I write a lot on a train, heading to my day job. The carriages can be busy, with lots of folk commuting to work, with the train stopping, starting, the guard making announcements. It can be distracting, so I listen to music to help myself quickly get to and stay in a place where I can write. Not just any music. Lyrics can get in the way – I hear a word from the song, and it takes me away from the sentence I am writing. And not just any instrumental music works either.

The best options I have are Peter Gabriel‘s soundtracks. Layered, powerful, surprising, emotive. I’ve listened to them so many times. iTunes suggests I’ve listened to Birdy 120+ times, Long Walk Home (Rabbit-Proof Fence) 50+ and Passion 20+. I would say that must be inaccurate, way off, perhaps due to me not syncing phone correctly, as I must have kicked off “Jigalong” 200 times in the last 18 months or so writing “Siege”.

The earlier tracks get listened to more than the later tracks – depending on the train run. It works so effectively to get me into the right place that I often listen to the same music when writing at home.

I listened to Birdy more for the re-write of Joseph Sin. Long Walk Home for Susan Skull, and during Siege I’ve switched back and forth, with Birdy (more industrial?) often used with the future scenes, Rabbit-Proof Fence for the Past, and Passion thrown in every now and then to help navigate through the maze of the characters’ emotions. The last notes of “Ngankarrparni – Reprise” were playing as I wrote the last words of the first draft of Siege.

At the Peter Gabriel store you can buy the music on vinyl, amongst other formats. I still have a vinyl Birdy but bought again when the world went digital, and I have the other two on CD.

It’s not the only music I listen to when writing – but the best.

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