Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – Roan Yellowthorn
All my life, I have been searching for purpose. I see glimpses of it here and there. There have been many times when I’ve thought that I had it figured out only to later feel like I wasn’t any further than where I began.
Since beginning to devote the majority of my time and energy into making music, I have had moments of deep insight in both directions. I’ve experienced revelations where I feel like the music I’m making is the purpose I’ve always been meant for, as well as moments of doubt where I feel like maybe having a traditional job would be the surest path to a purposeful existence. I’ve applied for graduate programs in law or psychology only to change my mind.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1
What I am slowly learning is that balance is key. This lockdown period has been illuminating in an unexpected way – it’s helping me to find my balance.
I’ve been letting myself do other things beside music during this period. Usually, I’d be focusing on things like show booking and tour planning. This takes a lot of coordination, time, and energy. But it’s something I enjoy doing so I spend the time and energy gladly. With all of this suspended indefinitely, I have so much extra time.
Here are some of the things I’ve done:
- Repainted all of the cabinets in my kitchen. This took so much time – we have like 30 cabinets – but it was so gratifying. The cabinets used to be a yellow/cream color. Not my aesthetic. I repainted them all white. It felt like I would never finish, but I did, and I learned that I really enjoy painting. It’s meditative. I like to work with my hands. Along with painting all of our cabinets, I painted our front door, a bench, some baskets, and some other random things. It’s amazing the difference that some paint can make on the appearance of surroundings. I like seeing the difference. I like feeling like the work I’m putting in is having an effect.
- Started a new part time job. I love language. Unexpectedly, I’ve recently discovered that this love of language translates to a love of computer language. I’m really becoming interested in coding and that kind of thing. I want to learn more. I find it very satisfying. It uses a part of my brain that I like to use – the part that organizes, solves problems, fixes, and sorts. My new job, which is remote, is for a tech company. I write content for them, do some social media stuff, and I am reorganizing the interface of their employee software. I am truly loving it. And it feels good to bring in a steady income from work alongside unpaid, entrepreneurial or home-related labor.
- Mowed the lawn. I mow the lawn every week now and I really enjoy it. It’s a little routine that brings me satisfaction. I can listen to Esther Perel’s podcast in my headphones, fire up the electric push mower, and spend an hour or two outside doing work that has a measurable effect. I always keep the guard on the high setting so that the insects have grass long enough to live in. And I keep an area of the lawn wild so that flowers and high grass can grow. I care about the well being of the insect kingdom – bees and butterflies – and I like being able to take this care. I also like the feeling of knowing I completed a physically taxing task. I like to move my body.
- Deepened friendships. It’s important to me to be a good friend. I want to nourish the connections I have with people. To me, that’s really the most important thing in life. Putting energy into relationships I treasure is a gift back to myself.
- Learned more about social issues. I’ve spent a lot of free time reading about the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t want to just be any ally. I want to know what I’m talking about and acknowledge/uproot any unconscious racism that I carry. It feels purposeful and essential to do this work and I’m committed to continue.
The music industry will start back up one way or another. Whether it’s through mainly virtual concerts or something else, musicians are finding their footing and the machine will start running again. I have faith in that because it’s part of my life that I treasure and miss. And I think, that with this change of pace, I’ll return to it with renewed perspective and enjoyment. That’s a good thing, too, because I have a new album coming out in early 2021. And I want to relish that.
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? © Jackie McLean
:: Breaking the Record ::