In 2014, I was in a weird place. I was working at a job that I felt obligated to love, but didn’t. I was feeling like I hadn’t taken the right path and that I was stuck on a trajectory that was going to take me where I didn’t want to be. I felt stuck, unhappy, and not sure what to do next.
And then, I picked up a People magazine of all things (my sister had left it behind at our cottage) and I read a little blurb about a band called First Aid Kit. Something piqued my interest in that tiny paragraph. I think it said something about how the band was made up of two sisters from Sweden, and that their music was folk-y. Honestly, I thought the band name was kind of dumb, maybe, but I was genuinely intrigued because the name of their album, Stay Gold, reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem and, of course, The Outsiders. Later that night, before I drove home from my cabin, I typed “First Aid Kit Stay Gold” into Youtube and plugged my phone into my car to take a listen on the ride home.
The first song that I heard was “Stay Gold,” I think, and I was intrigued right away. Their folky sound, their perfect sister-harmony, their beautiful lyrics caught me within the first few notes. I couldn’t help but think it felt like a female version of Simon & Garfunkel (I had very little exposure to folk music otherwise, honestly). I decided right then that I needed to listen further.
Then, I started listening to them at work. I would put them on in the background while I typed on my work computer. I listened to the same albums over and over again, I listened to live shows, I listened to interviews they gave about their music. I learned that they started the band when they were just teenagers — fourteen and sixteen, I think. And that they reached international fame through — of all things — a video on MySpace of them singing in the forest. Yes, just the two of them and a guitar in the woods, and I’ve watched the video, and it’s remarkable. (Seriously, watch it here.)
Something about their art, their lyrics, their harmonies, their arrangements, just inspired me. Inspires me to this day. When I first started listening, I hadn’t written fiction in more than a year, not since I graduated from undergrad in May of 2013. I thought about it all the time; I even had a notebook that I filled with one-sentence ideas for short stories. But I never wrote a single one. I was stuck, I was depressed, I was unhappy at my job, and I didn’t know what to do.
I went to see First Aid Kit in October of 2014 in Chicago with my best friend. Being in the same room with them was surreal — I had spent so much time listening to their music and watching their performances on YouTube, and it did not feel real that I was in the same room as them. And then, they unplugged their instruments, walked to the front of the stage, and sung “Ghost Town,” just the two of them and a guitar, no microphones, just their voices echoing around the room. Something about watching them perform, masters of their art form (in my humble opinion) at such a young age, made me think long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life.
That fall, I decided to apply for a Master’s in the Fine Arts. I knew that I wanted to write and I knew that I wasn’t writing on my own. I thought that maybe it would be just what I needed to get myself into gear. Somehow, I got in. And I decided to go. I started writing again. I had mentors that changed my life and made my writing better than I ever imagined it would be.
I don’t know if I would’ve gone to grad school if it wasn’t for listening to First Aid Kit. I don’t know if I would’ve written so many short stories and I don’t know if I’d be working on finishing my novel right now, either. Every time I hear their music, I remember how important my art is to me. I am so inspired by the work that they’ve put into what they do. It makes me want to work harder on the things that I create.
Today, their new album, Ruins, is released, which is why I’m gushing about them all over the internet. If you haven’t listened to them, you should. Especially if you’re into folk music, sister bands, great lyrics, harmonies, and/or beautiful things. Check them out. Buy their album here. I love it even more than I thought it would.
I for one, am spending the day listening to Klara and Johanna and writing. Writing a lot. Thanks for all that you do, First Aid Kit. Your music means so much to me.