My love for music by Sofia Wilde
by Sofia Wilde, 20th August 2020
“One good thing about music; when it hits you, you feel no pain” Bob Marley
My love of music started on a car journey home after visiting family friends. We were listening to a cassette tape they had given us that featured Carole King’s album ‘Tapestry’, and most of Mary Black’s album ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’. Once home I listened to that same cassette over and over again, pouring over the lyrics and melodies. I loved how it made me feel. It was almost otherworldly – it took me out of myself. From that point onwards, music became a lifelong friend.
Music has the power to motivate, lift our mood, comfort us, and it can help us to process our experiences. For me, and for many others, music is medicinal.
As a child, I studied piano, flute and singing, before going on to study Popular Music Performance in London. At school I struggled with anxiety after being bullied, and turned to song writing as a release. I worked through my experience by writing down my thoughts, then turning them into lyrics and putting them to music.
I continue to use music as a source of comfort during difficult times. It also serves as a fantastic motivator when my confidence needs a boost - handing in my notice was a cinch after listening to Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’ on repeat!
Research backs up my personal experience. Music therapy can help reach people when words can’t; it helps spark memories, increases self-esteem, reduces pain, anxiety and depression. When experienced with others it helps strengthen connections and form new bonds - I’ve witnessed this first hand at the music sessions I run for parents and babies. Often my sessions end with the babies in complete silence. Some are so relaxed they fall asleep! Mums tell me how much they enjoy the sessions, and that they leave feeling relaxed, lighter and more connected to their babies. There’s now strong evidence supporting the benefits of music sessions for mums with PND.
Whilst listening to music in isolation isn’t strictly music therapy, research shows that it does have several positive effects. Observable physiological responses to listening to music include: the slowing down of our heart and breathing rates, a decrease in blood pressure, and a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol. And from a neurological point of view, it has been shown that there are positive responses in the brain when we listen to our favourite music, particularly the release of neurotransmitters such as the ‘happy hormone’, dopamine.
So how can listening to music help you? The key is listening to music that you like. That might be music that brings back positive memories - transporting you back to a particular moment in your life, or a song whose lyrics are particularly poignant at the time you’re listening to them.
Whilst listening to music might not be a fix, it can be an extremely effective tool we can use to provide relief, consolation and moments of pure pleasure.
My top ten tracks (listen on Spotify)
1. Home Again – Carole King.
“I want to be home again and feeling right.”
This song always makes me think of home and what it truly means to want to go back there. ‘Home’ evokes feelings of nostalgia – a time in your life when things felt right. The instrumentation and production on this song (and the whole album) is so warm, rich and immediate, it’s as though you’re in the same room as the musicians and they’re talking directly to you. For me, this music is timeless.
2. By The Time It Gets Dark – Mary Black.
“Yesterday is gone and will be forgotten, and today is where every new day starts.”
I sung this song at a friend’s album launch. It was one of those moments when I felt completely in my element. And of course, it also takes me right back to that cassette tape!
3. Sisters of Mercy – Leonard Cohen.
“Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control. It begins with your family, but soon it comes round to your soul.”
Leonard certainly isn’t everyone’s bag! I wasn’t a fan until I was in my late teens. My dad used to sing this one to me as a lullaby. Cohen’s lyrics are just incredible and have given me endless amounts of consolation and laughter.
4. Come a Little Closer/Wild is The Wind – Shirley Horn.
“Like a leaf clings to a tree. Oh my darling, cling to me.”
When I was eighteen I went to New York for a month to study musical theatre at New York University. I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life there, but I was also very lonely in a city where I didn’t know anyone. One of my music teachers recommended I listened to Shirley Horn, and from the moment I heard her I was hooked. She is one of my favourite vocalists, and this song always takes me right back to New York. N.B. David Bowie also does an incredible version of Wild is The Wind.
5. A Long Walk – Jill Scott.
“Or maybe we could just be silent.”
A year after I moved to London I joined a band as their lead singer and songwriter. Around that time I started listening to a lot of Hip Hop and Neo Soul. I became obsessed with Jill Scott’s album ‘Who Is Jill Scott? (Words & Sounds Volume 1)’. This song in particular reminds me of that time in the band, and those first few years living in London.
6. Knocks Me Off My Feet – Stevie Wonder.
“And words from our hearts told only to the wind. Felt even without being said.”
I listened to this song when I first started dating my now-husband, James. We both love it, and again it transports me right back to that moment in time.
7. One Day Like This - Elbow.
“Throw those curtains wide! One day like this a year'd see me right.”
This song is my go-to when it feels like everything is going great. It’s a real mood booster, and the lyrics are beautiful.
8. Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell.
“It’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all.”
I think Joni Mitchell is one the most inspirational singer/songwriters of all time. This song, taken from her album ‘Clouds’, is one of my favourites.
9. Harvest Moon - Emilia Martensson.
“We all need to be looked after. And to feel the balm of laughter.”
Emilia is a Swedish vocalist and songwriter (although this particular song is written by Jamie Doe). I listen to her album regularly, and my children love it too. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, and provides instant comfort and warmth.
10. With Your Eyes Closed – Dan Wilde.
“With your eyes closed, tell me what you see.”
After the birth of my twins I struggled with post-natal anxiety. It was a really low time. One of the only ways we could get them to sleep was to take them for a drive. I listened to this song on repeat whilst doing laps of Richmond Park and it brought me immense relief.
Sofia Wilde is co-founder of Sound Generation, a family-run music events business founded in 2010. For every event booked Sound Generation donates £5 to Nordoff Robbins charity. Follow them on Instagram @s_generation