While music is an important element in each of my novels, this is especially true for Jordan’s Sister. Taylor and Layne are singer-songwriters. Their entire lives are filled with music. I’m a writer who can barely carry a tune, and music is such an integral part of my life that I’d be lost without it.
To me, music is a doorway straight to the soul, and lyrics are poetry expressed with more feeling than what can be conveyed by words merely spoken.
There are 23 songs referenced in the novel. Four songs are featured in their entirety (because I wrote them) and the others are referenced by title only with or without the artist’s name (because doing so does not violate any copyright laws). I’d never written a song before when I wrote the songs for Jordan’s Sister. There are two each that Taylor and Layne write during the story. I’ve shared their two main songs on this blog, and the others are in the novel. Those songs won’t be shared here because one contains a major spoiler and the other is extremely cheesy (as I intended), so you’ll need the context in the book to get it.
Unfortunately, I lack the musical talents of my parents. I don’t sing well or play any instruments. I recorded myself singing both of the main songs so I won’t forget the melodies I had in mind for each. Only my husband has heard the tune of two of the songs, and it was excruciating to share that with him. I can speak to a crowd of hundreds of people but don’t ask me to sing to anyone but one of my children. I don’t know why it is that singing to others feels the same as the thought of running naked through a crowd.
I had a Spotify playlist of songs while I rewrote Caroline’s Lighthouse and have one now as I write What I Learned That Summer. Both contain songs popular during the years the stories took place. Hearing music from when I was a teenager takes me back in time to the emotions I felt then so I can better relate to those characters since their stories took place in the mid-90s when I was a teen.
The playlist for Jordan’s Sister contains the 19 songs written and performed by others which are mentioned in the book.
Each song has some significance in the novel. I’ll share brief thoughts on each. Warning: There may be mild spoilers.
Taylor works at a Karaoke bar that also features songwriters on selected nights. The Mocking Bird bar is Taylor’s escape. She can sing the work of others without having to bare her soul by sharing her own work. The first two songs on the list are the ones Taylor and Layne sing the night they meet, 90s night for karaoke. Taylor picks “Four Leaf Clover” because Layne has just noticed her clover tattoo, and she wants to flirt with him a bit. Layne sings “I’ll Be” to Taylor because it’s his favorite song.
The next three songs are ones Taylor and Layne mention during their first in-depth conversation. Layne asks Taylor to pick a song that describes how she feels. She picks “Breathe Me,” and Layne is surprised it’s by the same Sia who sings “Chandelier.” A day later, Taylor asks Layne the same question. His answer is “One Thing.” Layne is truly seeking one thing that is more important than any other during his journey within the story.
“Landslide” is a song Taylor remembers as her mother’s favorite song. On their first date, Taylor is thrilled when Layne suggests they sing a duet of “Leather and Lace” because she loves Stevie Nicks. On another date, they sing the duet “When Stars Go Blue.”
While Layne and his friend goof off at the karaoke bar, they sing “Beautiful Soul.” I love the song but am willing to admit it’s super cheesy. It’s perfect for the “guilty pleasures” night at the bar. During this particular karaoke moment, Taylor is coerced into joining Layne on stage to sing one of Backdraft’s old hits, a pop love song Layne wrote at 14 years old. All the lyrics are in the novel.
During another deep conversation, Taylor and Layne discuss love and sad songs, during which Taylor reveals her favorite song, “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri. Other songs they discuss include “Honey and the Moon,” “All of Me,” and “London Rain.” The two main characters often communicate to each other through songs, and these are no exceptions.
I included a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” because a flashback reveals Taylor sang it for an audition when she was a teen. I used the Katharine McPhee version because I think Taylor sounded like her when she auditioned using the song.
“The Sound of Silence” cover by Disturbed is a song Taylor hears while doing some quiet reflection, noting how everyone seems to either love or hate the cover. At the point in the novel where this song appears, Taylor has just made a major life decision.
Without revealing too much, “Fire and Rain” is a song that Layne’s former boy band, Backdraft, covered when they were teens. It’s performed by Layne and another character at a private, emotional event.
Because I like to end books on happy notes, the next two songs are songs featured in a wedding that takes place in the final chapter. Taylor sings “I Choose You” for the couple getting married, Willow and Kayla (secondary characters) and dances with Layne to “You and Me.”
The novel ends with Taylor singing a song she wrote after an event took place that will change the rest of her life.
Music and writing go hand-in-hand for me. You can’t have one without the other.
-Brandi Easterling Collins