Chronicles of a Songstress #1: "Rider" (2009)

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I was raised just outside of New York City and began playing music at a young age, saddled beside my grandmother on the piano bench while she reeled out old standards. My family was traditional Italian Roman Catholic and they pushed me into classical lessons, which I hated. Luckily, I found that I was able to play melodies by ear and began writing songs at 16, inspired by the fiery fierceness and elegance of ladies like Tori Amos and Kate Bush.

I left New York and headed west at 19. Not long after, I was introduced to a non-religious spiritual group who would become my “spiritual” family for the next five years. My personal musical pursuits did not line up with the vision and purpose of the group so I let that part of me go and devoted my time to what was believed to be “the higher good” for humanity. When my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had just a few short months to live, I told this group I needed to go back to New York to be with my blood family. However, it was strongly implied that I should stay, focusing on healing for the larger human family, the world. 

To believe I even considered taking that advice is preposterous. 

I went home to New York to love and nurse my father to his death. After that, all belief I held in a higher good, healing, and divine love rapidly dissolved.  

The songs I had been stuffing down for nearly half a decade began to surface— ruminations on death, love, sex, and religion. They became the only thing in my life that gave me any sense of purpose. I packed up my things and moved to Austin with an urgency to follow my dreams, as my dad would never have the opportunity to do. The songs poured out and half the time I had no idea what they were about, some never making sense until well after they were written. 

“Rider,” a song on my first album, Carnival Beginning, expresses the crossover I experienced after my father’s death. I had to become an instant adult and keep it together, while the other half of me was still a terrified child that wanted her dad’s love and security. 

This song is a bit of a back and forth between the child and my older, stronger, wiser self— the person I believe I am becoming today.