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My Own Devices by Dessa

December 7, 2018

Today’s conventional wisdom says that the best way to live a life is to keep all the components partitioned— love, money, friends. You’re not supposed to date your boss, or go bowling with your analyst, or borrow large sums of money from your drinking buddies. We think of ourselves as a store-bought cake with a sheet of wax paper separating all the slices so that they never touch: neat, single servings.

But hanging out with Doomtree, it was all one thing — social, professional, romantic. I did all of it with the same people and often at the same time. There were no hobbies and no offhours, no work - life balance; there was just writing songs and walking to SuperAmerica for cigarettes and drafting set lists and drinking with the guys and making album budgets and goofing off and collapsing into sleep tucked into the leopard print of my boyfriend’s left shoulder. None of it came apart from the rest.

On stage, we were still a mess, and that was part of the magic. Someone was always bleeding into his microphone or trying to catch the mixer before the bass rattled it off the table and crashed it to the floor. The precariousness of the live show was like a watermark that proved to the audience it was all real: we hadn’t rehearsed these moments, choreographed these feelings— that was not a staged fall, that was just a fall-fall. I sweat through my clothes with the rest of the guys, full of whiskey and adrenaline and youth and anger. Stage was a place for all of the outsized feelings that didn’t fit neatly into daily life. You can’t scream in love or fury in line at the Walgreens pharmacy; you can’t roughhouse with grown men at the post office; and you can’t calmly explain to your parents that you’d rather sleep outside, under a stranger’s hedge, than in your own bed. But with a little songcraft, those dark moods were perfect grist for performance — we rattled up the biggest feelings in one another, and anyone else close enough to hear.

From My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love by Dessa, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (c) 2018 by Dessa


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