On occasion, some of my friends will ask why I listen to such “depressing music,” and I’ve always found that curious. Sure, I see their point, a lot of the stuff I enjoy features subject matter that is dark and gloomy—but, in my opinion, there is a unique kind of hope buried deep within slow, sad songs. I love them.
And it’s true that Rosie Thomas very well might be the bummer queen. But after getting the chance to talk with her for close to an hour on the phone, I think we’re on the same page in that all of our lives, at times, are filled with loneliness and sadness.
But the music that one makes or listens to doesn’t mean he or she is depressed.
Thomas’ most recent album, the reflective These Friends of Mine, was recorded with two talented musicians, Sufjan Stevens and Denison Winter. It quickly became a revealing experience for Thomas, one that even opened up a different style of songwriting.
“The relationship between three people (Thomas, Stevens, and Winter), each one of them is their own sort of individual loner self,” Thomas explained to me. “Doing that record, it reminded me a lot of how, even amongst friends, while so different from each other, that you still have that feeling of loneliness, which is a great thing to discover–as long as you don’t get into self-loathing mode of ‘no one gets me.’
It’s very refreshing to get to that place, everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror everyday, and there’s a lot of loneliness sometimes in that.”
And usually on Thomas’ albums, the loneliness or sadness is something she’s experienced or has seen first-hand. Only With Laughter Can You Win was filled with personal laments, and If Songs Could Be Held featured one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, “Death Came and Got Me.” On These Friends of Mine, Thomas also uses objects to project what is missing or too far to reach.
“It’s so very easy to write so personally,” Thomas says. “One thing I think Sufjan inspired me to do, he talks about objects quite a bit, he uses a lot of nouns in his writing. And it’s so descriptive; you can picture the desk, the dress that the girl is wearing. I love the storytelling involved in that. And I think, for me, my storytelling has been so personal, maybe it hasn’t been objective to some degree; I believe it is, because I think we’re all so similar, we all do struggle with the same thing. If we’re all moved by something, we’re moved by it because we relate to it.
I’m not a big, wordy person. I have a very simple vocabulary. When I wrote ‘Kite Song,’ it was a really sad time in my life…but I’m learning to be able to allow things to come and go, and trust that things came for a reason, and they didn’t leave because I screwed it up, it was simply that was the way it meant to be.”
Rosie Thomas Forum:
She said it: