My youngest brother and I were quite close in my college years. We both played in bands in the local metalcore scene. We shared a lot of the same friends and rivals, as you do in a small town with few stages. In general, it’s a time I look back on fondly; but I was young, overzealous and full of strong opinions, so I also look back embarrassed of all the times I put my foot in my mouth. Mostly I miss being tight with my brother, and our late night philosophical debates after loading out. We still share a lot of music tastes, that have thankfully expanded beyond power metal and grindcore. He’s now married with three kids, so we recommend albums in spare text messages. Strange to think my littlest brothers is more grown up than me.

I wonder if he’d remember a conversation we had about five years ago, reminiscing about the scene and one of its big personalities. I said sadly, “You know I used to look up to him so much.” We both nodded deeply for a beat before he said, “Now I just look away.”

In conceiving this song I thought about not just one person, but all the mentors I’ve had over the years. Academic music culture has a tradition of private lessons where the master teacher is elevated to an almost god-like figure. I’ve been in private lessons since I was five years old. It makes my skin crawl a bit when I think of how much personal authority I surrendered in the pursuit of my teachers’ approval. I think of what I sacrificed and I mourn for the music I may have made if I had trusted my own tastes sooner. And I have a great reverence for the idea of teaching; all that it was and wasn’t for me, and what it could be. A reverence turned mission, now that I find myself on the other side of the piano teaching others.

There is a feeling of disillusionment that comes with realizing someone you admire is just another flawed human. It stings like a betrayal. It’s also a rite of passage, allowing us to shed external expectations and become the heroes of our own story.

This song needs a lot more than what’s currently in the demo. A proper intro and outro, textural shifts so the musical journey mirrors the mental. My NSAI friends also suggested a detour in the last verse that I’m interested in exploring. I’ll be back and I’ll let you know how it turns out. KM

Look Away

Grown up in the house you built
On the floors I cleaned
Propped you to newer heights
On my hands and my knees
Could’ve let you make up my mind
Couldn’t find a reason to stay
Used to look up to you
Now I look away

Trusted that you knew best
So much wiser than me
Waiting for faceless friends
Making new enemies
Suffering under your command
Sick of war games that you play
Used to look up to you
Now I look away

A perfect leader who fell
Or just the demon I needed to find myself

Ten years have gone so fast
But your face hasn’t changed
I see you everywhere
Shake my head from the shame
Maybe one day you’ll realize
See the mistakes that you made
Used to look up to you
Now I look away

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