The Secret of Happiness

Photo: Olivier Ciappa

Generally when I listen to an album, this is how the process goes:  the first time I turn it on, I listen all the way through from beginning to end.  I take note of the songs I like, the songs I love and the songs I’ll likely always skip.  Any time after the first listen the album goes on shuffle and I sing along and skip to my heart’s content – always appreciating the element of surprise.  It’s routine and I like it that way.  However, Susan Egan likes to shake things up and prove to me with every note, every lyric, that her new album “The Secret of Happiness” is special.  I should have known “routine” would be tossed out the window the second I pushed play.  I’ve listened to nothing but this album for almost two weeks, top to bottom every time, no shuffle or skipping allowed and I am nowhere near tired of it.  Why is this album so special?  Let me count the ways…

That Voice:  Susan’s voice is so clear and unique and always manages to leave me in awe of her talent, no matter how often I hear her sing.  It is beyond refreshing to have an artist like her still out there who can share her gifts and messages with the world without being over-processed and auto-tuned.  It seems in the music world those kinds of artists and musicians are few and far between these days.  A breath of fresh air, indeed.

The Music:  The sound of this album is stunning and eclectic.  Paired with Susan’s voice every arrangement is seamless.  I find that as much as I enjoy listening to the story being told, listening to just the music is a powerful experience that feeds the soul.  I guess that’s what happens when you work one-on-one with the best modern day composers.

The Story:  The album is produced by my favorite composer of this generation, Georgia Stitt.  Here’s something I love about Georgia – she knows how to tell a story.  All composers tell their stories, but Georgia does it in a way that is simplistic and magical at the same time.  She can do it in one song, or in a production of songs like this whether they’re hers or not.  When listening I feel like I’m on a journey with Susan… starting off a little unsure but excited for life’s changes, the hilarity of the unexpected, to the manifestation of what’s really important through happiness and love.  Even the album artwork ties it together into one neat little intimate package.  By the end of it all I am just proud.

Comfort Songs:  This is where I get a little personal.  I may not be a parent, but it is no secret that I missed out on a lot growing up.  My cousin calls it my “stolen childhood” – but I make up for it now and make the best of what I have.  All of the mom related songs (“Nina Doesn’t Care”, “Children Will Listen”, “Momsense”, “From the Stars (Isla’s Song)” and even “Cock-Eyed Optimist” though not for maternal reasons) are the ultimate comfort for me.  These songs fill an emptiness inside of me and strengthen the love in my heart for all of the “small people” in my life.  I am so grateful I have learned to love through a child’s eyes and share love as an honorary auntie.  People in my life like my best friend Janice (who is a nanny), all my friends that have children, those that don’t but still love the ones around them like family, and even Susan and Georgia… they all treat and appreciate children like the precious gifts they are.  You all are my heroes in this life.  Thank you for giving those kids someone to look up to and turn to.

Life Songs:  I could write a whole separate post for each of these songs.  I have known Susan for almost six years now and we clicked and bonded pretty quickly.  She’s been a consistent cheerleader and motivator in my life.  I am so grateful for this that to this day I still struggle to find the words to properly express my gratitude.  Now I feel like I’ve found the words and of course it is in the music on her own album.  “The Me of the Moment” and “The Secret of Happiness” remind me that a struggle is ok – that there is always happiness on the opposite end and I am ready for anything if I try.  These songs are basically all the things she has taught me to find in myself and seek out.  Then we have “All Things in Time” (written by the brilliant Jason Robert Brown) which I could probably write a whole series of posts about.  I heard Susan perform this song live for the first time in April of this year.  Susan and I have had many a conversation about the intimacy of a live show, a raw expression of truth, the things a performer shares with their audience and vice versa.  On this night, the place I had been in that day and in the previous weeks was a dark one.  I was on the verge of giving up.  The struggles, obstacles and loss were too great for me to even find my faith.  Then “All Things in Time” comes along and literally saved my life before she even recorded it.

All things in time.
If not today, if not tomorrow,
Then all things in time.
We can’t predict what comes to pass.
All we control is how we react and how we recover.
Something like faith
Deep in our skin:
Everything in its time.

It was like time stopped then and the world opened up so I could see again.  I felt safe.  I felt carried by love.  I felt protected by faith. I was released from the turmoil by the tears streaming down my face.  It was probably the most honest and powerful moment I’ve spent with myself, and I felt I finally “got” everything that my loved ones have been trying to show me over the years.  I am forever changed by one little song.  Never underestimate the power of music.  God bless Jason Robert Brown for writing yet another masterpiece.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the ones I call “life songs” are topped off with a cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  This is the most beautiful rendition of this song that I’ve ever heard in my life.  When it comes on, I have to stop everything I’m doing and just listen.  It’s like musical salvation for the soul.  The perfect ending – it will leave you speechless and take your breath away.

Thank you for this album, Susan, Georgia and everyone else involved.  You’ve made a statement.  You’ve told the most beautiful story.  You’ve touched my heart.

You can buy “The Secret of Happiness” on iTunes, Amazon and LML Music.  Check out Susan Egan’s website at susanegan.net and keep up with her hilarious shared-blog with Georgia Stitt – Glamour & Goop.  Album photos credit: Olivier Ciappa.

Susan’s official music video for “Nina Doesn’t Care” is posted below.  Enjoy!

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