I REMEMBER BEING 10 years old, sitting in my bedroom listening to a Garth Brooks cassette. It was the first time I had the experience that I’ve now grown to love: a song so compelling that it connects in a deep place, hits you in your gut and speaks to your soul. The song was “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” and I listened on repeat for hours. At that point in my life, I really couldn’t comprehend the idea that life is finite and we should strive to inform our loved ones how much they mean to us. Still, the song was relatable. While I don’t recall the specific details, I’m fairly confident that the song resonated because I thought I was in love with Jodi Bosscher in sixth grade. I probably wrote some cheesy letter in math class and sent the dedication out to her. No shame here. I have no idea where she is today, but I certainly wish her well and thank her for that memory.
For me, high school was all about athletics. As a junior and senior at Sparta High School in Sparta, Michigan, there was nothing more important to me than football and basketball. The camaraderie you experience with teammates is a feeling that never leaves you. I can still go back to the locker rooms during pregame: week long preparation, check; uniform on, check; game face on, check; CD player blasting tunes, check.
Now I was always the country-music fan that had no shame in admitting it. In fact, it used to drive me insane when people were scared to admit they listened to country music. With my disclaimer stated, I can say that there aren’t many country songs that got me amped up to go play a basketball game. Insert: rap music. When I was a junior, Dr. Dre came out with 2001’s The Chronic record; I was hooked. The song was “Forgot About Dre” featuring Eminem, and our team listened to it on repeat before games, after victories and probably all through the night at the local orchard party (small-town living). Some of the scores of those games are lost in my mind, but the memories of that feeling of excitement leading up to the game, fueled by a classic rap jam, have continued with me to this day.
In college, there came a new way of life, new friends and new experiences. While most of those experiences were exciting — a semester abroad in Australia, college basketball, trying my hand at improv comedy (crash and burn)— there was also one experience that I couldn’t have seen coming: the loss of my 33-year-old uncle to cancer. I had never lost anyone up until that point. That same year, Tim McGraw came out with “Live Like You Are Dying,” which won ASCAP’s Country Song of the Year in 2005 and was written by multi-year ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, Craig Wiseman. That song was the soundtrack for me and my family as we watched my uncle’s health decline over the summer. My uncle spent a lot of time that summer experiencing life and being around the people that meant the most to him. The truth is, he is the one that encouraged me to study abroad, because he believed wholeheartedly in experiencing life to the fullest. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to that song looking out over the Pacific Ocean from Wollongong, Australia.
Over the years I have listened to up-tempos, mid-tempos and ballads. I’ve listened to country, rap, Christian, rock, punk rock, alternative, metal, folk, blues, R&B and pop songs. I’ve listened to these songs in happy times, sad times, party times, bedtime, morning time, drive time, flying time, etc. We all have songs that act as the soundtracks of our lives. As cliché as that sounds, it’s the very thing I love about music. Music helps us express the emotions for which we cannot find the words, and there have been countless songs written about those specific tunes that have shaped and formed our life experiences.
Life lesson: It’s a powerful feeling when a song hits you right.
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