Musical Relapse as Religious Experience

Do you have that artist that you used to love to the depth of your soul?

What makes a religious experience? What causes a relapse? Is it an unexpected thing? A strain in the course of your day that you took, not knowing the path you were choosing would change things. It’s always the smallest moment that changes everything.

And what about RAmusic? What causes the intense emotional experience we have with those songs, singers, and albums?
I experienced both recently after hearing a rendition of New York, New York by Ryan Adams. It shocked me in to a relapse. The language I used when describing the performance was the same zealots use in religious tribes. In fact it made me feel a god must exist for something like that, for someone like that, to exist. For someone to exist who always says the right thing in the right way that I’m able to relate to so perfectly, every time. That’s religion isn’t it? Or is that faith, belief, feeling that you’re a religious person?

If I’m religious then Ryan Adams is my religion. This one performance set me back six years developmentally. I was depressed when I found Ryan Adams. I took his word as gospel and his songs as sermons. It pulled me out from deep, dark depths. If that’s not religion I don’t know what is. After several intense years of being entrenched in the Ryan Adams persona I pulled myself up for some air. The depression lifted and I didn’t need him anymore.
This IS religion. Clinging to something with more power than you when you’re down, believing its every word, and putting it away when you’re done with it.

I am not depressed any more but I have unresolved relationship issues. That’s what brought me to Ryan in the first place and I can already feel that’s where I’m at again. I can’t get the closure I need and want and I am melting into the melancholy that he provides. I am taking his word as gospel again to pull me from this need for closure that will never come. His songs will keep me in this low. In a way I know I want it, I want to keep feeling this. And that’s religion – real church going folk keep feeling their feelings so they can rely on their God as a crutch to justify those feelings. ‘Well I’m sad but I am seeking help – I’m going to church.’ That’s how they reason. I reason too – ‘well I’m sad but I’m seeking Ryan Adams – I’m getting help.’ I’m sinking into the velvet coated walls of the room of Ryan Adams. Enveloping myself in music and lyrics and images and visuals and voice and words and memories and places and people and loving it.

They say religious people can be hypocritical. So can I. I know I shouldn’t be feeling this or needing closure on something that will never really be fully closed. I know that Ryan Adams will help to only further me in this melancholy. This beautiful perfect stillness.

Call me a hypocrite – but I’m a believer.


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