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
I don’t talk much about this, but I have a lot of childhood stuff that I’ve dealt with my whole life. A lot of baggage from my family of origin. It weighs on me very heavily. It’s something I deal with every day. For a while, I hoped that someday I would be healed. That someday I wouldn’t feel the pain so strongly. That someday I’d be able to turn the page and move on. But that’s not really how life works, I’m finding. Current life and emotions trigger me and bring me back to a place of struggle and difficulty. My specific situation is particularly complicated for various reasons. And, I’m learning, it’s something I will have to live with and manage forever.
Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1
But, that doesn’t mean that I always have to suffer. No. I don’t want that. I want to thrive and be happy. To move forward and onward. Being saddled with weight that isn’t mine is it’s own kind of burden. But I’ve grown strong from carrying it.
One of the ways I process my feelings and this pain, particularly, is through writing. As an adult, I’ve been able to take physical space from the ultimate triggers. This space and time has allowed me some perspective. And some modicum of ownership over my own experiences.
For a long time, I had trouble writing about this particular nexus of pain and emotional trauma. Maybe I was too close to it. But, finally, some combination of time and conditions has recently allowed me this perspective. And I’ve been able to write about my experiences and feelings.
In fact, most of my forthcoming album (coming out at the start of 2021) draws from these feelings, events, and situations for inspiration. It’s a liberating thing to be able to write about pain. It transforms it, alchemizes it into something new and almost precious.
In the past few months, I’ve also finished writing a book. My first full-length book. It draws from the same source, as well. The seal is broken, it seems, and I’m creating freely in this area. I can’t describe how liberating and enlivening it feels. After decades of tamping down these feelings and memories, they’re coming to the surface and transcending the boundaries of my body to live outside of me. A separate life.
I don’t think I’m done processing. I don’t think I ever really will be. But I’m thankful for art. I’m thankful for this creative outlet. It heals me. I can feel it. I used to think that being strong meant keeping things inside. But I’m learning, slowly, that it’s quite the opposite. Being strong is confronting feelings, even when it’s frightening. Even when it causes pain to do so. Even when it’s difficult. Because that’s the only way to really understand them. It’s the only way to move on.
When it comes to any of the creative things I do for personal projects, I don’t think of how they will be received. I do them with the aim of telling the truth and getting to the heart of the matter. I don’t think I have to worry about how they will be received because the truth resonates. It’s immutable and it can’t be second guessed. That’s another part of being strong – telling the truth. There’s telling the truth to others and telling the truth to oneself. Sometimes, that last one is the hardest. It means internal confrontation. It means reckoning. But it’s important. I think that we all have an imperative to move towards harmony. For me, that imperative feels very strong. I don’t always succeed, but I try to honor that impulse. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this – the only way there is through. It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But the thing about hard work is this: it makes you strong.
PS This Friday is Bandcamp Friday, where bandcamp waives their fee and allows artists to keep all proceeds from their music. Consider buying music on this day to support independent musicians. Maybe you’ll even buy my new cover album, ‘Rediscovered’. I hope you will.
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📸 © Jackie McLean
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