Sad Ass Songs: Sarah Jean Alexander
Sad Ass Songs is a weekly column where I ask some of my favorite writers to tell me about their favorite sad songs. They send me songs and then I send them questions and then I post their answers here and then we all cry a little bit.
This week I talked with Sarah Jean Alexander, the author of Wildlives, which will be published by the prestigious and powerful Big Lucks Books.
The Song: “In The Morning, Before Work” by Owen
Mark Cugini: Why is this sad song resonating with you at the moment?
SJA: This song is resonating with me on an ‘I love this song’ level right now, but it’s not particularly resonating with me on a sad level. You asked me to pick a sad song and I thought, yeah definitely. Because okay sure I love sad songs. Then all I could think of for like an hour was “Someone Like You” by Adele. It played in a loop in my head while I stared at my blank computer screen trying to think of any other song I had ever listened to in my life that made me feel some type of way. I was extremely high. I put off this interview for a few days.
I’m not very sad right now, this weekend. I feel fine. Years ago, right before my ex and I dated, I posted a picture of myself in his bed one morning with a lyric from this song, or maybe with just “In the morning before work” as the caption. When we broke up a couple years later, I tortured myself mentally and listened to this song a lot and felt horrible.
MC: I’m happy you picked this song because it’s about lying in bed and one of my favorite pieces in Wildlives is called “Remember to” and it ends with a really tender moment where these two people fall asleep together and one person says “this is me holding on to you.” Why are beds so important to you?
SJA: Growing up, I was never allowed to have boys in my bedroom, even with the door open, even with my parents home. A bedroom is where sin happens because there is enough soft comfortable space for two bodies to lie next to each other. I didn’t have a desk in my bedroom until I was 25 years old, so I did everything–writing, eating, sleeping, reading, fucking–in my bed, as if it were the only place my body knew how to exist. Where is the bed emoji and why aren’t we demanding one.
MC: What’s the weirdest non-sexual thing you’ve ever done in a bed?
SJA: Peeing in a non-sexual way.
MC: What’s your favorite line in this sad ass song? Why?
SJA: “I thought I’d be singing a different tune by now / But these songs about you keep coming out.”
Because, if you try hard enough, this line could be about someone in a relationship who never thought they could stay happy for so long, but they are still in love.
But we know that’s not the case.
MC: Luna Miguel just wrote about Wildives and the title of the article can be (very) loosely translated to read as “sadness is the strongest drug.” Do you think being sad is important part of your writing process?
SJA: I think I met so many people in a time of my life when I was coming out of a personally devastating relationship, and so much of my writing was pitched in feelings of hopelessness and carelessness. It was easy for me to write in this narrow voice because the things I wanted to cry about didn’t have a outlet anymore–he was gone and I didn’t want to bother anyone else singularly. My poems turned blue and eventually I felt better.
No, I don’t think being sad is an important part of my writing process, even though it is a large part.
MC: When was the last time you cried? What were you crying about?
SJA: I’ve cried every time I read about the Chapel Hill victims in the terrorist attack that happened last week.
Listen to the whole playlist right here: