The Greatest: Musicians That Changed My Life

by: Addison Bell

If you ever see me walking on DePaul’s campus or walking in general, I will have my earbuds in. Sometimes this is embarrassing — because people will wave to me or say my name, and I just keep walking because I am so entrapped by my music. I have over 16,000 songs on my iPod. At first, I thought this was something to be proud of, but it is actually kind of ridiculous. Who needs that much music? I do. I love music.

Everyone experiences a journey with music. We start off listening to what are parents listen to. For me, that was country music and hard rock. My mother loved Garth Brooks, and so my favorite song as a child was “Thunder Rose.” My father listened to Green Day before they became big. He also listened the Offspring. Because of this band, I learned how to say, “You stupid dumbshit goddamn motherfucker” by the time I was in 2nd grade (my dad warned me that if I ever repeated those lyrics I would get into trouble, so I never said them…well, maybe a few times).

Then we start listening to what our friends listen to. In grade school, that was Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. I do not know what my friends listened to Junior High — because I was so obsessed with Britney that I did not care about anything else. But in high school, I listened to the top 40 for a while, but then I started hanging out with friends that were into bands like Avenge Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage. Honestly, I hated listening to them music because it made me anxious and it hurt my ears, but I wanted to fit in so I pretended to like them. But I would go home from school and listen to Evanescence (yes, I still like them) and sometimes Britney.

Luckily, I was saved. I was fortunate enough to have an art teacher that listened to music that no one in my high school was listening to. During class, he would put in mixed CDs of bands like the Jose Gonzalez, Ray LaMontagne and the Shins. I would go up to desk and ask, “Who just played? Can you burn me their CD?”

I was never a part of the popular circle in high school. So many years were spent trying to shape my image to theirs in hopes of being accepted and being popular. Instead, I was the kid that everyone knew, but no one ever saw outside of school. I would have felt like a loser if I had never been introduced to “different” music. It made me feel cool — because I knew I was listening to material that the majority of my peers had never even heard of. That, to me, was something to be proud of.

One artist that always reminds me of this time is Damien Rice. My friend and I were sitting in her car when she said, “You have to listen to this song.” She put on “Cheers Darlin’,” which I instantly feel in love with. Finding his CD was a challenge, because the only place you could really go to buy music was either Walmart or Target, but I did find a copy of O at a used-CD store. Rice’s first album is timeless. “The Blower’s Daughter” and “Volcano” will never get old. I still get weepy when I listen to “Delicate” and “I Remember.”

Without even realizing it, O prepared me for love and heartache, for rotten breakups and bad times. After I graduated, I wanted to forget high school so badly that I stopped listening to the bands that reminded me of those years. But Rice was one of the few that I could not give up, mostly because both O and 9, his second album, had become a part of my identity.

Another one of those artists is Sia. My art teacher played “Breathe Me” one day in class and I stopped painting or drawing or whatever I was doing and just listened. He did not know much about her, so I had to look her up on my own. It took me a long time to get a hold of Colour the Small One, but when I did obtain it, it was another album that I listened to all of the time. I did not love it as much as O, but it became the soundtrack to my senior year of high school.

That year was my first experience with depression. Although, at the time, I did not realize I was suffering from it. I remember feeling numb to everything except music, painting, and books. I say Sia’s Colour the Small One is the soundtrack to my senior year, because I felt all of the pain and sadness that is heard on it. I would cry when I listened to “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Butterflies,” and I would feel hopeful when I played “Numb” and “The Church of What’s Happening Now.”

In January of that year, I watched the complete series of “Six Feet Under.” My love for that show is another story. Sia’s “Breathe Me” plays at the end of the series finale. I sat and sobbed as I watched it end, and afterwards, I put the song on repeat and wrote a letter to myself. In the letter I wrote about how things would get better, that I was going to do great things, that in a few months I would be away from my high school and the people in it. The last sentence says, “You are a beautiful person.” At the time I did not think so. I do not know why I wrote it, but I am so proud of myself for doing it.

If you were to ask me who my favorite is, I would say Cat Power. The first time I heard her was during Juno. Her cover of “Sea of Love” plays at the end of the movie when Juno and Paulie are lying in the hospital bed. Around that time, Jukebox, Cat Power’s second covers album, was released and I bought it. I had just graduated high school. It took me a long time to get into the album, mostly because it was completely different from anything I was listening to at the time.

I did not become obsessed with her until I moved to Chicago. Cat Power is a fascinating artist because all of her albums are different. Her earlier material is darker and grungier than her currently jazz-rock style. Yet, each album is able to grip you in someway, which I love.

Cat Power got me through my fist serious break up. Luckily, most of her albums are about bad break-ups and heartbreak, so she had my back. I would lay in bed feeling absolutely pathetic and Cat Power would always be playing in the background. Every time I listen to “Colors and the Kids” from Moon Pix, I think of the first guy I was with, and it usually makes me sad. That is what Cat Power does, but in a good way. She is one of the most melancholic singers you can listen to, but her music is absolutely beautiful. You listen to her and it is like she knows exactly what you are going through.

That’s the beauty of music, though. It matches your mood and what you’re going through, always there to he help you through. I would not have gotten through my catastrophic freshman year of college without Sia’s Colour the Small One, nor would I have made it through my break ups without Cat Power and Damien Rice. Music is my best friend when I am feeling lonely or depressed, and even when I am content. Sometimes we feel like no one knows what we are going through, but then you play your favorite music and you do not feel so alone.

That is why I always have my earbuds in.

Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow him on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.

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