Northern Songs

I didn’t buy a pair of socks for the seven years I lived in the Austin area. Well, maybe athletic socks, but not winter socks. I wore sandals 90% percent of the time. (I love my Keens) During those seven years, I also gave away most of my sweaters. I kept a small plastic bin with some sweaters and a few skiing clothes in it, but most of it was probably really out of style by 2007. I only kept those sweaters around for something to pack with me for the few days here and there that I visited family in the Midwest. There was no need to invest in many cold weather clothes in Austin, so I didn’t.

As we prepare for possible snow today (in APRIL!!!), I realize now that for the years I lived in Texas, I never really thought much about weather. It was pretty much a variation of warm-ish to scorching hot. And scorching hot certainly wasn’t pleasant, but we could always swim and have cold drinks in the evenings. We wore shorts, watched fireworks and saw bands outside on New Year’s Eve. We wore shorts, watched fireworks and saw bands outside on the Fourth of July. I would occasionally have trouble differentiating some of those memories.

Now that I am back in the Midwest, I’ve been subjected to a real winter again. A real winter, in my own definition, is one that requires at least an hour or more of shoveling a driveway on multiple days, and is accompanied by a serious lack of sunlight. And so over the past four months, I’ve found myself thinking about something I haven't thought about for long time: weather. Cold weather.

Some of my favorite writers make a point of not writing about anything weather related, and I see why. It can be kind of generic and boring, and maybe in a way, not really saying anything on the subject that has not been said before. Weather also doesn’t get into relationships (excluding one-sided metaphorical ones). But I can’t help but let weather once again affect me now that I am sunlight and warmth deprived. This KC winter brought back memories I hadn't thought about at all while in Texas. In the same way that the smell of cut grass or a song summons an old memory, the chill of the frigid, snow-covered landscape and the smell of a wooly scarf around my nose brings back memories from Milwaukee, and my own KC childhood that I’d forgotten for years.

Musically - I think I write differently in cold climates than in warm ones (maybe it’s just that I’m stuck inside more)...which led me down a trail of random thoughts today. I think about artists who record in remote cabins…and question whether or not I can hear the influence of that environment – its remoteness, a northern vs southern climate, solitude, etc., on a song. I wonder how much influence (if any, depending on the artist) an artist’s recorded music has to do with the “mood” created by the environment. There are so many variables in what makes someone write a song a certain way, but I give some credit to environment. Of course, artists who live in places where that climate doesn’t change much probably don’t feel this way, but I do. 

So at the end of all this rambling, do you think you can listen to a song you’ve never heard before, and “hear” the influence of a remote environment, southern vs northern environment, winter vs summer?

(My sweaters lived in this box when we lived in Texas)


1 comment

  • Frank Hubbard

    Frank Hubbard

    I'd go with "change of climate" as an inspiration too, I think. You're aware of what you have changed back to, as I was 7 years ago when I came back north from Atlanta. It's worn off now, but the first couple of years I found I enjoyed all four seasons much more than I had in years. I'd also say that if anyone can make a good song out of seasonal material, it would be you. Write on!

    I'd go with "change of climate" as an inspiration too, I think. You're aware of what you have changed back to, as I was 7 years ago when I came back north from Atlanta. It's worn off now, but the first couple of years I found I enjoyed all four seasons much more than I had in years.

    I'd also say that if anyone can make a good song out of seasonal material, it would be you. Write on!

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