Love Letter To A Record: State Champs’ Ryan Graham On As Cities Burn’s ‘Come Now Sleep’

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.

Ryan Graham, State Champs – As Cities Burn’s Come Now Sleep

The truth is I don’t remember what I was doing or where I was when I first heard your strange whisper in my ear, but I still feel the cool breeze of your words as if it were our genesis again each time I revisit you. Even now, I’m having trouble attempting to express my feelings for you with sentiment that isn’t overly gushy or filled with meaningless hyperbole. But during the adolescent years of my self discovery where I continuously searched for the “great peace that we all seek” (your words, not mine), you stepped in at the most perfect time as a mentor. And even still, you lay a loving hand on my shoulder when I hide my insecurity, loneliness and doubt from those around me who believe I have it all together.

I’m not going to pretend that I had a tumultuous or necessarily difficult upbringing – in fact, it was pretty comfortable. My parents loved me and put a roof over my head, I got good grades and I had a group of amazing friends. Why, then, did every morning begin without a feeling of purpose? That very lack of purpose left me confused and sad – even guilty at times. I wanted to believe in the god that my parents raised me so lovingly on. I spent every waking moment trying to live in their good graces, but the very last thing I wanted to do was disappoint the being who was to choose my eternal fate. As I sat in the back of the pews, I would find myself questioning each teaching, as if they weren’t meant for me. Why did it seem like I was the only one who had questions? I decided to choke back the doubt and tell myself that it was just a phase; that it would make more sense when I got older.

I was 17. Within the next year, I would graduate high school and start college. When was I supposed to figure it all out? That’s when you appeared. I was directionless and you sounded so confident. Not only were you bold, but you were beautiful and pleasantly melancholy. You were like the moody, misunderstood girl in your homeroom who you were convinced was the love of your life if you could just muster up the courage to talk to her. You not only challenged me to be honest with myself, but you encouraged me to be honest with the people who loved me.

If I was alone before, I certainly wasn’t alone anymore. The vulnerability in your words floated on top of sleepy guitar lines in a way that packed more punch than any record jammed with distortion could ever dream of. And it wasn’t even the intricacy of the arrangements that drew me in, although I would never deny their genius, it was the viscerality of your honesty that drew me back for those countless listens. And suddenly it was perfectly OK to have questions about my disappearing faith. The guilt and shame that I harbored was now shared with a perfect stranger who was the best listener I had ever encountered.

I never professed my love for you from the rooftops until now. You were always just secretly mine. You never told me what to believe, but you also assured me you wouldn’t judge when I came to my own conclusion. I’m still on that journey of self discovery and I think I will always have a plethora of unanswerable questions, but I have you to thank for setting that ‘eureka’ moment barreling into motion. Hearts aren’t really our guides.

State Champs’ new album ‘Living Proof’ is out today!

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