On Pressing the Button

There are two songs that I remember having written at age six: a rock n’ roll wonder called “Thunder and Lightning” (thunder and lightning/ yeah yeah/ thunder and lightning/ oh yeah) and a narrative style ballad about a little cat that emerged from a mysterious magical flowerbed to become my pet.

I remember them because I recorded them

My dad had a boombox, probably intended for demos of his own. I don’t know what kind it was. All I knew was when I pressed the key with the red circle on it and sang, my voice and songs would come back to me whenever I wanted them to. And I recorded more than those two improvised tunes at age six — I completely commandeered that boombox, interrupted and ruined countless demos of my dad’s. Sometimes I’d prank my younger brother and record the squealing result. Later, in my best robotic voice, I’d make a tape-recorded introduction to my bedroom, to be played whenever somebody rang my “doorbell,” AKA the soundbox from my stuffed tiger, ripped out of its belly and mounted beneath a hand-scrawled sign. I’d even go on to record a faux radio show with my neighborhood friends comprised of comedy bits, original music — vocals only, sung in unison — and, yes, pranking my brother.

Eventually, the boombox either moved on from me, broken or reclaimed by its previous owner, or I moved on from it. I didn’t record anything for a long time, even though I formed other vocals-only bands with friends and continued to write and develop as a songwriter.

Had the little red circle become scary? Was I just a kid, moving from interest to interest, finding myself? Probably the latter. But for some reason, as a young songwriter, I moved from bedroom to bathroom studio, from garage to basement studio, jumping at the chance whenever some dude friend with gear and a designated space offered to get my songs down in some form. Sometimes it was lovely. Other times boundaries were broken and long-term friendships combusted. I persisted because I believed that I needed the help, that I couldn’t record on my own.

Years ago I had a nightmare: I had died without having recorded my music. From a bus full of fellow ghosts with unfinished business, I desperately sang my songs down to the living, hoping someone would catch one, foster it, and let it live. In the early days of the pandemic, this nightmare haunted me. That red circle called to me.

Let’s press that record button, yeah? On whatever we’ve got that has one. I’ve had my songs tracked in spaces sanctioned “studios” by confident men, so why not my own spare room? Why not the record button on my own laptop screen? I’m setting an intention, for myself and for you. When I think about what I wish to provide for you as a Soundgirls blogger, it is this: the permission to record yourself on your own terms, wherever you are in your journey. You are valid.

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