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SongSpells Op 5: “How Love Tastes”

I called you on the phone
To say what he had done
Because you always made me feel
So safe, and loved.

And what it was you felt for me
I guess I’ll never know.
My love for you was locked somewhere
I didn’t dare to go.

We teach our girls to fear desire
Like it will surely tear them apart.
But nothing truly beats the hell
Of not knowing your own heart.

Lai da dai…

I was such a lonely child,
Each friend I had was precious.
I didn’t dare to rock 
my dearest friendships with my passions.

And so, I hid my heart away,
‘Neath a mask of calm repose.
And why I gave my body to those men,
God knows.

Lai da dai…

I’m sorry that I missed you
So many years ago,
But I see that you’re happy now -
You’ve always let love grow.

And me, I thank the spirits
For leading me to this place.
And there’s no turning back now
‘Cuz I know how love tastes.

Lai da dai…

Before I wrote this song, I had never heard sounds like this coming out of me. I didn’t know I had the capability of making these tones. It was a hugely eye-opening experience for me. I realized that my voice is about 90% heart, and 10% technical training. 

At the moment when I started writing this song, I was in a state of panic. I’d recently moved to New Mexico, and I’d had a zoom call with a prospective date I’d met online. She wanted to know how it was that I didn’t know I was lesbian until I was 36. I tried to explain it to her, and realized that my story had some pretty big holes in it. Over the next few days I started processing my story, gaining new insight into it. I realized that my block for all those years was due to a pretty big disconnect between my head and my heart that had already been in place, long before puberty. 

It wasn’t being gay that scared me so much as any kind of intense passion. And as a child who was bullied and had a hard time making friends, having feelings for my friends felt so risky in my body that I simply didn’t let myself feel those feelings. But, they were all there. Right there in my body. Just not being sent to my brain.

When the block opened, and the feelings rushed into my consciousness, I was left with a ton of grief. Feelings for people who I’d long ago missed any chance of connecting with in that way. I wrote this song about one such missed connection. As I sang it, it found resonance in my upper chest around my heart. A place that had, up until that point, been contracted in layers, and layers of grief. Grief not just for the missed connections, but grief for the situations I’d put myself in with men while in that place of profound disconnection. The protection mechanisms I had formed as a young child had protected me from love, but not from abuse. 

When I first sang the song, coming to the final line of each verse, I would go into a foggy-brained place, unable to focus on the words that came next. Telling such stories can bring my body into this foggy, triggered state. And so in between each verse I added the wordless melody on “lai-da-dai,” to give myself a chance to recoup, recollect myself, and continue with my story. The more I sang my song, the less I needed that space for recuperation. A testament to the deeply therapeutic nature of writing and singing a song such as this. But now, those wordless lines give my listeners time to process, just as well. 

I had the feeling that when others heard this song, if they were open to it and needed it, they would feel the sounds massaging areas of grief they held within their own bodies, too. The unique power of singing truly sank in for me, and, even though this had been my most vulnerable song written to date, it was the first I had the courage to share publicly. I had that courage precisely because I knew, first-hand, the song’s power, and truly believed that power would be carried to others. 

Writing this song brought me from a state of panic to a state of deeply creative flow, and delight. As I heard my own voice release the deep, rich tones I had always admired in others (while being convinced that I could only sing high), it occurred to me that I’d always loved the alto, cello sound, not because I wished I had something that I didn’t have… but precisely because my body knew, deep down, that it had that rich alto sound hiding away. 

I began to regard my voice as a wild-animal friend. A wild-animal ME, to be precise… perhaps the wildest part of my body, the part of me least willing to be “domesticated.” I saw this wild-animal part of me emerge when, and only when, I sang the truth that she had so desperately wanted me to acknowledge. This is why I am so passionate about teaching not JUST singing, nor JUST songwriting, but singing/songwriting, together. 

The quality of our voice is married to the heart of the story we are telling. And this intense emotionality is, in fact, our voice’s greatest strength. The sound of love.

Love,

MB Bolin, The Mystic Bard

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