I grew up in a house surrounded by music and by musicians. My mom is a classically trained flautist, my Godmother a Bel Canto soprano, her then-husband a pianist and organist, and my Godfather a violinist. My father loved music deeply, though he was not a musician.

I grew up listening to church music–my favorite band was Chanticleer, and I saw them in concert–and then I went to school and to camp and discovered The Spice Girls, NSYNC, and Backstreet Boys… As a child in the 90s does.

I am not musically talented, not that that stops me from singing along to most types of music. I love listening to lyrics, and I will listen to anything as long as the story it tells is a compelling one. As a teenager, I adored the music of singer-songwriters like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Avril Lavigne, who were all only a few years older than me and who played their own instruments and wrote their own lyrics. Because they were writing about their own experiences and observations about the world, their songs were more relevant to the lives of their listeners, and knowing that these three women in particular were successful because of the things they were writing were hugely inspirational to me.

I remember the words to their songs, even though I haven’t heard some of them in a long time, and to be honest, the records I listened to in middle and high school are still some of my favorite records to put on today.

Some of my major life experiences occurred while I was listening to these records, and their subsequent records have been the soundtracks to many eras of my life.

I love Taylor Swift’s music, and I cannot help but feel that her rise in the music industry would not have been so astronomical if not for this niche having been carved ten years earlier by the young girls with guitars and pianos writing their own music in their bedrooms.

I challenge you to put on one of your favorite records from middle school to see if it still speaks to you. I’ll do the same. Leave a comment with your experience and I’ll report back on mine, too!