I grew up around a lot of music. My dad stayed at home with the kids and would entertain himself by making us dance to Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel records; when we stayed with my grandmother we would listen to Billie Holiday and Etta James while we cleaned the silver (Catholic grandchildren have their uses.)
We didn’t have a lot of cash growing up and I remember listening to top 40 radio in the 90s and taping all my favourite songs onto cassette – sorry SOPA – so I could sing along. Like every kid I had my fair share of terrible pop CDs, gifted from well-meaning family members in a time before developing your own music taste was much of a thought (did you know Hanson had a Christmas album? Because I do.) But a long winded account of me acquiring 100% Hits of 1997 and soulfully vibing along with Billie Piper is not going to make me look cool on the Internet. At least my first independent purchase is slightly less devastating in retrospect.
I had sung my whole life but when I was 10 we did a guitar unit in school, which effectively became my baptism of fire. It had never occurred to me to write songs and play an instrument; most of the female voices I remembered hearing from being young were unencumbered Divas, and I didn’t really know any girls who played guitar. An older friend introduced me to Ani Difranco when I was about 11, and I was sold. She played guitar! And she played it like nobody else I had ever heard. And one of her songs had the F word in it like twenty fucking times! After school I went to the much-loved local record store Beaumont Street Beat (RIP – there’s a lingerie store there now) armed with a rudimentary knowledge of her back catalog. After speaking with the girl who worked there, and figuring out that I had been both mispronouncing AND misspelling Difranco’s name, I ordered a copy of Dilate with my birthday money. I distinctly remember meekly asking if it would cost more money to have it shipped in, and being patiently assured that there was no charge. (Which was lucky, because I couldn’t even afford the sticker price. Thank God for COD.)