5 Thought-provoking Songs I Love, and How They Make Me a Better Writer

5 Thought-Provoking Songs I Love and how they make me a better writer

We’re talking about our favorite music and movies this month at Quills and Inkblotts.

I can’t listen to music that engages my brain while I write. But during those moments before I write, while I’m driving, mopping, showering, doing laundry, or staring out the window with my fingers on the keyboard, if I’m listening to great, thought-provoking music, it provides fertile ground for character development. 

This is one way I explore their emotions and worldviews. I’m not creative enough to imagine every nuance of pain and joy, triumph and tragedy, regret, fear, and fall from grace in the human experience. I’m boring. I’m safe. I’m forgetful. These songs remind me. They teach me what I can’t know. They make me feel intensely.

I go through musical phases. Ask me in a couple of years, and my list will have changed because I’ll have discovered some new amazing song. Right now, these are 5 of the most profound, most heartbreaking songs that I can’t get enough of.

I linked a Youtube vid for each one. I’d love for you to take a listen and tell me if you like them too.

“Tree to Grow” by The Lone Bellow

These haunting lyrics will get stuck in your head for days. This is the first stanza:

And you told me you were sorry
And you did not want to pray
You looked outside your window
As I went outside away
The street it was much warmer
On my bare feet than the rain
That fell out of the sky
Just like my thoughts fell from that day

There is such a sense of aching hopelessness in these lines, isn’t there? Something has been broken, but not irreparably.  I love the tenderness of the instrumentals and the imagery of the lyrics. Stick around for the goosebump-raising crescendo. It’s beautiful and restorative. I’m not one who thinks we can just “love” our way to wholeness, but this song is a great reminder of the raw hardiness of a man who won’t quit loving his wife.

“Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers

Check out this refrain and tell me there’s no gut-wrenching truth in it. Go ahead. Try. I’ll wait.

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now
I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs

It’s totally worth 4 minutes of your time to watch this official video. Not only is it beautifully shot, but it takes the song to a surprising place–parental love, not romantic love. It evokes, not just the pain of a messy relationship, but the even greater pain of being treated with indifference by one who is supposed to fight for you. I imagine that is a pain a lot of kids feel.

“From Eden” by Hozier

You will never, ever, ever hear a song like this on pop radio.

Honey, you’re familiar like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on its sword
Innocence died screaming, honey, ask me I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door

I broke one of my personal rules and read the Youtube comments to see what people were saying about this song. There were many theories about what it could mean. I’ll leave you to it with this warning: don’t try to wrap your mind around this song unless you’re prepared to think about Satan, and your own sin nature, and to mourn over what was lost in Eden.

“Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart

This one is personal to me. I might be choking back a tear or two right now as I listen.

Been talking ’bout the way things change
And my family lives in a different state
And if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate
So if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate

But the beautiful thing is that you don’t have to be a military family, like we are, to relate. Anyone who has moved on in life, or who’s watched their friends and family move on, who’s said good-bye, who’s felt every single mile between them and their loved ones, can feel this song deep in their bones. The sadness, the longing, the emptiness of missing someone, and the determination to come together again.

“Head Full of Doubt” by The Avett Brothers

This is just a song of epic proportions, so I have to include all the lyrics here.

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in
And demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream ’til I die
And the last of those bad thoughts are finally out.

Sometimes I think this song is so huge, that’s it’s like “From Eden,” taking us back to Genesis and the fall of man, and the glorious truth of regeneration revealed in the scriptures, and the struggle of sanctification that comes after. Sometimes I think it’s smaller, that it’s about a non-conformist, insecure kid who questions the norm.

I made the mistake of finding out what this song is actually about. It’s lame (compared to salvation), so I’m just going to pretend I didn’t, and keep using my imagination. That’s part of the fun of enjoying music, after all. The artist releases it from their tight creator’s fist, and it becomes ours to make of it what we will, what we need, for whatever place we find ourselves in.

So that’s my top 5. Share some of yours in the comments! I’d love to know what songs you can’t get enough of.




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