Don’t Date a Songwriter

Danielle Durack on how (not) to navigate your love life as a confessional artist.

I think I was four or five years old when I had my first crush. I don’t remember this boy’s name or what he looked like, but I knew he was “the one” with the conviction of a woman who had actually met other men. He lived across the street, and I would fantasize about riding off into the sunset with him on his Razor scooter. Shockingly, we didn’t work out, but I moved on to my next preoccupation with virtually no loss of enthusiasm. This pattern continued through elementary, middle, and high school. The wild infatuation, the months and sometimes years of keeping it to myself, the big dramatic confession of love, and then ultimately, rejection. My confidence within the world of love was on a steady decline, but the endless stream of rejection never did anything to hinder my innate desire to love and be loved.

While my love life was shattering my self-esteem, it was simultaneously fueling my creative inclinations. I started writing songs when I was in the fifth grade, mostly angsty ballads about feeling alone in the world and super secret love songs. Not much has changed. I’ll soon be releasing a breakup record that encapsulates the most significant relationship of my adult life. It’s a record that was partially written while we were still together, and in a way, a record that contributed to the breakup itself. The song titles alone were enough to raise some eyebrows from my partner. “Don’t Know If I’ll Stick Around.” “Eggshells.” I was met with hostility and questioning with each new composition. At least half of our arguments were started by a new song. These arguments prompted new songs, which prompted new arguments and on and on and on. 

Writing songs is admittedly a pretty passive aggressive way to handle interpersonal conflict. I will not downplay the pain and discomfort of having permanent, public, and melodic archives of every time you’ve ever fucked up in your relationship. I empathize with this struggle. However, it reveals an impending lifelong challenge for me of two potentially opposing desires: To freely create and share my work as a confessional singer songwriter, and to find sustainable and fulfilling romantic love. 

On multiple occasions when doing my little monkey dance between songs on stage I have said, “Don’t date a songwriter,” before launching into an unflattering song about an ex- (or current) partner. This is a joke, of course, but if I’m being completely honest it’s probably pretty sound advice. It’s a lot to ask of a partner, to be sensitive enough to understand and respect my line of work and need for creative expression while also having the thick skin required to have our relationship dissected in such a uniquely public way. Add this to the fact that my verbal communication skills are subpar, and inevitably, these men find themselves on the proverbial guillotine, often completely unaware that I was unhappy in the first place. 

I wish I could process my emotions in a more conventional way, but unfortunately it’s just not my optimal method of communication. What’s wonderful about creative expression, about songwriting, is that there aren’t really any rules. I feel free to say what I need to say. I can be as dramatic as I feel the need to be, and I don’t really worry about how it is going to be received. I am able to focus on articulating my ideas rather than getting caught up in the anxiety of potentially causing hurt to a loved one. Sometimes I am just as surprised as my partner is about what I’ve been holding in. It’s almost as if I can be honest and straightforward with myself within the context of a song. I think I write to work through my feelings just as much as I write to express them. 

For this reason, I refuse to censor myself. This often makes my life far more complicated and at times more lonely than I’d like it to be. That being said, the authentic expression, the open channel of creative energy, the honesty with myself, my connection with God/the universe, is worth preserving at all costs. When it comes right down to it, I will always choose my music, and by association, myself, over romantic love, despite how desperately I want it. 

So in my mind, there are two possible outcomes. The first is that I die alone, which is plausible. The second is that I find some unicorn of a man with an extraordinary amount of empathy and patience, who maybe doesn’t hate my music and is willing to ride the emotional rollercoaster I have created just for him. Someone who can listen through an angry song, work through the underlying issue, and let the song live on as a fond memory of a time we overcame. 

Or maybe I’ll meet somebody who makes me write love songs and ooze cheese for the rest of my life. Let’s fuckin’ hope not.

(Photo Credit: Eunice Beck)

Danielle Durack is a Phoenix, AZ-based singer-songwriter. Her album No Place is out January 2021.

(Photo Credit: Eunice Beck)