It’s not unusual for fans to credit their favorite musicians for “saving” them through the power of a song. Music can positively influence someone’s life whether it be through making them feel less alone, boosting their mood or inspiring them to find their own path of creativity. We spoke to some artists who recall the songs that made them want to pay the inspiration forward.
1. Andy Black, BLACK VEIL BRIDES
Bruce Springsteen, “Long Walk Home” (Magic, 2007)
It was summer of 2007. Before school started, I had essentially been kicked out of the School For Creative And Performing Arts in Cincinnati, the only place I had ever loved. It was a life-changer for me being there. I was in a position where the only place I felt that I was accepted wouldn’t accept me. That whole summer, I probably gained 15, 20 pounds eating and on Myspace, trying to build up Black Veil Brides and work on things. I was trying to cultivate my career but having no socialization at all. I just felt so lonely—I just needed to talk to people.
I told my mom I wanted to go to real high school; I thought it would be a great idea. I had forgotten that “real high school” would’ve been with all the kids I went to grade school with that were so mean to me. I decided to go to a private school downtown. I thought the three-year difference would’ve made everything better. I also didn’t account for how I had upped my costuming and makeup game in my daily life. [Laughs.] I went from being a skater-punk hoodie kid to a straight-up Tim Burton character, and now I’m going to reintroduce myself to these mean kids who already hated me when I had curly hair, board shorts and a Circle Jerks T-shirt. For some reason, in my mind, this was all going to work out so much better.
In September of that year, a record came out that I didn’t think was going to matter much to me. Not that I disliked the artist; it never really resonated with me because it was my mom’s music and I liked it, but it was never the most important thing to me. It was Bruce Springsteen’s Magic. I was about to get my driver’s license, and that was the CD that was left in the purple Geo Metro that was being given to me.
Up to that point, all the music that I was choosing was melancholy and living in the sadness. That was the music I was listening to at that point: It was either ridiculous cock rock, which was just overconfident silliness, or sad-boy rock from the late ’90s. There was nothing coming from the perspective of “I’ve seen this before, and I’m going to get through it.”
Based on all the other music that I had listened to in the Warped Tour world, in 2006, 2007, there probably wasn’t a less cooler time to be listening to a heritage artist. And [Magic] has meant more to me than anything ever has. It changed and informed the way I write songs. The whole Black Veil perspective of me writing about problems but from the view of “This is something that can be dealt with. You’re going to get through this.” All of that was informed by that record, particularly by the song “Long Walk Home.” It just meant that yeah, it’s gonna take a while, but you’ll get there. And that was my mantra leading me back into going to school.
Oh, and spoiler alert: It went terrible. Everybody made fun of me, and I wound up only going for a year-and-a-half before I wanted to put a trailer outside of the campus just for the bad kids, but that’s a whole different story. [Laughs.] But when I was driving to school on those mornings, trying to find a parking spot, I would listen to that and think, “OK, this is going to suck, but I’m going to get through it.” So if I’m going to pick the song that saved my life, it would be that. [Laughs.] A very Alternative Press answer.
2. Will Swan, DANCE GAVIN DANCE
Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta” (Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone?, 1997)
I was a young, angry, isolated youth that was lacking direction when I first heard “Flagpole Sitta” in an ad for the movie Disturbing Behavior. It was just a taste of the song, but I had to know more, and I dug and found out about the band Harvey Danger. The song was rebellious, but with an intelligence and nuance not often found in the typical punk I listened to at the time. It seemed like the lyricist had found a way to encapsulate my societal and existential angst into one of the most infectiously catchy songs I’d ever heard. I bought their first album, and it remains the most relatable and brilliant lyrical album of all time.
3. Sadie Dupuis, SPEEDY ORTIZ
Palehound, “If You Met Her” (A Place I’ll Always Go, 2017)
I wish I’d heard it earlier, and the story behind the song is Ellen Kempner wrote it because she had a new partner, and she wished she’d been able to meet her friend who passed away. I feel the world is so crazy and sad, and so many of us lose friends younger than we should to addiction or whatever. I know that I have certainly lost a lot of young friends. And that song’s just really powerful [in portraying] the feeling of missing a friend who shouldn’t have had to die so young and wishing you could have shared them with someone new in your life.
4. Benji Madden, GOOD CHARLOTTE
Rancid, “Journey To The End Of The East Bay” (…And Out Come The Wolves, 1995)
“There wasn’t always a place to go, but there was always an urgent need to belong…”
This song chronicles the experience of being in a band. When it came out in 1995, we were just forming the idea of Good Charlotte, and it spoke to me loud and clear. The lyrics allude to Tim [Armstrong] and Matt [Freeman]’s time in Operation Ivy, describing the experience of being a band trying to make it. This sentiment carried me for years as we traveled countless miles in a van.
When I was low on hope, in a broken home, trying to muster up the courage to face the day at school or the fear of where my family would live and how we would pay the next bill or the next meal—Rancid made me feel cool and like I was worth something. Like I belonged. This is a song that was definitely written for me. Nobody can tell me otherwise, and I’m eternally grateful to Rancid for it.
This feature originally appeared as part of The Songs That Saved Our Lives special in AP 363 with cover star Tilian (Dance Gavin Dance). You can check it out here or below.