My love song playlist for ‘The Book of Love’
For every novel I write, I put together a playlist of songs, says Fionnuala Kearney
Fionnuala Kearney: one song triggered the initial thought process, the beautifully simple If I Should Fall Behind by Bruce Springsteen
Music is a constant source of inspiration for me and, for every novel I write, I put together a playlist of songs. I start off with about 10, loosely to do with the theme of the work-in-progress but continue to add in songs after I’ve written a scene if I hear something that pokes the emotions I was trying to express.
By the time I type “The End”, the playlist has usually at least doubled in size. Though I never listen to it while I’m writing, preferring silence in that mode, I do play it often during downtime. When penning my latest novel The Book of Love, a story about the power of enduring love, my list included the songs below but there was one that definitely triggered the initial thought process. It’s the beautifully simple If I Should Fall Behind, music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen.
If I Should Fall Behind
Its premise is simple – it tells the tale of two lovers, about to wed, telling one another that they will always walk side by side, but that if they should move out of sync, “I’ll wait for you and should I fall behind, wait for me”.
I knew I wanted to write a love story – the love story of a married couple who are together a long time through many highs and lows. Another line from the Bruce song really inspired, ‘So, let’s make our steps clear, so the other may see…’ It speaks of uncomplicated communication between a couple – an area I think a lot of people struggle with in real life. With The Book of Love, I wanted to explore the idea of a forum where my characters, Dom and Erin, could connect by writing down the things that might be hard to say, or tough to hear, hence their “book of love”.
At Last by Etta James
This golden oldie has a mere 11 lines, each one of them vital, which is a lesson in brevity for me as a writer! With line one being “At last my love has come along” and the final line “For you are mine at last”, this modest song does what it says on the tin. I love it because it speaks of that moment of meeting the person you hope you will love forever.
From Eden by Hozier
Hozier features on most of my playlists. I think he’s an exceptional musician and songwriter. In From Eden, I love the way he gets right down to the contradictions that exist within couples. “Babe, there’s something tragic about you, something magic about you.” And “Babe, there’s something wretched about this, something precious about this.” Such lines, I think, speak of those paradoxes that exist in so many partnerships. Though I do think the words “I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door” are my favourites, so powerful – cleverly warning of trouble ahead.
Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival
Speaking of trouble... This song has such an upbeat melody that one expects cheery lyrics, yet it immediately spells out the fact that bad times are looming. Every love story, long-lasting or otherwise, has tricky moments and no playlist about love would be complete without the downs to accompany the ups. “Looks like we’re in for nasty weather, one eye is taken for an eye.”
Bruce Springsteen - If I Should Fall Behind
Still in Love with You by Thin Lizzy
Ahh, Lizzy. So much of Thin Lizzy’s music reminds me of being young – those harmless days when we’d save up for a single and buy it in the Dandelion Market off St Stephen’s Green. Yes, I am that old, but I digress. Phil Lynott’s soulful depiction of loss after a heartbreak with un-fussy lines like “This sadness never ceases, I’m still in love with you” always hits me right where he’d hoped it would. For me, it’s a go-to song to feel the hurt of a lover no longer loving you.
Let Your Love Flow by The Bellamy Brothers
This song fills me with joy and every time I hear it. I want to play it in the car with the windows down and the sound turned up! The words fill me with instant happiness: “Let your love flow, like a bird on the wing and let your love bind you to all living things.”
If only we all could. Perhaps Utopia would beckon?
Moondance by Van Morrison
When love and life are in perfect alignment… This one has lust and longing and bonding, happy, love and the word fantabulous in a song! “Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes, a fantabulous night to make romance.” For me, it shouts out the importance of romance existing for love to last.
You’re My Best Friend by Queen
Friendship, whether romantic or platonic is, I think, the cornerstone of love. Can love exist without it? Not in my playlist, or my stories or, indeed, my life. “Ooh you make me live, whenever this world is cruel to me, I got you to help me forgive…Ooh you make me live, you’re my best friend.”
When We Were Young by Adele
I adore Adele’s voice and, to be honest, she could sing the phone book to me and I’d probably cry! This slow ballad is so full of nostalgia and longing. The lyrics talk of reminiscing on past memories with a loved one, fears of getting older and wishing time would stop. “I’m so mad I’m getting old, it makes me restless,” is the line I most resonate with and since my fictional Dom and Erin share middle-age together, it has a special place in this playlist for them.
Beautiful Lies by Birdy
“Tell me beautiful lies, cover my eyes with your hands, just pretend we’re better. Turn out the light, there are no more surprises to come, let’s be numb together.”
Oh, my goodness, such a rich and sensory lyric. If you don’t already know this song, do have a listen. It’s a magnificent portrayal of the moments when one lover somehow betrays the other and their struggle to remain intact. Denial and heartache – two emotions often present when duplicity rears its head.
I came to writing novels via a long learning apprenticeship, which included a short stint as a lyricist, and I remain fascinated by how an entire story, with an effective beginning, middle and end, can be told in a well-constructed song. Listening to a three-minute marriage of music and words is something I’ll never tire of.
The playlist for Dom and Erin’s story in The Book of Love currently stands at 20 tracks. If you’d like to hear them, I’ve shared it on Spotify so pop over there and look for “Songs To Inspire The Book of Love”.