It started with an album. I had bought this album at a used record store maybe six months earlier, because it was a band I’d been into a few years before that. Then I completely failed to listen to it for half a year, which is a bad habit of mine. I was occupied by other music. It takes me a long time to digest (or sometimes even taste) new albums.
I finally got my act together and put the thing into my car stereo. With a good album, the first listen is never the best listen for me (kind of like having sex with someone new for the first time). Usually a few tracks jump out at me as exciting right away, but mostly I’m just enjoying getting back into the idiosyncracies of the artist in question and trying to take in the songwriting. It’s by the third or fourth time around that I start to get a handle on how I really feel about an album.
Then I drive around with the album on nonstop for a period of days or weeks. Look, I know other people find this weird or simply annoying but I’m over it. Music is my religion. Lots of people return to the same passage of a religious text again and again, getting new answers and insight from it each time. I don’t do that type of religion, but this is how music is for me.
So with this album, I realized as usual that I was not going to stop listening to it anytime soon. At some point I usually start to feel a little nervous and uncomfortable. “What will people think? Is it weird that I can’t stop listening to this? Maybe it’s been too long? Is this some type of mental health issue I should address? Maybe it is not normal to love something this much.”
This time, for the first time, I told the voice in my head to get over itself. Listening to this album repeatedly was making me happy, and not only that, but it just felt like it was something I deeply needed. In the way some people turn to spirituality for insight, I sensed that the insight I was craving at the moment was encased in this CD somehow. I was right, by the way.
For several years I’ve been wanting to go on a “vision quest”. This is a weird set of words for someone to keep coming back to who isn’t religious or even really spiritual. But for a lot of my life I’ve felt I was searching for something (a non-physical something) that was eluding me and I longed to go on a journey to find it (in fact, this may be why I put so many thousands of miles on my car each year). I never really had a solid plan on how to attempt such a journey in a meaningful way. Then one day I thought: “Duh: music.”
So I decided this was my vision quest and that I was going to go all in, instead of feeling awkward or embarrassed about how instense I get about music. I’m a musician, for chrissakes! I regularly say music is my religion and I mean it sincerely. I’ve sacrificed health, sleep, money, and social experiences to the dream. The least I could do for myself is let myself go on a friggin’ musical vision quest if I felt like it.
I’m right in the thick of it now, and I’m here to tell you that it’s going extremely well. I’m not really sure how a vision quest is supposed to go, but based on things I have read it’s fulfilling the major requirements. Insight. Hope. Acknowledgement of the dark shit that has been clouding my spirit. And it sort of leads me along by the wrist instead of me having to do a lot of work to Try To Have an Epiphany. Just what I’ve been looking for in a vision quest, really. I wish I’d done this years ago.
How to Have a Musical Vision Quest, If You’re Rorie Kelly
(these instructions may or may not apply to anyone else in the world)
1. Start listening to an album and realize that you can’t stop and don’t want to.
2. Give yourself permission to keep listening to it until you either get sick of it or something awesome happens.
3. Find that you don’t get sick of it, but instead feel the need to listen to the other albums you have by this artist, too…
4. …And also, to get every other piece of music they’ve made that you don’t have. This might take some time but don’t worry. Vision quests move at their own pace and you still need time to digest each album before moving on to the next.
5. Listen to whatever album is calling you, as much as you want. Singing along seems to help quite a bit too.
6. Certain songs will call to you. Learn to play them. This will feel cathartic and important, and as an added bonus, now you know how to play some awesome new songs.
7. Also, listen to them again and again, on repeat if needed. Epiphanies will happen! It will feel awesome.
8. Make a vague effort to keep up with all your real world commitments, by the way. No need to cause future trouble for yourself by becoming flakey.
9. Talk about it or don’t talk about it as you see fit. There’s no need to defend your vision quest or the artist in question to people who don’t “get it”. They don’t have to get it. It’s your vision quest; they’re probably too dumb and cynical to ever have such a special experience and it’s their loss. Boohoo for them.
10. Repeat as necessary until you feel done. (I don’t feel anywhere near done yet.)