Music & Mindset

Music is an art, but it can also be a tool.

I never exercise without music. A good fast beat can energize me and get me pumped for my workout. I also enjoy calm music or scores when I have to focus on writing or reading.

Since I was a teenager, music has been a tool that I use to set my mood. If I’m feeling down, an upbeat song can make me happier. If I need to calm down for some reason, I always turn to my favorite indie band, Death Cab for Cutie, to make me feel relaxed and slow my breathing. I often listen to them on a plane when I trying to fall asleep and block out the noise.

I set the pace and intensity of a workout by the playlist I choose that day. A harder, rougher sound motivates me to push myself. A lighter tone can be good to get my heart rate up while I do cardio. I have a few playlists on my phone that I am always using, but occasionally I like to shake things up and use something created by Spotify. I can always change it during a rest while I’m working out if its not my jam.

Music can also motivate me when I’m not feeling up for a workout one day. I set the music to more upbeat pop or my favorite genre — emo/punk. By the end of the first song, my mood is usually elevated and I feel more confident about what’s to come.

Even as I write this entry, I’m listening to a selection of scores, mostly from shows and movies. I prefer shows lately, because movie soundtracks can be too iconic and well-known to blend into the background. At this moment, I picked scores from the shows Arrow and Supergirl. Arrow tends to be darker and grittier in its tone, while Supergirl is lighter and more hopeful. I don’t really notice when they are playing, but it helps me concentrate and get into the flow state while I write.

I mostly use speakers to play my music, both in my home gym and in my office. In my gym, I have a Google Home Max speaker that wirelessly plays Spotify off my phone. I can control it by voice, so I don’t have to fiddle with my phone if I’m in the middle of something. My office speaker is a Marshall bluetooth speaker that sits on my bookcases. I’m not a stickler for sound quality, so I can’t tell you which one is better. Both serve their function, which is what I care about most. If I’m out and about shopping or walking, I use either my Bose headphones or earbuds by Skullcandy. Again, I’m looking for features unrelated to sound quality. I use the Bose mostly on airplanes or if I’m in a coffee shop working. The earbuds are mostly used to listen to podcasts while I’m shopping.

I hope you consider your relationship to music while working out or going about your lives. It has been a major component of my life, and I wouldn’t be able to function without it.


“Writers keep writing what they write…”: My Love for Fall Out Boy

I’ll admit it right now, I’m watching the extended, full length version of FOB’s “Young Blood Chronicles” as I write this (for the first time, but not the last).  But I’ve been a Fall Out Boy fan for a very long time.  This is how old I am: I remember buying a copy of “Take This to Your Grave” from a Sam Goody when I visited the Mall of America.  Yep, pre-iTunes, when you had to go out and buy music and the only chance you had to preview it was MTV or those booths at music stores that I avoided because I don’t know where your ears have been, so I’m not putting those headphones on my ears.  Sam Goody is a distant memories for most 20-somethings; for those who don’t remember, it was a go-to for the latest CD (or tape) back in the day.

That’s how it all began for me, “Take This to Your Grave.”  This was part of my teenage anthem, along with similar bands, such as Good Charlotte,  Simple Plan, and Sugarcult, later Hawthorne Heights, Panic! at the Disco and many more.  Songs from this album will always be close to my heart.  They got me through the bad times of teenage-dom and bipolar alike.  Whenever I hear the start of “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” I can’t help but sing along.  The song titles are fun and set the tone of what was to follow for this band.  The vocals were raw, filled with emotion, and the lyrics are so complex at times, you’d need a decoder ring (look it up, kids).  These were a bunch of suburban Illinois kids singing the lyrics of my heart as a young teenager.  If this had been there only record, I would have played it until I had to buy a backup copy.  But, to my joy and delight, there would be more to come, more to love, more to sing in the car when the world was shitty and dark.

When things were really hitting the fan for me, the greatest thing happened.  Fall Out Boy reached into my head and sang everything I thought, the good and the bad, in their second full album, “From Under the Cork Tree” in 2005.  “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” hits the ground running and I love the fact that the first words Patrick sings are basically, “Don’t listen to this, put it down and walk away.”  This is the one that launched FOB into stardom, if you ask me.  MTV played the videos for “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and Hot Topic sold merchandise  which I bought, trying to be goth/emo/whatever-the-hell.  I was cool for once, part of what was happening at that very moment.  And I had claimed this band before anyone knew about them, the thought that most fans have about their favorite band hitting the big time.

By this time I was writing poetry and, oh boy, you can see the influence printed large on some of my early stuff.  (Hey, its an homage, right?)

Then, I honestly think Hollywood went to their heads, because I liked the next two albums, but I didn’t “get” them, to tell the truth.

Suddenly, Jay-Z was rapping on one of the tracks and the song titles were written without vowels.  But I enjoyed most of it; it was just too shiny and happy at times for someone in the grips of depression or great if your bouncing off the walls with mania.  The one song that hit me straight on was “Golden,” which expresses everything I think is wrong with image vs. reality aka I will never impress you with what I do, so what does it matter who I am inside.  These were the FOB lyrics I wanted: witty and thoughtful, not too flashy or “pop.”

And, in my opinion, the weirdest of all, “Folie a Deux.”  Everyone was in love, and I’m listening, thinking, “WTF? Do I just not get it?”  This was the height of Hollywood Pete and the gang for me, the problems of celebrities and rock stars, not kids with problems.  The lyrics were still great, but their weren’t my lyrics anymore.  I never felt the need to “detox just to re-tox” at any time.  The songs titles became even weirder, like “Disloyal Order of Water Buffalo,” a reference to “The Flintstones” cartoon.  “I Don’t Care” was great for shouted that you didn’t give a damn about the world, and “What A Catch, Donnie” was great to sing to, especially when they bring in lines from previous songs.  But, I don’t know, it didn’t feel like my Fall Out Boy.  It had become the band of the people; younger, happier people who didn’t have real problems in their happy little lives.

And that’s where it ended.  No one brought up the band for a while and knew that was the end.  I thought, “Well, they’ve moved on, and so will I.”  So, I grew up (which I do not recommend) and Fall Out Boy became a part of my past.  I went to college and listened to whatever was popular, mixed with “grown up” music, that I enjoyed but didn’t love (unless you talk about Death Cab for Cutie, but that’s another topic).

But I was wrong, it wasn’t over at all, just stalled a bit.  The year 2013 came and they were back, baby!

“Save Rock and Roll” was the sound I wanted and longed for over the years.  My boys where back and all grown up!  I had progressed in life and they had as well, and now we met again as old friends.  The sound was mature and well-rounded, the lyrics were genius, and the feel was back.  It had all come full circle.  Here I was in a new part of my life and Fall Out Boy was there to greet me and congratulate me on making it through the hard times.  With guest artists from Country Love to Elton John, I couldn’t believe it could ever be this good, nay, Great!  Here was the wit and the love I had longed for since 2009.  Patrick, Pete, Joe, and Andy were all at their prime and I could not have been happier.

To tell the truth again, I didn’t sit down to write this entry.  It just sort of happened.  I had to finally share my thoughts for my fellow fans and everyone else out there.  But this brings me to the best part of the story (for me, anyway).  I get to see one of my favorite bands in their hometown (area) in July. I simply can not wait.


In the meantime:


MONTUMENTOUR was awesome!  Epic!  The bands all rocked hard and I sang along with all my heart.  I will never forget it as long as I live.