November 20, 2012

Fuel/Friends is seven years old today

Seven years ago I had just moved to Colorado, away from California where I had spent my adolescence and young adulthood going to concerts, developing my musical footing, and making friends who loved music as much as I do. At the foot of the Rocky Mountains I had moved into a big, quiet blue house up in suburbia and worked part-time contract work for my university that I’d left to seek greener, more mountainous pastures. This meant there were long stretches of quiet in that house, ones that made all my molecules ache for the same connection I’d left behind with all my friends and places that felt like home in the San Francisco Bay Area. I put on records, but those aren’t as fun to listen to alone all the time, or with a two year-old kiddo; plus you have to turn it way down at naptime.

I remember that blogs were a brand new experimentation to me; I hardly read any, nor did I know yet what purpose they could serve in the media landscape. They were still all written in largely hyper-personal terms, and if you know me, you know I like that trait in pretty much anything. One day I remember opening a window on Blogger, poising fingers over the “Name your new blog!” field, and thinking I’d give it a try. I was drawn to the idea of being able to keep in touch with the folks I’d left in California, and having a mouthpiece to externally process this new fire hydrant of undiscovered music that I was just starting to read about on blogs like Aurgasm, Largehearted Boy, Marathon Packs, Said the Gramophone, and Aquarium Drunkard. My first posts are charmingly conversational, and I remember the rush when I installed a Statcounter and saw that I’d had more than fifty hits one day, and they came from all over the globe. I remember one ping came from some small industrial town in the middle of Russia and I sat there blinking, trying to reconcile this new, one-sided form of pen-pal possibility with the faceless folks who had found me.

Seven years later, I feel like all of this has gone through several iterations around me. Blogs quickly became this strangely-officially-recognized media outlet, and all of us responded in very different ways in that freedom, without a roadmap of where we were going. Some of us took on staffs of writers and made it a full-time thing; some specialized even more precisely into one genre and have created a vast and passionate documentation of forgotten music, or started their own carefully-curated record label. The array of blogger parties at SXSW make me dizzy just to think about them. I found my email inbox inundated with review requests, my mailbox full of promo CDs, and my interview dance card as full as I wanted it to be. I have loved this freedom to explore, and to share my wanderings and my passions with all of you guys. The connections with each of you are why I keep doing this; I’ve have some of the best readers in the blogosphere, and this blog has been the glue that has melded me to so many likeminded souls around the world who are pursuing music for the same reasons that it draws me. For this, I am grateful.

I was ruminating with a friend yesterday morning about that reflection from Jana Hunter on our relationship with music, and how perhaps it’s becoming cheaper. The relationship with music is a subject I think about a lot; all you have to do is read the Nick Hornby quote that’s greeted you on my sidebar since the very beginning: “I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It’s the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part…”

Contrast this with what Jana writes in 2012: “If you consume all the music you want all the time, compulsively, sweatily, you end up having a cheap relationship to the music you do listen to. In turn, this kind of market makes for musicians who are writing with the burden of having to get your attention, instead of writing whatever they’d write if they were just following artistic impulses. It’s increasingly difficult and un-rewarding to write music that is considered, patient, and simple when the market increasingly demands music that is easy, thoughtless, and careless.”

My friend and I discussed how the upped dosages of new music available on blogs and out there in the world have changed our own personal listening habits, and the deepest relationship that we form with these radiant, external, gossamer threads that we call songs. This is not a blanket statement or a political directive of what you should do, but we talked about how the intimacy and the depth that we forge with our music seems damaged when it becomes just one more “thing” in our busy lives that we have to “get through,” as it piles up next to the stereo the way my grad school assignments pile up on the kitchen table. Oh yeah, there are twelve new albums in the last two months that HOW HAVE I NOT LISTENED TO?! Or ones that I have listened to, just to have listened to them.

I don’t sit there in the dark of my living room much anymore, after my kiddo is in bed, and just listen. Things are loaded up and shuffled and re-shuffled and refreshed with new tracks I’ve downloaded that day.

After seven years, where are we going? I try to always write about music that connects with me and excites me in that unexpectedly primal, mysterious way, and then to wrap words around that silver slipperiness. I write to stay in touch with the things that help us feel alive; and I myself have rarely felt more alive than these days at a house show, or sitting in a chapel watching pure magic being spun in front of me. Those are things that I am proud of, and that give me a deep delight to have a hand in creating for others. But blogging is an oddly ephemeral and insatiable media in which to chronicle those sorts of connections. I find myself wanting to be satiable more often, to sit, to be deliberate and content. I think we can do it; I’m not sure the steps I take to get there.

Tagged with .


  • Thanks again for these wonderful words Heather and for the music and thoughts you have exposed.

    I think we can do it to, and I’m not sure how either, but I’ll certainly be along for the ride.

    Doug Hacker — November 20, 2012 @ 4:29 am

  • Congratulations on the anniversary!
    I’m sorry to hear that music can become a chore sometimes, so I just want to let you know how very grateful I am for all the music you have put me in touch with, and for your amazing talent of communicating your love and enthusiasm for music – your words always speak directly to my soul. I’m sure you will find your own way to navigate the questions that trouble you now!
    Much love,

    Antje — November 20, 2012 @ 4:47 am

  • This post caught me by surprise, mainly due to the fact I can’t quite believe its been 7 years since I stumbled upon this treasure trove. All I really want it say is thank you. Thank you for the new music I have found because you took the time to write about it. Thank you for reminding me of lost music I’d left along the way only to be reunited thanks to your insightful words. And mainly thank you for taking the time.. Here’s to many more years.

    Ben — November 20, 2012 @ 5:09 am

  • You are the champ Heather. Happy birthday.

    Dustin — November 20, 2012 @ 6:17 am

  • Wow! 7 years, so much music, so much love, such great writings! Thanks for introducing me to new bands, which have know become old friends, and writing the words to describe the love of some of my old favorites! Congrats and thank you!

    Aims — November 20, 2012 @ 6:56 am

  • Happy Birthday !
    You are the first blog I started to really read few years ago. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the tiny dots on your counter world map. I discovered sooooo many amazing bands thanks to your posts. Your chapel sessions are all loaded on my iPod, your blogroll helped me to find other fantastic bloggers and one day I hope I will be able to make it to one of your house shows. You are also the reason why I started my own blog few months ago. I wanted to return the favor and I hope that in 7 years I will be able to write a post like this one.

    So once again Happy Birthday and Thank you Heather

    sharethemusicanddance — November 20, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  • Congrats on 7 years and thanks for this post. It’s so interesting to process and understand how the consumption of music has changed, so it was exciting to read your thoughts and the article you posted.

    No matter how music has changed over the past 7 years, thanks for always sharing such wonderful jams — keep it up!

    Krista — November 20, 2012 @ 8:37 am

  • Congratulations, Heather. Your voice spoke to me from the day I found your blog, almost seven years ago. Be well and keep the faith!

    Jason — November 20, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  • Saying thank you for seven years of touching my soul with your selections hardly seems enough but it is all I have. Thank you for all you do.

    natthedem — November 20, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  • I delved into music blogs right around when you started. Now, you are one of the few blogs that I still visit and read. Thank you for sticking with this and giving me such great suggestions.

    Anne — November 20, 2012 @ 11:15 am

  • Happy birthday, Fuel/Friends! Thank you for all the music I discovered, all the experiences I lived with a perfect soundtrack you provided (your mixes are amazing!).

    Maria Rita — November 20, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  • Dear Heather, Congratulations! I stumbled upon your blog in 2008 and since then I read it regulary. I discovered a lot of music here, so thank you very much!

    Mari — November 20, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  • Great blog. Congratulations on seven strong years.

    Aaron — November 20, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

  • Heather, happy happy birthday to FF! I appreciate this discussion and have been thinking lately about this very topic. At any given moment there are new releases coming out, and I just don’t have time to listen and learn all the new music I want to…
    Thanks for the road map you provide to so many. xo

    sarah sample — November 20, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

  • Happy Birthday and thanks for continuously feeding us delicious sounds.

    Bryan — November 21, 2012 @ 12:55 am

  • I’m so glad that I’ve been a reader of your words for the last few years. I’ve loved finding great music recommendations here and long may it continue!

    Naomi — November 21, 2012 @ 3:16 am

  • Dear Heather. As several people have said… Simple ‘thanks’ rings hollow in return for the time, effort and love you consistently put out there for us. You have constantly been there for me in the last 7 yrs when I needed the inspiration of a new song and rush of a new discovery. So often, the songs you showed me here have ended up coming through my guitar to other new ears, allowing those gossamer strands continue to expand through them. So… again… thanks. You are a blessing I am very thankful for.

    Bill — November 21, 2012 @ 4:00 am

  • Heather

    Congratulations on the anniversary and thanks for all the music you’ve shared over the last seven years. I have no idea how many songs and artists you’ve introduced me to that I might not have heard otherwise. Your site, and others like it, that are smaller in scale and focus on the personal connection to music rather than blasting out a dozens new tracks each day, are what make our little corner of the Internet so great.

    D — November 21, 2012 @ 6:55 am

  • Fuel/Friends is still one of my must read music blogs. I’m pretty sure I’m also one of the dots on your map! Keep up the good work

    Harb — November 21, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

  • I think you’ve hit on something that is actually quite natural: how our relationships change as we get older. Your relationship to music is part of that. It’s not bad, it’s simply different now, and more time…in almost everything I do. A more deliberate life, right? Your blog has brought me, I mean, reminded me, of the things I grew up adoring about music. Finding those perfect moments in a song that matched those rare, perfect moments in life. Thank you and happy anniversary.

    rakesh — November 21, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  • Time was when I had all the time in world – then life comes and things change. I have found ways to change and still keep a balance. Hope it works for you. You have introduce me to music I wouldn’t have always listened to – but that what your blog is for isn’t it. Your blog is one of the few I visit on regular basis. I am most likely older than most of the people who read your blog.

    Happy Anniversary!

    Tom — November 21, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

  • The music you’ve introduce me to has been a important source of magic and hope for me over the last few years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been treading water for a long time, and the music you post comes along like a buoy on the current – something to rest on for awhile. I listened to Sigh No More at least once a day for two or three months after I ran into them on FuelFriends. And that’s largely what its been like for me. I can’t reach everything that floats by, and often I don’t feel a need to. After all, I’ve already got a lot to hold onto. But sometimes its nice to have the spark of some new magic to carry me for a bit, and its nice to know that it will be coming along.

    Luke — November 21, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  • Heather,

    Just discovering your blog and agree wholeheartedly with others describing it as a gift and treasure trove. All my life through college I pursued music and theater only to leave it because it had grown shallow and lack-luster. Then 4 years and half a lifetime (it seemed) later I discovered music pursuing me! And there was new purpose, clearer grounding. Now as a musician, dad, and pastor I am convinced it is in the persistently carved out silent spaces and time alone (at least for me), interspersed with music writing and concerts, walks, gardening, kids,studying, volunteer work and oh so much more of this life and world around us that I am re-discovered in the purpose of the music to which I listen and the music I humbled to make.

    May we all be remade in and through music again and again and again! Congratulations on Seven Years and may there be seventy more!

    Tobias Anderson — November 21, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

  • The industry changes, over and over again, but the songs and artists and poets among us still manage to resonate. I think I’ve been hanging around this blog since the beginning (ran into a CD copy of your lullaby mix from so, so long ago the other night … when was THAT?!) and, what is interesting to me, is seeing how you have changed along with it, in ever slight and subtle ways. What will not change, I believe, is your passion for this world of music and your devotion to sifting through and picking out the interesting and unique, the stuff that lights your soul (and subsequently, ours) on fire. It’s why we continue to come back and see what’s in your ears on any given day: we trust what you’ve heard and have to say about it. Please … don’t ever stop this conversation.

    Dainon — November 22, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  • Heather, congratulations on 7 awesome years! Your writing keeps me (and by the looks of it countless others) coming back and you should be very proud of what this blog has become!

    I remember early on I won a competition for a signed Ben Folds album with a silly little poem on here, and you were surprised to see that the entry had come all the way from Western Australia. I’m sure you have readers from many more obscure places all around the globe these days, but you’ve created a place we all have in common. Happy birthday!

    Kev — November 23, 2012 @ 4:00 am

  • Heather, I have a few thoughts reading this but they basically come down to this: thanks for your blog and thanks for writing about and appreciating musicw in the beautiful way you do. It’s a great reminder that music isn’t cheap, that it’s big and meaningful.

    This also makes me want to blog more; if I do I hope it can be with half the passion that you do.

    Thanks again for the seven years and congrats.

    Adrian — November 23, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  • Heather:

    Thank you for 7 great years. I still remember reading a post on the Ten Club message board to check out your blog. This one of the few (and sometimes only) music blogs I check out regularly. In so many ways this blog and you have served as an important musical filter for me. So again, thank you.

    I have been thinking about the end of your post discussing our changing relationship to music. My “musical” journey really began in college in the early 90s. There I was exposed to students from all over the country and we compared cd collections. Even though I hailed from an area that had 2 of the best rock radio stations anywhere (WYSP and WMMR), my horizons grew by leaps and bounds in those early years.

    Next, came the in-store experiments that let you listen to stuff before you bought them — in particular was blockbuster, where you could pick any CD off a shelf hand it to someone at the listening station and they would play it for you.

    Everything changed again, for me, around 2004, when “high speed internet” in the form of a DSL line made downloading music practical. Even today you can see the influence of those early years in my Itunes library.

    But, as I’ve gotten older, and become a parent, the amount of time I spend finding music and even listening to music has changed. Where once i could spend hours listening to new music, now if I get an hour or two a week to just search for new stuff its a lot. I rely on blogs like this one to help act as a filter because I no longer have the time to do it myself.

    I also find that my music listening falls into categories — music for running, music in my office while working, music in my car (which is more often podcasts and not music at all), and only occasionally music for quiet moments — which are rare.

    One last time, thanks for all your efforts.

    szg — November 23, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  • Happy 7th Fuel Friends!

    I can’t remember when I started reading your work, Heather, but it must have been pretty close to the start. While other sources for music for me have come and gone since then, I now rely solely on you and NPR Music. Thanks for all of the new bands I’ve learned about from you and connecting me more deeply with old favorites (Glen and Toad!)

    I wanted to comment on the discussion you had with your friend on our changing listening habits when so much music is available to us. As I consider creating my usual year-end CD to share with friends, I realize that other than Andrew Bird’s Break It Yourself, I haven’t truly connected with an album this year–even though I’ve listened to soooooooo many. I worry that I’m not giving albums the time, attention, and repeated listens that I used to. That’s partly because of the demands of parenting and work. It’s partly because of devoting more free time to reading and listening to novels. But I agree that when it’s so easy to listen to every new record that comes out, I find myself constantly trying to do just that, rather than settle in with a record for a week or a month at a time like I used to.

    This fits in with Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows–that the Internet is causing us to shorten our attention spans and become more shallow thinkers. While I spend loads of time on the Internet, I try to avoid a “shallow” brain by spending much more time offline and taking part in “deep” experiences while doing so–reading novels, relating with others in person, mindful athletics, etc. A certain amount of the Shallows is inevitable if one spends any sort of time on the Internet (and there are some positives to the Shallows), but I think many of the downsides can be avoided if we are aware of how to keep a portion of our brains open to deep thinking. While I’ve been conscious of this in other aspects of life, I’ve been less so when it comes to music.

    That might be my 2013 resolution–listen more deeply to fewer records. Just because we are encouraged to do the opposite, it doesn’t mean we have to. I’ll continue following you to decide how to allocate that scarce time.

    Keep it up!

    Jeremy — November 28, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  • Happy birthday! I’m pretty sure i’d be lost without all of the music you’ve introduced me to. I’m ever so grateful for your thoughtful words about the music that clearly means so much to so many of us.
    thank you heather

    kelly — November 28, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

  • Hi Heather, Congratulations on your 7 years. I, like many, have been a long time reader and I want to thank you for widening my music appreciation. I trust your recommendations and thank you for sharing.

    Tawriffic — November 30, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  • Happy birthday! I feel selfish, because I feel like your blog is the gift… shouldn’t we all be getting you something?

    Bags — November 30, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  • Congratulations on 7 years of your blog — a lucky number… I’ve been following your blog for close to those 7 years I guess, and I’ve loved many of the artists and songs you’ve introduced. Keep it up!

    John — December 1, 2012 @ 9:58 am

  • Heather,

    You were one of the first blogs I ever read, and for a reason. Even though Knox Road is only 4 years old, so much of what you say resonates with my blogging experience and I could have not put pen to paper better than how you just did it. Thank you for your always intensely personal and deeply meaningful words to match the raw music you share.

    Much love,

    Lee — December 1, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

  • Thank you for the music! I especially love reading about the house concerts or the chapel sessions or the festivals, anywhere you have experienced the power of live music. There are so many nights that i stay up far later than I should be because I’m chasing links that start on your site.

    Clare — December 2, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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