I sometimes feel as though my life is like a parade of people I used to know. Boys turn up everywhere. Most of my friend pool has been in my life for quite some time, and at this point, I have a fair number of exes to run into; friends of friends; other peoples housemates; ex-colleagues; a pal from “back home”, somebody’s cousin who was in town for the weekend. The list goes on.
Every now and then these people reappear in my life. Often we were never really together, so there is no real obligation to exit and no formal air to clear. Often they occupy new roles; a member of a band I’m depping for; the support act for a gig; living with somebody else I know via a string of shared Facebook ads. Occasionally boys will reappear in a repeat of the earlier scenario where I found them: family reunion; colleagues birthday bash; back in town for the annual weekend jaunt to London.
Just as my past loves weave themselves back into my life, so do I recycle the experience into something new. A lot of my work is at least partly autobiographical, and documents the situations I find myself in or certain moments in my relationships. This very blog is littered with allusions to companions past and present. Long-term readers who know me in real life often describe reading back and trying to place names where I’ve deliberately left them out.
It’s not a creative focus borne from vindictiveness, spite or revenge. Whatever is on my mind is the obvious starting point for all my work, and as such, relationships are rich territory to mine for artistic inspiration. I often use direct quotes from conversations in my songs, describing other peoples rooms, blurry nights in strangers arms and the most winning of walks home. Even if the song ends up articulating another point, the starting point is often the same.
There should be no real issue with this, but the problem arises when these exes (often still hovering around in my life like fruit-flies) try to spot themselves in whatever gets produced. They play “Where’s Wally” with my songs. These boys mine every blog post for a trace of themselves. “That’s me”, they sigh to themselves, alone at their laptop. “I’m that guy”, they extemporise, as they recognise a lyric. “Hey”, they will text, all belated empathy and misplaced knowing, “I know that was me, and I just want you to know, I heard it”. Worse, I get stuff like “I didn’t know you cared so much”. All consideration and mutual understanding. Offering forgiveness I did not ask for and do not need.
My life is my own. My words are my own. My posts, my songs, everything I create is my own and an extension of, or maybe a reflection of, a part of me. Part of the beauty of writing songs (and for me, most of the magic), is that once it’s out there people are free to hear what they want in your words. Free to take what they want and imbue it with their own meaning. I could sing one line at a gig, and it might get heard in fifty different ways.
So, hey, listen up boys. Projecting yourself into my art says more about yourself; your desire to have affected, to have influenced. To have meant something, and therefore be imbued with meaning yourself. The unrealised ambition to be somebody’s muse, even if only fleetingly, even if only for a night. The need for validation that something happened; because apparently, physically being there wasn’t enough.
Whatever happened, you are no longer a part of anything here. You have no place in my songs, no stanza in my poem, no oblique reference in my published posts. You were a moment, not a muse. You were a passing target. You were a fleeting feeling. You were an impulse, not a long-term ambition. You were a taken chance. You were a trend, or a doubt, or perhaps even a pleasant surprise. You are not my art.
It’s bizarre, because the people I’m really talking about are unbearably distant and have no idea the way they’ve lingered in my work. They’re as far away as stars, contemplating muses of their own and quietly hanging their art in the sky like constellations.