Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The soundtrack to our lives (a letter to Paul Kelly)

As a kid, music was the backdrop of my life. My parents often had the radio on, or we listened to the endless Queen, Beatles and Boney M cassettes or the records. We never owned any Paul Kelly records but I somehow know all the words to most of the songs.

Fast forward twenty-something years and I play 'Dumb Things' on the banjo in one particular lineup of my band and I love the simplicity of his songwriting.

October 2010 - My job at an independent bookshop in Hobart means I look after the bookshop branding, marketing and produce all our printed branded material. It's highly exciting because Paul Kelly is coming to promote his new book 'How To Make Gravy' and will be playing a few tunes. My music skills come into play as I book stages, organise sound engineers and gear. I plan to park my pregnant self somewhere comfortable and enjoy the show, knowing that along with many others, I helped to make this happen.

Then I realise it's three days before I'm getting married, and on that particular evening all of my family fly into town and we're having a dinner so I won't be able to attend. Bollocks.

I mention this in passing to my brother and wish out loud that we could attend at least of the A-Z concert tour that Paul Kelly is playing in February, but after the wedding, and the impending baby it's not really something we can afford. Then, it's wedding time and thoughts of Paul Kelly serenading me and only me 300 people in the bookshop are gone.

Hooray! Mr S and I are finally married! (only took us 10 years!)

My brother surprises us by sending Mr S and I to all four nights of the A-Z concert as our wedding present. We will be dead centre, five rows back from the stage. Oh my!

35 weeks
February 2011 - I am 35 weeks pregnant. Yet, night after night, Mr S walked and I waddled went to the Theatre Royal and listened to the beautiful songs of Paul Kelly, with accompaniment by Dan Kelly. Some songs we know, some songs we don't. But oh, the atmosphere. And oh, my massive belly barely fits in the row. To enter and exit the entire row had to stand up and shuffle out to let me past. I hit more than one person sitting in front of me in the head with The Bump. Lucky them.

Mr S and I waiting for the music to start!

I've waffled on here about the power of music and how I believe that babies take in sounds and songs in utero. I played my last gig at 32 weeks and Millie kicked along the entire time. Throughout all four nights of the A-Z concerts she rested in songs I didn't know and kicked up a storm in the ones I did. Notable songs: 'Before Too Long', 'How To Make Gravy', 'Down To My Soul', 'Foggy Highway', 'They Thought I Was Asleep' and 'Dumb Things'. She kicked so violently that I had Mr S pressing on the bump to try and calm her down. It didn't work, she was a stubborn bump (I had to press her around in utero to move her head from under the guitar body at one gig... she didn't, then switched seconds before I started playing.) and she is a stubborn baby. Apples, trees and all that.

The stage.

I remember being so tired by the fourth night of the concert, but forcing myself to push through because really, this was a once in a lifetime experience. I knew I'd be grateful later.

March 2011 - Fast forward again. Millie arrives and once Mr S goes back to work and my mother goes home it's errr, me, and a baby. What now? She cried a lot. She was learning to be a baby, and I was will always be learning to be a mother. (Never has my Aunty Carol said wiser words to me).

I would sing to her because I was not entirely sure what else to do. We bounced on the Swiss Ball in the mornings because she liked the movement. I sing. We walked around outside. I sing.

When Millie was 4 weeks old I tried her in the Hugabub wrap in an effort to ease my aching shoulders whilst still being able to hold her. 

By 5pm my overtired baby would be, well, overtired. And we all know what an overtired baby sounds like. No? Like this.
Until I would put on 'Before Too Long', max out the volume on my iMac and sway around the room. After 2mins 28 seconds, silence, snoring bubba. As time wore on, she'd be out by 31 seconds. Now, 9 months on, the opening jangle of guitar strings grabs her attention. This was a brilliant trick because it means I get to eat dinner a) with two hands and b) with Mr S, not one of us eating and the other baby-wrangling.

We listened to Paul Kelly in the car to put M to sleep. We listened to Paul Kelly in the lounge room to distract her and put her to sleep. I have the A-Z concerts on my iPhone and iPod and they get plugged into the speaker dock in the bedroom and we have a listen before a sleep.

If we're out walking in the pram I put it on my iPhone and we listen to it if she's feeling a bit fractious.

There is a Paul Kelly for all occasions. 

We listen to a lot of music again. I found that I was silent for a long time, and I think perhaps it never occurred to me to put music on because there was so much noise from suddenly having another person in the house. But now, oh, how we love the music.

Mr Kelly, thank you for the music. I don't know that you'll ever read this, and I'm sure my story about how you've spent the last few years with my family is not unique, but you need to know how special it's been to us so far.

Merry Christmas.


  1. I love this post Amy. Millie sure has good taste in music :)
    Mr M's first concert in utero was Paul Kelly before i even knew I was pregnant. I only saw Night 4 and it was a wonderful experience. One of my most memorable PK shows. It would have been great to see them all. I'm so glad you did. xx

  2. This is a fantastic post, I found it a bit moving. It's so lovely that Millie responds so well to his music.

  3. "There is a Paul Kelly for all occasions." (A man for all seasons.)
    Thanks for your moving post. I was lucky enough to attend PK's book signing in Adelaide and meet my favourite performer in person. I just scraped up enough for two front row seats for all 4 of Paul's A-Z shows in Adelaide. Unfortunately, my wife was almost too sick to go. I had to drop her off at the door, go and park the car, and join her in the theatre. She struggled, but went to all four shows because she knows how much PK means to me. My wife enjoyed meeting Dan Kelly after one of the shows. We also celebrate our lives with PK's music. They say that Mozart's music has a measurable effect on student learning, but we both know that Paul Kelly's music has positive effects on people, from unborn babies to fully grown adults!
    PS: Barb (purpletoupee) put me on to this beautiful post of yours.
    Hugh Jones

  4. Thanks Hugh - I loved reading your comment. :)


  5. Amy, great post, thanks for sharing. Barb (purpletoupee) put a number of us PK listserve fans onto your posting, and like Hugh I am most appreciative. In Oz it is likely Boxing Day already, so no doubt PK fans will be playing "I Can't Believe We Were Married" at maximum volume in celebration of that event. Best to you and your family.

    Ann Arbor, MI, USA



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