My Old-Timey Jukebox

To anyone who has every stepped inside my apartment, it’s no secret that I am obsessed with old (or old-sounding) music.

When I’m at home during the day working in solitude, the voices of Ella (Fitzgerald), Billie (Holiday), and Dinah (Washington) make my space feel full of life and far less lonely. In fact, I often catch myself referring to said ladies on a first-name basis or simply as my “jazz friends.”

Sometimes, I want to be transported to a 1930s Parisian café, in which case I put on some Edith Piaf. For years, I have espoused a bottle of wine or a pot of black tea and an Edith Piaf album on repeat as the best imaginable, most effective cure for depression or a breakup.

Perhaps I want to fast-forward in time yet continue to stay in Paris, stepping into a more modern, beatniky café, in which case my Gotan Project Pandora station is the ticket. When I want to embrace the summer heat and remember traveling adventures, I play Buena Vista Social Club.

More so than new furniture or a fresh coat of paint (not to mention cheaper and less labor-intensive), a change in soundtrack is the ultimate way to redecorate your reality. Music is not only capable of transporting us to a different time and place. It allows us to actually become someone else – whenever it serves us.

When I was working as a professional entertainer and I need inspiration for a show I was developing, I changed the music. I became a Prohibition-era starlet or a Vegas showgirl from the 1950s. I always found the inspiration I needed.

When I’m having trouble writing in my apartment and don’t want to go out in the rain to a coffee chain, I brew a cup in the French press and get back to that Parisian café, where I am surrounded by intellectual artists. Their creativity flows through my laptop as if through osmosis.

When friends come over at the last minute, instead of worrying about the mess, I dim the lights and play gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Suddenly the meal tastes so much better – and my friends are left wondering if I have ulterior motives.

If you’re not inspired by your own tunes, it’s time for a music do-over. Try exploring some of the suggestions I’ve gushed about. When you visit a friend, ask for their favorite music of the moment (and put it directly on your iPod, as I do!). I’m busy, so I don’t like to spend a lot of time looking for new music – I like it to find me. Online “jukeboxes” are lovely for this.

This week, invite a few of your own “jazz (or other genre) friends” over. Who do you want to bring into your living room tonight – and what will they teach you?