The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.
As a professional podcaster I rarely listen to any podcasts for fun. I spend all day with large blocks of audio in my earbuds, the last thing I wanna do is spend even more time with large blocks of audio. One I do make time for is Chris DeMakes a Podcast, where Less Than Jake lead singer Chris DeMakes breaks down the making and meaning of a notable song with its creator. Chris is enthusiastic, asks terrific questions, and I always leave episodes energized by learning about the nuts and bolts of some of my favorite tracks.
His episode with Aimee Allen (aka “Aimee Interrupter”) and Kevin Bivona about “In the Mirror” is one of my favorites. Aimee gets very candid about the writing of their album In the Wild and talks at length about her anxiety, her substance abuse, her troubled upbringing and a lot more. She says In the Wild tells her life story, and every time I listen to it, I think about the nature of family.
One of the weirder things about The Interrupters is that its members are Aimee, Kevin, and Kevin’s brothers Justin and Jesse, who are identical twins. Whatever Aimee’s family situation was prior to The Interrupters probably matters less now because she found these three brothers and made her own damn family.
“Raised by Wolves” feels like Aimee closing the book definitively on her shitty parents. “You got my letter, read it twice. Short breaths, long sighs. Might be a liar, might be a drunk. But I forgive you for your giving up.” The most beautiful thing in the world is the ability to start over and reinvent yourself on your own terms. Whatever you were, you don’t have to be anymore. I wrote this in the “Dog Bumped” post, but it’s mystifying to me that people stay in their small, shitty hometowns despite their unhappiness out of sheer inertia.
I’ve been blessed with a fantastic childhood and terrific parents. I feel fortunate that I am not carrying that type of existential baggage. My father had a very tough childhood, and my mother was ready to reinvent herself when it was time for college. They both moved away from suburban Chicago and landed in Denver by the time they were married in 1971. I came along 10 years later and am not particularly close with members of my extended family. I’d put most of my relationships with the extended family as cordial.
I thought about this off and on during the holidays. On Thanksgiving I spent the entire day in a drug-induced sleep and Christmas I spent in Maui with my wife and kids. In years passed, yes, we’d get together with my parents or Kristin’s mom or sister and her family, but more than that we’d spend it with our new family. My parents and I spent nearly every holiday with the Walker family while Kristin was frequently together with the Derrick family.
We all make our own familial units. Nowhere does it say we are beholden to our past or to arbitrary traditions. We’re allowed to be who we want to be – to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. This is why I love when people ask for my advice on launching their own business. I unequivocally encourage them to do it because if they’re already thinking about it to this extent, all they need is a cheerleader. Sure, I can give them some practical advice – hire a professional accountant to handle your tax shit, try not to neglect your long term business development, etc. – but mostly I just tell them to fucking go for it. Carve your own path. Take a big swing. Become a new favorite version of yourself. As I told one of my trainers Jackie Fouchia, “Who ever you think you are, you’re right.” Are you cool/brave/tenacious enough to take the big leap? You’re right. Think you’re not someone who can pull it off? You’re right. Whoever you decide you are, your next actions will prove you correct.
The Interrupters are a family band. I know this because when you listen to The Interrupters you’re never alone. They do gang vocals better than just about any band out there, so you’re quite literally never singing by yourself. They’re there punctuating each chorus like it’s a goddamn anthem. And on “Raised by Wolves,” there’s even a delightful wolf howl in the chorus.
I had the most successful year of my entire career in 2023. I have leaned hard into who I most want to be, and success has followed. That fact is not lost on me, and I am intensely grateful that I have felt emboldened to be the truest and most out loud version of myself in a way that has also yielded success. It’s probably not a coincidence that I listen to this band, this album, and this song in particular a whole fucking lot.
Not to turn into Tony Robbins on you, but as 2024 continues to get underway, I hope in the year ahead you discover the newest and best version of yourself. Maybe you were raised by wolves, maybe you have a job you fucking hate that you hope to escape, maybe you’re escaping a toxic relationship. Whatever it is – change it. And then throw this banger on and howl at the goddamn moon. You deserve it.
Up next: I see a weeping willow… crying on his pillow…