Shaun Cooper, Awsten Knight
[Photos by: Shaun Cooper/Ryan Bakerink, Awsten Knight/Giselle Dias]

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.

Read more: Andy Black, Benji Madden, more on the songs that saved their lives
1. Shaun Cooper, TAKING BACK SUNDAY


Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)
I was a mess in high school. I didn’t really go. I had a lot of stomach issues that led to a lot of anxiety, depression, what have you. It wasn’t too severe, but I didn’t really do much. I didn’t really get out of the house much. I had a lot of friends that would come over and hang out with me, but I wasn’t like, “Gotta make my own way.”

In an attempt to go to community college, I took a music class. I hated everything about school, but this music class was fantastic because the professor. The first day, one of the first things he did was put on “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and he’s like, “Listen to the guitar. Listen to the lyrics. You have to understand what he’s talking about.” And this is an old, nerdy guy. He could have been my dad, and I was like, “This guy gets it, and there’s something more here. Maybe I can actually get something out of school.”

So it was a very positive turning point. I didn’t necessarily go right back into school or anything; it took me a little while to get there. But it really lit a spark inside me to understand that there was a lot more to life than what I was seeing.

I don’t know [if] it connects with everyone the same way it connects with me, because there are people who just turn on the radio, and they like whatever is there and it’s fine, and they don’t go much deeper.

I think [the] people that read AP that listen to my band have a very strong connection to music, and somehow it works within their brain, and there’s a therapy there. It’s medicine; it can change your mood. Every day I wake up with my kids, [and] we’re putting on music, [and] we’re not putting on cartoons because I want to start the day in a positive light. I want to put on a good song. They love [Electric Light Orchestra’s] “Mr. Blue Sky.” It connects with both my kids, and for whatever reason, that’s something that makes them smile immediately. So seeing that, that’s something we really embrace, and I guess it could be in our DNA. I don’t really know. That’s what’s so great about music for people like us—and anyone reading this, I’m sure.

2. Awsten Knight, WATERPARKS

Driver Friendly, “At Least We Are Civilized” (Chase The White Whale, 2008)
I’ve been sitting here trying to think of just one song to choose that impacted me more than others, and it’s impossible because a ton of songs have molded me, just in different ways. I think I’m going to roll with “At Least We Are Civilized” by Driver Friendly aka Driver F. They were my favorite band for years, and I used to go to their shows all the time in Houston/The Woodlands, which were always fucking bonkers. When they released Chase The White Whale, it became one of my all-time favorite albums, and when I heard track five, “At Least We Are Civilized,” for the first time, it totally made me cry in a good way, which sounds hella creepy, but it’s real and true. So that became a feeling and style of moment I think about sometimes and wanted to emulate in Waterparks songs as much as possible.

3. Cody Carson, SET IT OFF

Relient K, “More Than Useless” (Mmhmm, 2004)
When we’re growing up, we face a lot of mental tests. We’re tested in social interactions when people intentionally try to hurt us to find their place in the popularity chain of command or see what they can get away with. We’re tested within our families when it comes to how we deal with conflicts and disagreements. We’re tested within ourselves when we learn to deal with how we let these negative feelings affect us or how to overcome them. It’s a lot to have on your shoulders at such a young age. It can break you down, and that’s what it did to me on a regular basis, but I found strength and hope in music. Every now and then, at your lowest point, you stumble across a song that finds you right when you need it.

[Relient K’s] “More Than Useless” was that for me: It spoke to me as an equal, as someone else who was also at a very low point and related with me with lyrics such as “What’s the purpose?/It feels worthless/So unwanted, like I’ve lost of my value.” As the song went on, you feel more and more optimism shine through the lyrics. (“I’m a little more than useless/And I never knew I knew this/Was gonna be the day/Gonna be the day that I would do something right/Do something right for once.”) It may be a downer type of song, but sometimes some hair of the dog is just what you need. I’m not the only person who goes through those emotions, and it gave me a friend in that song. It also helped mold an aspect of how I approach lyrics to Set It Off songs. I’m truly grateful to every song that got me out of a dark place, but this was the first instance of that happening.

4. Collin Walsh, GRAYSCALE

Jimmy Eat World, “Hear You Me” (Bleed American, 2001)
“Hear You Me” by Jimmy Eat World was the song that helped me through the death of my grandparents. Both of them were very religious people, which always made me feel particularly connected to the spiritual references in the lyrics of this track. For whatever reason, I have always felt closer to them when listening to this song and driving alone at nighttime. I can always feel their presence around me when this song is playing. This track is beautifully written in every way and will forever be one of the most significant musical pieces to me personally.

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.