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August 30, 2017

This Song Changed My Life --- Guest Post by Author K.M. Walton

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Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It's a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching and wing spreading-all in the span of a few notes. In BEHIND THE SONG, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them. Music can change one’s life.

Here are some of the contributors to the new YA, music-focused anthology, BEHIND THE SONG, sharing the songs that changed their lives.


David Arnold, author of KIDS OF APPETITE

“When I was in high school I remember hearing Elliott Smith’s songs in Good Will Hunting --- "Angeles," in particular struck a nerve I didn’t know I had. As a young songwriter, it opened up so many possibilities for me, and to this day I credit Elliott with teaching me that an honest voice is more compelling than a pretty one.”

K.M. Walton, author of ULTIMATUM

“Driving home one night on a twisty road, I was visualizing what it would be like to finally be published. And literally out of the darkness...Fireworks. Fireworks lit up the trees, the river, the world, and ka-blam, Jeff Buckley's “Hallelujah” started playing on Sirius. His haunting voice floated from the speakers, swirls of heaven. While the lyrics aren’t particularly encouraging, it was the moment that made me hear: don’t give up, keep reaching, but pay attention to joy.” 

Beth Kephart, author of ONE THING STOLEN

“But don’t our lives keep constantly changing, so that the songs that we need keep changing, the songs that finally find us? My mother’s lullabies, when I was young. The songs I danced to, alone, in my basement (Al Stewart, Seals & Croft, Boston, Jim Croce, Bread), when I was a teen. The song that arrived as an early-morning gift --- Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love.” Dance with me, the song said, and I did, and I was not alone, and, again, I was renewed and I was changed, I was defined.”

Elisa Ludwig, author of the Pretty Crooked trilogy and COIN HEIST

“I was 12 when I first heard "Hero Worship" by the B-52s, about seven years after its initial release, via my older sister's stereo system in our suburban Philadelphia house. Cindy Wilson's growl and screech was my first experience of anything remotely punk. I was immediately fascinated by her raw emotion and their wacked out-1950s look, and immediately devoured every song on those first few records, which were my gateway drug into The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, Devo and all of the bands that defined my middle school years. Looking back, that was the first clue that I was going to be an "alternative/indie rock" kid, my first hint that were worlds to be explored through music that were smart and funny and bizarre and compelling.”

Ameriie, Grammy nominated singer, songwriter, producer

“It's hard to name only one song that changed my life, but Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" was, for me, when hip hop and R&B stopped playing around and finally got serious. Soaring melodies and aggressive vocal approach over hip hop beats...It was everything I didn't know I needed. Pure perfection.”

G. Love, frontman for the band G. Love & Special Sauce

“I think the best songs, and for that matter, the best things in life, come easy. I mean, you have to bust your ass to get to the time and place where they can arrive, but it’s like the saying goes: put the work in and be prepared for when that golden opportunity or idea comes to you. With “Cold Beverage,” I was ready and it came. Just a simple little ditty that would change my life.”

Tiffany Schmidt, author of BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE

“When I was little we kept the Ghostbusters soundtrack on cassette tape in my mother’s car. Driving around town and to and from school, I memorized all the lyrics. Late at night, when I lay in bed with my overactive imagination weaving creepy narratives, I’d roll toward my night light and whisper-sing the words into my security blanket, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” It was a lie --- I was and am still scared of most everything --- but at least it let me pretend to be a bit braver.”

Donn T, singer, songwriter, author

“Nina Simone's "Four Women" is a classic timeless piece of art, a history piece. When as a kid, I found this gem in my parents’ vinyl collection and heard the telling of the story of four black women and their harrowing journeys, it changed me. Nina's presentation is raw, descriptive, compelling and resistant, a song for revolutions then and now. As a singer-songwriter, this song inspires me to take risks and hopefully share stories that impact culture and shift my listeners.”

James Howe, author of The Misfits series

“I came of age in the 1960s, a time when music was exploding in new directions: the Beatles, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin. I loved them all, but it was the Rolling Stones who gave me a whole new sense of myself. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” rocked those Saturday night parties I went to when I was a sophomore at Boston University and desperately wanted to be bad and cool. I was pretty much a failure at both, being inherently good and dorky, but “Satisfaction” gave my fantasies a soundtrack. When I closed my eyes on that crowded dance floor and moved my body to that beat, I was as close to bad and cool as I was ever going to get.”