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.
‘Rediscovered’ – Roan Yellowthorn
Part of why I write songs in the first place is to process my feelings. I feel things very strongly. It’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re this way, too, you know how it is. It’s exhilarating at times. It also can be paralyzing.
Sometimes, I am so inside of my own head that I drive myself insane. Sometimes, I overthink decisions ad nauseam. Sometimes, I feel like my body can’t hold all of the things I’m feeling. Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed; unable to sort through my emotions, and almost afraid of their intensity.
When this happens, one of the best things for me to do is to write. Getting the feelings outside of my body is really helpful. It allows me to see them more clearly and to organize them. Naming them is important because that helps me to separate them from the essential fabric of myself. It creates a boundary, almost.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1
I don’t always write when I’m feeling something strong. In fact, I often do the thing that makes it worse and try to ignore the feelings – try to distract myself from them. Doing this may work in the moment, but it only prolongs an inevitable reckoning. And, don’t doubt it, the reckoning always comes, even if it’s months or years after the fact.
Confronting the feelings is hard. For me, it’s one of the hardest things to do. You don’t always know what you’re going to find. You don’t always like what’s there. And, once it’s been uncovered, it can’t be ignored. There’s a responsibility that comes along with uncovering and discovering your own feelings. And it’s hard to take. But, eventually, it must be done.
When I wrote my new studio album, which comes out at the beginning of next year, I operated on a deadline. It was the first time I’d done that. Most other times, I had let the songs come slowly and compiled them after the fact. In this case, however, I wrote with purpose.
I mined my own feelings, emotions, and experiences. And it felt like a great purging. A cleaning out of the proverbial closet. I found old things that had been lingering, unworn, for a decade or more. I found curiosities I didn’t know were there. And I found spiderwebs of grief that seemed to be eternal in their ever-renewing nature.
All of these were cast in resin and saved, preserved, displayed. Turned into art, expression, an offering, a reminder, a momento mori. A relic of this life.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to feel things strongly. Probably, it’s not something that can really be qualified. It just is. It’s a mode of being. One of the ways to exist in the world.
I do my best to cope – to calm myself down when I’m feeling too wired, to build myself up when I’m feeling low. And I am getting better at it, I think, with time and experience. For a long time, I wished that someone would come along and save my from myself, take me away from my own pain. But I’m learning that that can’t really happen. I will never be swept away so fully that I stop being myself and I want to be loved and accepted, fully, for who I am, the same way that I would love another. I’m sensitive to feeling abandoned, rejected, ignored. I want to feel like I am enough just as I am. I will always be me, whatever that means. And I am enough. I am enough.
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📸 © Jackie McLean
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