(Listening to this song while you read this, is strongly encouraged)
A while ago, I was digging through some random playlists, and I found Woman. Track three, from the 2021 album, Mother’s Milk by Clean Cut Kid. I listened to it dozens of times and thought I might write about it. But I kept listening, and eventually decided I needed to know more about these amazing musicians and took a headfirst dive into a Clean Cut Kid rabbit hole.
When I came up for air, HISS was on repeat, and it still is. HISS is their 2022 release and it’s a ride. Their lyrics brought smiles and a sense of deep heartache. Their musicianship is sweet and intelligent. It is a ride… I will be listening to this album for the rest of my life. I might write about every song on this album, it is really that good.
This post is about track five, Inside My Head. This song is exactly what I needed, right at this moment.
Mike and Evelyn Halls, along with Ross Higginson and Gareth Bullock are making magic. They create a beautiful dance of lyrics, filled with emotion, and enveloped by beautiful music. Clean Cut Kid helped me back to joy.
The last few months have been a battle. Covid kicked my ass at the end of November and just when I thought I was good again, I got the cold that never goes away… then my back…. I am not ready to feel this old.
My joy slipped away.
During these months I didn’t write at all and for a moment I forgot why I write. For a moment I forgot that writing gives me the energy I need to be a good person.
Inside My Head is about life, and it reminded me that I still have things to write. This song whispered to me to go and write some joy.
I’m an average son, a mediocre husband, and a perfectly shitty friend. But I’m not fading from being of use to anyone. That is just the lie of getting old. I am still finding stories in my head, and I can’t wait to see what they become. This song reminded that I create…
This is the magic of music.
Writing is my way of exploring my weird and fantastic relationship with music. Clean Cut Kid have figured some of theirs out and I am so grateful.
I was the “clean cut kid” ... I distinctly remember a fifth-grade friend’s mom telling me how happy she was that her son was spending time with me. Every time I saw her, she said, “You are such a good influence Rusty.” I never knew if it was because I was smart, or that she knew I couldn’t see very well so I wasn’t. Either way she was wrong.
I was an average kid that did stupid shit, just like their kid… trying to steal a cartoon of camels so I would be accepted. Mom was disappointed in me when the policeman brought me to the laundromat she worked at. I don’t remember any punishment, other than her disappointment. I knew what my parents wanted me to be, there were just some days that I didn’t do it.
I did an adequate job as a parent but poured too much of myself into the jobs I had. That created gaps and canyons in the moments I had with my kids. I was their only parent, and I did my best, but it really wasn’t enough. I was called to greatness and managed to get only part of the way there.
Pay attention to every moment you have. They will fly away, and they won’t ever return. Care less about your job and more about what you get to taste in life. Embrace who you are, so you can love who you become.
Today, you are right where your next adventure will find you. Be deliberate in how you love and know that every single human around you deserves to thrive. Strip away your privilege and be a good human.
“Some men have their greatness thrust upon them
Some are snakes and con-men
But what I am is worse
Hitch myself a ride on each bandwagon
Just to hide me dragging’
My belly though the dirt
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work”
In a few weeks we will see the third anniversary of the Covid lockdown.
Do you remember where we came from? It was only three years ago that we entered that place of dread.
Do you remember what it felt like to have to stay home?
Do you remember the millions that died?
I remember how it looked on your face…
You were looking for motivation to get out of bed, trying extremely hard not to be a vampire just burning in the sun. We all had those days where we felt like our bellies were being dragged through the dirt. It was a long few years… and we are not the same.
We are not the same…
I remember how excited you were to go grocery shopping. I wrote about stepping up my game for you. We were the place you got your food, and I was that week’s social experience.
All of us were all looking for someone with greatness to walk us out of this shit and we made it. Not because of any one person, we made it out because so many of us chose to. We made it here today and we are relevant. We navigated con-men and snakes to get to this place, we need to hang on to it.
I see people every day that have slipped right back into the routine. I can see that you’re tired and I know that you are not writing down the songs inside your head. Finding your joy is more important than the next quota or title. Take a breath, listen to this song and dream of the day when you can do some real work.
Every one of us has something we create that brings joy. I don’t know what that means for you, creating simply means bringing what’s inside your head to life. Are you making beautiful sourdough bread, are you building the most complex formula that will reveal the origins of the universe? Find out what it is, and then do it.
Did all the cool projects and shit you started during the lockdown take less than a year to slip away? Write a song down, whatever that means to you. Grab some joy and thrive.
I am still at your neighborhood grocery store working with some of the best people on earth. I love every minute of it. Every single day I get to see a beautiful story and if I am paying attention, I get a chance to give away some joy.
I have stickers…
The best part of my job is the stickers. I don’t care if you’re three or eighty-three, it’s just our silly little piece of joy, just for you. Giving out a few stickers has shown me the most amazing moments of being human.
Every single day, there is at least one bright eyed youngster who has nothing but love for everyone around them and everywhere they look, they see wonder… Nothing should ever steal the magic of being young. They should get their stickers. The joy and squeals of their delight gives me energy that can carry me to Neptune. I have walked the streets of Algiers, with its white streets and white buildings that lead to the azure of the Mediterranean Sea… I have seen lightning strike thousands upon thousands of times around me in a single night in the high desert… but the joy and wonder that I see from the future leaders of this world brings me immense joy and so much hope. Every sticker is a chance we get to win. It doesn’t have to fade away after this chapter…
I don’t know the roads that inspired Mike Halls to write these songs, I may never know his story, but I really like this guy. He is writing, singing, and pouring his creation into our universe. That takes courage and the willingness to put your whole ass self out there. It is because of the courageous ones like him that music still carries its magic out to us. The last verse of this song hit me with sorrow and regret, but it also inspired me to write about the joy I get from the kids that come through my line.
Music can change us if we let it, the power of music that inspires one human to another is simply astounding. I am so grateful to Clean Cut Kid for putting their magic into the universe. We find ourselves in dips on occasions where we wander through sadness, anger, and frustration. If we are listening, we get to hear some angels, throwing us a line in their music that opens that thought of how it makes it really cool to be you….
I will always be working my way through my relationship with music. It is my guidepost and marker. Find your guidepost, whatever that might be, fix your eyes on it and never let it out of your sight.
Listening, learning, and growing…