life where I can describe the way I felt in that moment. It was as if I was hearing music for the first time. I was struck by your vocal tones, in awe of the motion of your melodies, and your words had me in a trance. Then and there, I was ever-present and inspired to write to such a standard.
It was clear to me that you had this incredibly strong moral compass; you knew what you wanted out of life, knew how you deserved to be treated. You’re one to stand your ground, refusing to be a “victim of romance” or “circumstance”, and though I admire this about you, I immediately understood that it was endurance of heartbreak and times of solitude that had evoked such certainty within you. You see, you present as a hopeless romantic, a blind optimist when in love, and as a result of this you are hurt easily. So am I. Maybe this is why I still to this day, cling to you so tightly.
The season of winter was upon us when we met, and I found myself frequently turning to you from that point forward, wanting more than anything for you to accompany me through each and every day. You were the soundtrack to my stroll to school, served to ease my mind as I studied. I found you to be so calming that, most prominently, you were the soundtrack to the occasional bath I would indulge in; the one time in the day when my mind was quiet and I was entirely relaxed. It was just me, soaked in the atmosphere of a steam-filled, dim lit room and your tales of heartbreak and self-assuredness pouring into the space.
Your artwork is simplicity and power paired together. There is such strength in Laura’s depicted figure that stretches from her arm to her fingertips and at the same time she is vulnerable, appearing to be reaching for something beyond arm’s length. You are truly the image of strength and struggle, a theme that coats your every song. The fact that you include the lines “today I will feel something other than regret” and “I’ve damn near got no dignity left” within the same verse never ceases to baffle me. One would never assume that there’d be any sense of confidence in having “no dignity”, but you sing this lyric with such conviction, and it is clear to me that you have an understanding that rebuilding yourself from a place of heartbreak is completely, wholly inevitable. I love this about you. I love how you are an ode to a tragic experience, yet a celebration of the fact that you “rose above” this, “and preyed”.
Once I Was an Eagle, I only recently learned that you were recorded, from beginning to end, in two takes. I have always adored how each song of yours flows directly into the next, but this new piece of information only further exemplified to me how seamless and raw your highly emotionally intense narrative truly is. I remain indescribably obsessed with how you occasionally slip into the tone of spoken word and fall gracefully back into melody.
I have never known a record that sounds more like a musical reading of a classic novel, or an iconic collection of poems. What I mean by that is, after listening to you in your entirety, still sitting in the hum of the last note of the final track and taking in what I had just heard, I experienced the exact same sensation one does when they close the final page of the book they have been invested in. This melancholic, heavy feeling when you have loved and admired this book to its full extent, bathed yourself in it, allowed it to swallow you whole. As strangely sad as that feeling can serve to be, it’s extremely telling in the sense that it proves to you that this piece of art has moved you. You can’t remember how you saw the world before you read that novel. You can’t remember what else this past week has consisted of aside from your undeniable love for this book.
I, personally, can’t recall what my life was like as a songwriter before I was introduced to you, Once I Was an Eagle.
Thank you for all that you are,
Gretta Ray’s new EP ‘Here and Now’ is out now. Listen here