by Brett Battles

We’ve talk about music here a lot. Music that inspires us. Music that entertains us. Music that we like for no particular reason.

One of the topics that comes up often with a lot of writer friends is which of us can listen to music while we work, and if we can, what kind of music do we listen to. I think I’ve even discussed it here before.

Well…it’s on my mind again because I’m just finishing up the draft of my stand alone, and music has played an integral part in keeping me focused and on pace.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that this particular novel has basically thrown itself on the page as fast as my fingers can hit the keys of my laptop. I started it at the beginning of November, and (hopefully) am finishing it this week. Fastest book I’ve ever written. All I can say is that I couldn’t have done it without music.

Since I work for the most part at coffee shops, and exclusively at one coffee shop/café in particular, in addition to keeping me moving forward, the music also drowns out the noise of what’s going on around me.

For this book, I created a specific playlist on my iTunes to write by. I’m one of those people who has no problem listening to lyrics while I write…though, oddly, when I do re-writes I prefer my tunes to be instrumental. (And, yes, I have a specific playlist for that, too.)

This particular writing playlist is made up of music that hits me on an emotional level. These are songs that heighten my creative juices, and, I’m pretty sure, actually increase my heart rate. Sometimes I’ll even sway back and forth as I type…yes, even in public. (Ask Tim Hallinan if he’s seen me closing my eyes and get my groove on, he’s working at a table ten feet away as I write this.)

I love being in an emotional state when I write…Anyway, since I am in the middle of writing the climax, I thought I would share that playlist with you. I’ve provided links so you can hear each.

In no order (or, in iTunes parlance, Shuffle Mode):


Yellow – Chris Martin 

I’ll Stand By You – The Pretenders

Saeglopur – Sigur Ros

Answer – Sarah McLachian

Levon – Elton John

Pink Moon – Nick Drake

You’re Beautiful – James Blunt

Into My Arms – Nick Cave – (Great Video!)

The Loneliest Guy – David Bowie

Five Years – David Bowie

The Blower’s Daughter – Damien Rice

Wires – Athlete

A Thousand Miles (Interlude) – Vanessa Carlton – There’s a commercial at the start of this, but video worth the wait

My Immortal – Evanescence

Falling Slowly (From the movie ONCE)  – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

Untouched – The Veronicas


You might like some, you might not others. But one thing they all have is an emotional tug that, for me, pulls me from word to word to word.

Okay, ‘rati, let’s hearing some of your favorites…emotional and/or just for writing.

21 thoughts on “Interlude

  1. Joe Moore

    Hey Brett, I write to dramatic movie scores (no lyrics). It helps create atmosphere and mood. I have a huge collection of MP3s on my computer, but a few of my favorites include the scores from Unfaithful, The Hours, Runaway Jury, One Hour Photo, Munich, Man on Fire, The Illusionist, House of Sand and Fog, Forgotten, Diabolique, Crash, Burn After Reading, and Breach. All highly recommended.

  2. TerriMolina

    When I was writing my second book, Dark Obsession, I couldn’t get enough of Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. But, because the setting was South Texas I also listened to some old Selina tunes.
    The songs I listen to depend on what I’m writing so I’ll listen to pretty much anything, from Barry Manilow (and I’m not ashamed to say it! lol) to 30 Seconds to Mars (love The Kill)
    For the book I’ve been working on (forever) I listen to a lot of Kelly Clarkson (Already Gone, Breakaway), Avil Lavigne (Nobody’s Home, I’m With You, Keep Holding On and so many more,) and Sarah McLachlin’s Fallen because their songs are heartwrenching and fit the mood of the book.

    Sorry, I don’t know how to link to the songs. =)

    But sometimes music kills my creativity…especially when it’s my daughter’s music…Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers (bleeding ears, anyone?) and the songs from the TV show Glee! Thankfully, she has headphones for the computer!

  3. Louise Ure

    Great list, Brett. I have a tendancy to listen to old-time Spanish language singers like Mercedes Sosa or movie soundtracks with a Southwestern theme like All the Pretty Horses.

  4. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Man, I want to be at that cafe with you guys right now!
    I do have my favorites that keep those fingers tapping – No Woman No Cry (both Marley and The Fugees), Eminem (Just Lose It, Mockingbird, Lose Yourself, 8 Mile), Nickelback (How You Remind Me, If Everyone Cared, Rock Star), I’d Love to Change the World by Ten Years After, Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers (Live) by Jeff Beck, Aimee Mann (from the movie Magnolia – Save Me, One, Wise Up, This is How it Goes), Torn by Natelie Imbruglia, You Oughta Know by Alanis Morisette, and Black Betty by Ram Jam.

    So, when you see me boppin’ at the cafe, it’s one of these. If I’m really going at it, it’s Black Betty.

  5. JD Rhoades

    Love that list. I use music as a screwdriver to tinker with my brain. Lately I’ve discovered that complicated instrumental music like classical or prog -rock (Yes, Rush, et. al) is good before writing because it seems to tickle the creative centers awake. For the writing itself, I’ve been listening to a lot of a Scottish band called Mogwai. Big, sweeping instrumental guitar rock. Next week, who knows?

  6. Melanie

    I go back and forth with music — it really depends on what I’m writing. My current wip as three POVs and I created a playlist for one of them that I listen to on repeat. I should hit shuffle. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that.

    I LOVE your list. I have three of those on iTunes but not on my playlist, and I’m adding now. Thank you!

  7. Kagey

    I don’t have much to add to this (mostly because I need instrumentals or I start typing the lyrics, my brain is very-verbally influenced), but I have found the "Songs in the Key of X" album interesting — Chris Carter’s playlist for writing the X-files. Some of the some made their way into episodes, but not all. All the songs have a creepy edge to them, and I can totally see how they helped him write!

    As for instrumentals, I like the sounds tracks to Braveheart, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (not a great movie, but a TERRIFIC sound track) and almost anything by John Williams.

  8. Brett Battes

    Excellent suggestions, everyone. I’ll add on the instrumental list…I love the soundtracks to THE MISSION, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, and UNBREAKABLE. All very moody and excellent!

  9. Tammy Cravit

    I’m one of those who has a really hard time listening to music with lyrics — or at least, with lyrics in a language I speak — while I’m writing. For some reason, if I listen to songs in English, French or Hebrew (the languages I speak) while I’m writing, my fingers start to automatically type the lyrics I’m hearing. On the other hand, I can listen to music in Gaelic or Hawaiian without that problem.

    My writing music lately has been a combination of classical — Joshua Bell‘s "Voice of the Violin" and an album called "Infernal Violins" by a French Canadian classical group named La Pieta — and various kinds of Polynesian music, including lots of stuff from a group called Te Vaka that sings in the native language of Tokelau. Eclectic, I know, but that suits me.

  10. Scott Parker

    Like the list. Also like that there are two Bowie songs and one, "The Loneliest Guy," is a new one. Tres cool! I’m one to think that Bowie’s music from the 1990s through 2003’s Reality stands alongside his 1970s work. That you also have Sigur Ros makes the list exceptional.

  11. Jake Nantz

    Depends. Sometimes I like to listen to hard-edged music, whether a Christian band or not, like Flyleaf’s "Again", Pillar’s "Frontline", or Theory of a Dead Man’s "Bad Girlfriend". sometimes I want more blues, so I might go with Muddy Waters, Nina Simone, Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, or John Lee Hooker. And sometimes I need inspirational, so I go with Third Day, or Hillsong United, or maybe Caedmon’s Call.

    The biggest thing is it needs to be a song I know well enough to groove to but also tune out, know what I mean?

  12. Allison Brennan

    Hard and classic rock for me. Instrumental, ugh, My mind wanders and I can’t focus on what I’m writing.

    I knew I liked Stephen for a reason! I love Nickelback 🙂

    I have multiple playlists as well, and one I created for my SDS series but I’ll run through it and create an on-the-go track for specific moods. I love the idea of having a playlist for different parts of the book. I’ll have to look into that when I have time. Bawahaha.

    I prefer listening with earbuds rather than through my Apple TV, but when the kids are home I have to use the TV because I won’t hear them if they’re killing each other.

    Led Zeppelin just ended and "Speaking in Tongues" by Eagles of Death Metal just came up. Next up in the cue–"Smokin’" by Boston.

    Now to go listen to Brett’s list . . .

  13. Allison Brennan

    Brett’s is a little sedate for me, though I did end up buying "The Immortal." Eminem is too rap for me, but Black Betty is now on my playlist. Perfect!

    Two of my new favorites are Three Days Grace and the Howling Diablos. Well, HD I’ve been listening to for about a year, but I just discovered Three Days Grace through the iTunes Genius system when I was listening to 3 Doors Down (another great band.)

    I also have the Dropkick Murphys. Hard Irish rock. Nothing better.

  14. gf kriss

    Like you, Brett, I write in coffee shops as well as book stores and other public places. However I don’t generally try to block out the noise around me. Indeed that noise is part of the attraction of these venues. It’s music in its own right: the cacophony of words and sounds produces a visceral energy that can empower a page.

    At home, though, I welcome all sorts of music while writing. from gospel to heavy metal, classical to jazz, blues to be-bop. When dealing with specific historical periods, such as 1942 Europe, I gravitate to period music–French and German cabaret, swing, war songs–in hopes that their rhythms might provide a base for my words.

    But it’s not the specific type of music that’s important. Everyone’s different. Rather as you rightly say, it’s the emotional/psychic "tug" that takes us from word to word. All who write appreciate how wide the gap between those words can often be. and welcome any assistance, including being grabbed and pulled by our ears.

  15. Bonni

    I like sad music when I write because I like an element of emotional impact when I’m gathering ideas. I first read your novel "The Cleaner" after I found it at the Salvation Army Store. I live in the gold country (population 950) so choices are few and far between. We do have a book store but it is so expensive and I am a student now and unemployed. Loved it. Went to the Library and lucky me "The Deceived" was there! Now I am looking for "Shadow of Betrayal" I write short stories, but of course I have not been published. I like "He stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. "I Miss You So" by Little Anthony and the Imperials. Surprisingly, they help me write comedy stories and such. Brett you are the Bomb! Love the characters and the flow of your books. I’ve learned a lot by reading your books, especially your locales. Can’t wait to read your next!!! Bonni


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