Why are we dragging religion into a music conversation?

Because it defined everything I knew about it.

Growing up Mormon and homeschooled in the hottest, sweatiest, state in the Bible Belt, I was left with very little mainstream entertainment. While everyone else was listening to the Spice Girls and *NSYNC, I was left with the Mormon tabernacle choir, Enya and an album called Celtic Woman, my Dad would blast from his truck every night when he came home from work. He thought since we were Irish we should have Irish pride. We’re not Irish, we’re from Ardmore.

It wasn’t until I started going to public school that I heard the radio station on the bus. It was mostly pop, not bad, not great but better than what I had. I knew every word to ‘Get Low’ and most of The Carter II, album. Around that time my parents sprang for my first off-brand MP3 player, it had 512mb and could hold an entire Savage Garden album. I was fuckin' stoked and sharpied checkerboard all over that bad boy.

Fast forward a bit, we got a family computer which was placed smackdab in the middle of the living room so the parents could watch every site we visited, and they did. You can bet my AIM chats were boring as heck. But there was one website they didn’t monitor, the holy grail of websites, the beginning of my love for music, the greatest ever, the original music watering hole… Yahoo! Music.

Yes, my first real experience with music was running home from school, putting headphones on, grabbing a legal pad and sitting at the computer writing down bands I liked, skipping bands I didn’t, and then waiting for something good because I skipped too many times. This little box in the family room brought me the sultry, sad, and sexy Red Hot Chili Peppers. It brought me 3 Doors Down, Matchbox 20, Everclear, Blink 182, Tool, System of a Down, and of course, Marilyn Manson.

My 15-year old self did not know WHAT to do with all this mind blowing music. Marilyn Manson, Tool, and NIN led me through my dark eyeliner emo phase. One time I wore all black and I was stopped before I got out of the door for looking like the devil’s child. Regardless of how I could or couldn’t dress, I could always escape to whatever soundtrack I wanted with my headphones on.

I cried about a boyfriend to ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park. My brother and I would rock out to P!nk, BeWitched, and Weezer. I’d listen to Manson on the bus and watered down Mormon versions of pop songs at church dances where you had to be arm’s length apart to make room for Jesus. No one would dance except for the few couples that thought they’d always be together, and there’d be wallflowers in the corners playing with baoding balls, and we’d all drown our teenage hormonal-fueled angst with 7up.

Music didn’t end there. In college I met a guy who would send me songs every day and I’d send him songs back. But while I was sending ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and something by the Shins, he was sending me Miles Davis, or Wolf Parade, or Neutral Milk Hotel. I quickly realized this guy’s taste in music was better than mine and when he sent me the song “Myriad Harbor” by The New Pornographers, I knew I had to lock that down. He wanted me to walk down the aisle to “Showtime,” by Upon a Burning Body. We settled on “Your Hand in Mine,” by Explosions in the Sky, and the rest is history.