Have you ever wondered what your favorite authors listen to during the writing process? Ever wondered what songs and artists inspire the pieces that appear in a literary journal? We have! So we asked our contributors to tell us about the music they love. Our authors’ choices and responses were witty, heartening, quirky, and melancholy, but most of all they were wonderfully eloquent. You can find the full playlist for our spring 2020 issue here on Spotify.
Our first song comes from Lauren Krouse, author of “A History of Hatred and Love in Wilmington, North Carolina”:
“She’s Mine Pt. 1” by J. Cole
What does this song mean to you? How does this song relate to your piece?
When I get really into an artist, I listen to all of their albums in order, song by song. When I first met my partner Ronan (one of the main characters in my creative nonfiction piece, “A History of Hatred and Love in Wilmington, North Carolina”), I was on J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only. The song “She’s Mine Pt. 1” hit me hard. “I never felt so alive,” Cole sings on repeat in a lulling tone. The song has this aching, open-heart feeling that perfectly captures the bittersweetness of falling soul-deep for someone. There’s this unrelenting fear of vulnerability, yet you can’t help but put your all in. It’s that scary love that gets you soaring on an oxytocin loop, but, at the same time, makes you wanna cry. I’ve had a very different life experience compared to Cole and the character in his album, but I really connected with that song.
My piece explores the joy and tension of love across racial lines in a city with deep, unhealed wounds in the wake of a massacre committed by white people against their black neighbors. When you listen to 4 Your Eyez Only all the way through, you realize that “She’s Mine Pt. 1” is one of only a few moments of levity in the middle of a story of a black man’s life in America which, like far too many black lives in America, ends tragically. It’s inspired by men Cole grew up with, as well as his own experiences with love, fatherhood, and racism in his hometown of Fayetteville, NC, about 90 miles away from Wilmington. In an interview with the New York Times, Cole said his goal was to “humanize the people that have been villainized in the media.” It may sound trite, but showing someone in love, and deeply loved, is one way artists can do that. In my piece, love comes to serve as a source of resilience, hope, and even protest in the face of ever-present racism.
Are you drawn to any particular musical genre during the writing process?
I’m not drawn to any particular musical genre during the writing process. Sometimes before I write, I meditate to Sigur Rós, an ambient Icelandic band I’ve been obsessed with since high school. The shape many of their songs takes—a slow emergence, build-up, crescendo, and return to silence—inspires me. It’s the same shape that the creative process takes on a really great day. But I also write to folk, rap, classical, and, most often, nothing.