Hey, music lovers. And YA readers, you too! Especially you #boybandlit folks, this one's gonna be your jam...okay, now I have your attention, I'll be keeping my intro minimal today. Let's hand over to the mega star that is Chris Russell; the sweetheart, undiscovered hair model, hardcore Directioner, and author of 'Songs About a Girl', the book that rocked our worlds in 2016. He's going to tell you all about the music behind the book!
"Songs About a Girl is a book about music, in more ways than one. My fictional boy band Fire&Lights are at the centre of the story, of course, but as someone whose entire life has revolved around music, I also wanted to explore the way songs can function as “memory keys” - potent little time capsules that unlock forgotten moments in our past.
"Like many authors, I built a playlist for the novel as I was writing it, featuring the songs that inspired the tone, emotions and heart of the story. And as Grace and I have overlapping music tastes, we thought it would be interesting to talk about the playlist in tandem: first, from the perspective of the author, and second, from the perspective of a reader. Enjoy!"
I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift
Chris: As Aristotle once said, “Ain’t no playlist without Tay-Tay” (I may be paraphrasing). When Charlie and Gabriel were first beginning to form in my mind, I was listening to this song a lot. Like, A LOT. It was the launchpad for the whole trilogy. Because as Charlie herself tells Gabriel: “When I’m around you...bad things happen”.
Grace: Y'all know I'm a die-hard Swiftie. IKYWT is one of the classics – and is often wrongly assumed by journos to be inspired by That Stylish Guy, despite the fact that it was released 3 months before their little romance...true fans know this. Anyway, this is one of the T-Swizz songs that would come on at the SU and I'd have *everyone* grabbing me at once to sing together. Oh, Tay.
(Grace's signed copy of SAAG, with an additional Tay Tay lyric, obvs.)
Story Of My Life by One Direction
Chris: I’m a huge 1D fan, and not afraid to say it. Indeed, Songs About a Girl was directly inspired by a freelance job I picked up in 2013, ghost-writing for a One Direction fan-site in Australia. Back in the early research stages, I was racking my brains for the central hook of the book - the thread that would span the trilogy from beginning to end - and it was while I was listening to this song that the idea came to me. No one likes spoilers, though, so I’ll leave it at that!
Grace: My 1D love began in the early days of uni. Yeah fine, I admit it, I'd often let a guy serenade me with WMYB on the dance floor. I've come to accept my love of 1D, and stopped burying it in the darkest recesses of my iPod. 'Story of my Life' is emosh af; it brought out a whole other side of the band for me, who up until that point had just been happy carefree jams I'd hear every Friday night out on the town.
Standing In The Dark by Lawson
Chris: I’m a massive fan of Lawson. Not only are they a class act, they’re also distractingly handsome. Suspiciously handsome, you might say (I’m not suggesting they’re genetically engineered, but, come on … they probably are). Anyhow, I digress. In the same sense that Trouble is Charlie’s song and Story is Gabriel’s song, 'Standing In The Dark' is Olly’s song. “I’m looking through the glass, she’s someone else’s angel …”. Poor fella.
Wild Heart by The Vamps
Chris: In my head, the Fire&Lights sound is somewhere between One Direction, Lawson and The Vamps. This is arguably The Vamps’ best song, and I was spinning it regularly when I was originally piecing together my imaginary boy band. As a side-note, The Vamps’ lead singer looks about nine years old, and it kinda freaks me out.
Chris' writing set up, obvs.
Do You Remember? by Phil Collins
Chris: It’s always fascinated me how memories attach themselves to music. One of my earliest inspirations for Songs About a Girl was the gut-punch feeling you get when you hear a treasured song from your childhood. Suddenly, you’re a kid again, on a long car journey, dozing in the backseat, orange lights flashing by outside the window. We always listened to Phil Collins when I was little, so anything by him, particularly this song, sort of breaks my heart a little, but only in a good way.
Missing You by John Waite
Chris: “Missing You” is another song that reminds me of childhood, but it earned its place on the playlist because, in my head, this was always Charlie’s dad’s song. He lives in a state of inertia - denial, almost - over the death of his wife, and although this song is about a break-up, as opposed to a loss, many of the lyrics resonate with Ralph’s character for me. “Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath...And there’s a storm that’s raging through my frozen heart tonight.”
Hello, I’m In Delaware by City & Colour
Chris: My band’s sound engineer, Danny, is a massive Dallas Green fan, and he introduced me to City & Colour a few years back. I felt instinctively that Charlie would be into C&C, and always imagined her finding the lyrics to this song comforting, when she was thinking about her mum. “And I will see you again...a long time from now”. (Also, the title of the track is a Wayne’s World reference, and Wayne’s World is TOTALLY BOSS.)
Grace: Okay, don't even. This might be my favourite song of all time. I've written about it before, and the enormous effect it had on me seeing the man himself singing it live – to a room full of tattooed twenty-somethings who were once misunderstood scene kids just like me – after so many years of listening to it and loving it...I cannot explain the explosion of goosebumps that happens every time I hear “there goes my life”...
Cat’s In The Cradle by Harry Chapin
Chris: Remember I talked about the emotional gut-punch of hearing a familiar childhood song? Charlie gets one of those when she listens to “Cat’s in the Cradle”. I won’t say anymore (again, SPOILERS!), except to recommend that you listen to this song again. It remains popular, decades after its release, but I’m always surprised how rarely people have actually listened to the lyrics. It’s a song about family ties, and what happens when your child learns the lessons you never wanted to teach them in the first place. Powerful stuff.
Click here to subscribe to the playlist on Spotify (no “I Knew You Were Trouble”, though. Sad face.)
ps. I’ve written quite a bit of the music that features in Songs About a Girl. Check out the video below to find out more!