Running on Indie

I remember where I was when I first plugged a set of headphones into my ears. Our neighbor left his Sony Walkman at our house. Of course, I had to try it. I sat in the green La-Z-Boy, the one that had been reupholstered and had this itchy, stubbly texture. I pushed play and…life…altered. I can’t even remember what song had come to life in my ears but whatever it was brought to life my inner rock star. All other sounds were gone. It was just me and the music. Life and siblings were moving around me set to a shimmering, glorious soundtrack of my choosing. Holy shit! I was hooked; I was passionately hooked.

Running just fast enough to blur the 80s hair and shorts. I think my mom took this one.

Running just fast enough to blur the 80s hair and shorts. I think my mom took this one.

Not long after that headphone moment, I discovered my other lifelong passion…running. The Walkman and running, well, you could see that combo coming a mile away (pun intended). When you’re out on the roads and there’s not much to listen to but the low rumble of passing traffic, the music is your only friend. When I finally had my very own handheld cassette player, Sting and I would hang out and play all of the Synchronicity songs together, or at least the songs on Side A until I had to stop to flip the tape over. (See a photo of my Synchronicity cassette in my Michigan in the Mix blog post.) Later on, it was 7Seconds - Soulforce Revolution. If I went on a long enough run, requiring repeated tape flippings, I would spend so much time listening to Kevin Second’s voice, I would expect to see him sitting at the kitchen table when I got home.

Now a days, of course, my iPod holds countless songs and playlists —seamlessly and flawlessly, no flipping necessary—yet the feeling of euphoria that I get from lacing up my running shoes and slipping the headphones in my ears is the same one that I felt that first day back in the green La-Z-Boy. It’s the same every single time I go for a run—that utter pleasure of being inside the music while my feet carry me forward, powering my own personal movie camera. I let my mind wander as new lyrics form in my head or I figure out arrangements for existing ones, which is how the version of my own song, “Shipwreck,” came about. Sometimes I stop to take a photo, especially when I’m the only one out there in the middle of a snowstorm. Sometimes I actually think about running and can hear the omniscient voice of my high school cross country coach in my head yelling “Let’s go!”

Only Johnny Kelley and I were out running that day. Johnny Kelley statue, Commonwealth Ave., Newton, MA

Only Johnny Kelley and I were out running that day. Johnny Kelley statue, Commonwealth Ave., Newton, MA

I savor old songs, like Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty,” placing me squarely in Forest Gump with a cameo running alongside Tom Hanks, 80s shorts and all. I enjoy new favorites, like this month’s Plum Indie song selection: “Canyon on Fire” by Wild Nothing from their Indigo album released in 2018. I found this song from searching around SoundCloud and it’s currently holding a coveted spot on my running playlist: it’s the song that kicks off all of the other songs; it’s the opening song to my running movie as the credits are rolling. I find the guitar irresistible—that crunchy, relentless guitar propels me forward. It never fails. Jack Tatum, the founding member and songwriter of Wild Nothing, really captures the idea of hybrid music, giving “Canyon on Fire” that nostalgic hint of 80s that would have blasted from my Walkman while also wrapping it in a modern layer of synths and reverb. As I run along, I look around and set the scene with the lyrics, thinking about LA, “cheap red,” and “fireworks over the freeway” though I’m running down Comm. Ave. on the Boston Marathon route. When Tatum sings “Who would I be without you?” I’m usually so in the moment, I end up singing along. It’s still early in my run and I can’t help it…a singer sings even when she’s running. By the end of the song, I’m refreshed and ready to go the rest of the distance…I may even “rewind” and listen just one more time.

“Canyon on Fire” is available in all of the usual places; I also added it to the Plum Indie playlist on SoundCloud and Spotify. Give it a listen. By the way, if you’re thinking of hitting the streets with your running shoes and headphones, be careful out there!