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.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Laura Jean – Tori Amos’s Under The Pink
My Uncle Paul and Aunty Monique decided it was time for me to hear you when I turned 15, giving me a double CD of you and Little Earthquakes for Christmas. At the time, I was languishing in a post-grunge landscape, my taste populated by novelty punk bands like Presidents of the USA, mid-west American college radio sweethearts like REM and LIVE, and female songwriters that hadn’t inspired me to write my own story.
I couldn’t fully relate to Sarah McLachlan’s austere purity, or Alanis Morissette’s jagged worldliness, or Desiree’s smooth confidence, or Meredith Brooks’ ‘bitchiness’, or the Riot Grrl toughness. The genius of Kate Bush, Yoko Ono and Joni Mitchell was inaccessible to my uneducated ears, and Annie Lennox was just what my Mum liked. I was obsessed with Lauryn Hill and TLC, but their albums were so advanced and cool and so removed from my suburban world. I was a whimsical, chubby, queer, wannabe fairy-queen living in a small-minded Australian surf town. I needed you.
The first strain of music that enters my head when I remember you is the introduction to ‘Icicle’. As I listened, you tinkled erratically, quietly, so high on the keyboard that only me and the birds could hear you. ‘Icicle, icicle, where are you going? I have a hiding place where spring marches on.’ You dared to be indulgent and feminine. I didn’t have the language or experience to understand sexual energy, but I felt it from you in the form of a mysterious, magical feeling – subtle, fantastical, erotic, simultaneously present and promised. I had intense recurrent daydreams of performing one of your songs in front of my entire high school assembly.
I was considered practically male from Year 7 to 10 because I didn’t behave in a gender normative way (one of my main nicknames was Lawrence). In my imagined performance, I played the piano so beautifully, and sang my heart out, and all the students saw who I really was, the woman I was becoming. I wanted to shock them, to make them think, to make them feel. To snap them (and me) out of the bullshit we were fed as teenagers in the 90’s about what it meant to be a sensual, beautiful person.
Under The Pink… you opened my perception. Suddenly, the scrubby bush behind the new super mall was my own secret witch garden. Suddenly the spells I cast while watching sand cloud out from my fists as I sat in the shallows of the ocean were real. Suddenly I had power over my psychological environment, and I had a private space the bullies couldn’t ever reach. Sure, I took it too far and had a period of trying to move stuff with my mind, but mainly your influence on me was positive. Thank you for holding me through a chaotic, isolated time. Thank you for guiding me to song writing, and the potential for it to heal myself and others.
Melbourne artist Laura Jean’s new album ‘Devotion’ is out now.