By BP Valenzuela
Now that I write songs for a living, I think maybe all songs are love songs. All songs start with a catalyst—something that drives you to put a pen to paper, your hands on the keys, something that strums you and tickles you upright into making a feeling tangible. Even an angry song is a love song, others may disagree, but I feel like indifference is the true opposite of love, and if you cared enough to write about something, the fact that you harnessed that energy at all says more than what you wrote.
Sometimes I go on an aimless journey just to figure things out as they play out in my head—a drive, a walk, a bike ride to nowhere in particular, just to feel some wind on my skin, to feel that catalyst—but it’s something you can’t force. It’s not like work where I can sit down and will myself to write with an objective. Sometimes finding the objective is the hardest part, and the motivation itself is a reward.
I think about all the people I’ve ever loved every so often and what drove me to really call that love. Love can just be a shot of endorphins that sharpen your focus—the more jaded will tell you it’s a biological and evolutionary hoax necessary in order to survive as a species, and yet, as someone who never really envisioned myself as the type to marry, settle down, or even be happy considering any of those things, I guess I think of most love stories are journeys akin to those long drives and walks. It’s nice to believe in love. I still believe in love, even though I find it hard to see in Hollywood glamour, or pretty bridal dresses, or roses, because the closest I’ve been to “love”—something pure, blind, and raw—is an aimless conversation with a stranger that became a series of more.
Most of the time, I write to understand, not to profess, or explain. It becomes secondary. I want to understand the dumb rush and swell of jumping off a cliff for fun, which is what love is like to me. Sometimes my head feels like a cage, and most of the things I want to scream into a lover’s face are filtered through five doors—anxiety, fear, helplessness, self-preservation, cynicism—so much that it just becomes air.
But when I write, I write uninhibited for days. I write to know why I feel this way so I won’t come up empty when I explain why I walked a whole day just thinking about the way she laughed, even though I could never say it to her face.
The words go hand in hand with the music, and to me the music is more natural. As a child I would watch these beautifully scored movies with a kiss sounding like violins and cellos in a crescendo—but I realize now that what love sounds like is different to everyone else, everyone has their own inner mix tape. My mother’s is filled with Sting, my sister’s is filled with classical music, my best friends are in love with soul music, complex chords, and smooth beats; my dad will blast Journey, probably; and I just hear everything. Just to even ask that of a person sometimes, what do you hear in your head? It’s hard not to fall in love with that.
When I’m in front of a crowd, I try to look at everyone in the eye, and I wonder, what plays in your head when you look at someone you love? Is there a chance it could be this? If so, we are sharing more than space, and air, and my genuine sincere love for this feeling is something I could never put into words or music.
I have also played at an almost empty bar, to the people on the stools trying to forget why they were there, and whether the music makes them remember or forget. I understand that this, too, is where the music is necessary.
The world operates on love, and love songs are constant reminders, if not achingly and frustratingly pushed down our throats, do we look for someone who reminds us of a song? Or do we look for songs that remind us of people? I haven’t figured it out. Some people plan what they would want to dance to at their wedding. They have it on loop in the shower. If I were to ever consider being with someone a whole life long, I would spend that time figuring out what plays in their head when they see me, staring back in awe. Excessively anthemic rock music? Piano ballads? Arpeggiated acoustic guitar? Or something else entirely?
I pour my sentiment into machines and cross my fingers. It regurgitates itself into life, a song, newly born—and makes its way through earphones and speakers and messages and discs and clicks into someone’s ears. It’s not mine anymore, but everyone else’s.
BP Valenzuela is a songwriter and producer who rarely has her earphones off. She has released an EP, be/ep, and a full length album, The Neon Hour, and writes music for a living, and words on the side. She hopes to not be deaf by 40, because that would be the most tragic thing that could ever happen. And yet, she continues to blast loud music and live beside the noisiest street in Metro Manila and listen to playlists made for sleeping. She is writing her sophomore album due for release mid-2017.