So, back in the early 00s, I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was in a bit of a pickle. I’d just dropped out of university, I was drinking too much, was many belt sizes bigger than I’d ever been, and was quietly stumbling towards the role of Regretful Old Dude at the Bar.
I’d always loved making music since I was like 14 – writing funny little songs, playing guitar, jumping around in rubbish bands – but I had also begun to put a lot of pressure on myself to write good songs. To make good music. To write intricate melodies and chord sequences, with exquisite vocal performances in the style of freaking Jeff Buckley or something. Now, anyone who has heard me sing or play guitar will tell you very quickly that I ain’t no Jeff Buckley. But since I wasn’t doing anything in my regular life, putting pressure on myself to be good at music too was just making me even more miserable.
It’s strange how something as simple as seeing a music video on MTV2 can just nudge your life into a different timeline. For some reason, that video was the fairly innocuous Wasted and Ready by Ben Kweller.
I’d enjoyed his previous band Radish when I was a teenager, so it was a thrill to see him out on his own, no longer a teenager himself, and most of all having fun. I quickly bought his album Sha Sha and, as had become the way back then, checked out his Online Presence – a cute pink and blue website that also had a message board! This was long before Twitter and Facebook and even Myspace, so finding a whole community just engaging so warmly with each other was enchanting. I met so many cool and supportive people and discovered so many great artists through these forums. It was as if there was a whole world out there, and not just the pub down the road. Imagine that! Discovering Ben Kweller and the artists he was hanging around with at the time – Adam Green, Kimya Dawson, Jeffrey Lewis, etc – it all gave me the confidence and yearning to lean into those crappy little pop songs with daft lyrics I used to enjoy making up. To sing in my own voice, all croaky, weak and out of key. Most of all, just be myself.
Not too long after, I met a person through this message board who I was so utterly enthralled with, that I bought a plane ticket to Australia to go and see them. Around 15 years later, she just got home from work, sat down next to me on the couch and told me about her day.