Mental Health Moments: Music As A Soundtrack To Your Life

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By Kaylin R. Staten

Music has an astounding effect on my life. As I retrospectively analyze my relationship with music, I’ve realized that it has always been a constant. Like many of us, I’m drawn to songs that represent my life or a timeframe in my life. Each song has its own side story, from where I was when I listened to a track the most or how the message or beat made me feel.

I’ve always curated playlists, from my days creating my own mixtapes from the hits on the local pop radio station to my current love of Spotify playlists. I taped all of the Dixie Chicks’ music videos on CMT, voted for Carrie Underwood every week on “American Idol” and hung my favorite CD cases over my bed.

Here are 15 songs that resonate with me, sparking memories and joy from start to finish:

Over The Rainbow - Wizard of Oz

I watched “The Wizard of Oz” three times per day when I was little, and I know every line and song from the classic 1939 film. In fact, the Hourglass in Hourglass Media comes from the Wicked Witch’s red hourglass in the movie. When I hear this song, I’m transported to simpler times in my childhood bedroom with my miniature ruby red slippers and dreams for miles.

Belle Reprise - Beauty and the Beast

“Beauty and the Beast” is my favorite Disney movie. Not only was it set in a provincial French town and a Gothic castle, but it also has my favorite Disney heroine, Belle. The lyrics to the reprise of her opening song spoke to me in my childhood and teenage years, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.”

Princess Leia’s Theme - Star Wars

Leia Organa is my spirit animal, and I have adored each line, outfit and appearance since I was 7 years old. “Princess Leia’s Theme” is incredibly nostalgic for me because I idolized Leia (and Carrie Fisher). I used to listen to this theme (both in the movie and on the soundtrack) and daydream about space travel and what it would be like to meet Carrie Fisher. That’s what made it even more special when I finally met her in 2015.

Han Solo and the Princess - Star Wars

Since I was a little girl, I wanted a fairytale type of love. Not the standard fare, mind you -- the love that Leia and Han had in “The Empire Strikes Back” and beyond. The type where the woman could still retain her independence and career path while still being madly in love with the man of her dreams. (This was circa the 1990s, before their split prior to “The Force Awakens,” a time in which it was still impossible to have new movies.) It still gives me chills to hear this song, and it was on our wedding playlist.

Pure Imagination - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I watched “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” every Thanksgiving when it was on TV. I would get ready to head to Granny’s with my family, and I would hear this song playing on my old TV with the VCR/DVD combo. I love the line, “If you want to view paradise, then turn around and view it.” It always inspired me to take a break from everyday life and enjoy the small moments and my own imagination.

Wide Open Spaces - Dixie Chicks

This was my ultimate “grown-up” song, and I played it multiple times on my CD player. I craved adventure as a child, and this anthem made its way onto my favorite song list. I wanted independence, to travel the world and to make my mark. I didn’t realize its meaning until I was a little older. All we all need are some wide open spaces and room to make our big mistakes.

California Dreamin’ - The Mamas and the Papas

My first writing mentor, Theo Tippett, wrote writing prompts on the chalkboard every day. I was in seventh grade, and I hated these exercises because we had to share six times each six weeks grading period. Little introverted me hated this because I didn’t like to draw attention to myself. One day, Mrs. Tippett wrote, “All the leaves are brown and the skies are gray…” Each time I hear this time, I think of Mrs. Tippett and her encouragement with my writing.

Crazy in Love - Beyoncé

This takes me back to my high school days when I got my first cell phone (a baby blue and silver Sony Ericcson) and ran up a huge bill on 8-bit ringtones. One of those ringtones was “Crazy In Love,” one of my favorite songs from my teenage days. I wanted to be “crazy in love,” but I settled with kickstarting my career instead. (I am a proud late bloomer.)

Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson

This is still my perfect weekend song. First of all, bananas are my favorite fruit, and I love pancakes, so… During my college days, I fell asleep with my earbuds in listening to this song. I wanted a love like in this song that I could celebrate by sleeping in late on a lazy rainy day with breakfast food. This is one of my closet romantic songs when I wouldn’t let those feelings show back then.

Free Fallin’ - John Mayer

I was often the good girl with the broken heart, both on my own volition and at the hands of others. I like the John Mayer version the best, and I listened to him every day in my college days and into my 20s. Everyone wants to escape some type of difficult situation, and this song spoke to my anxiety. Plus, I’ve been on Mulholland Drive, so there’s that.

I’m Illy - T.I.

I listened to T.I.’s “Paper Trail” album when I needed to take a much-needed break from my college class to-do list. I would power up my Zune (R.I.P.), put my earbuds in and play some “Banjo-Kazooie” on my Nintendo 64. This sparked my love for different types of music. To me, this was T.I.’s heyday. And… I can rap the whole song. *fun fact*

Satellites/Stealing Time - Above and Beyond

This song is like a time capsule to the beginning of my relationship with my now-husband, Jared. He sent me “On A Good Day” from Above and Beyond’s acoustic album. I listened to it and automatically loved “Satellites/Stealing Time.” I’m instantly transported to January and February 2016, when our love was new, and I reflect on how far we’ve come and will go.

“My love is like first steps in this snow, baby,

I follow you everywhere you go, baby.

The pain as light has come to wake you

But you will never realize

That I inspire the dreams that guide you baby.”

Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran

Now that I’ve met my soulmate, I can reveal that I have always been a hopeless romantic. I used to hide and resist it. Before this was a hit song, Jared and I heard this song and instantly applied it to our relationship. It’s all about finding your true love and growing old together. I heard someone singing this on a street in London near the Earls Court tube station, and I started crying. Right there on the sidewalk.

See You Again - Carrie Underwood

I can’t listen to this song without crying. It reminds me of the loved ones I’ve lost, specifically my Granny. I know I will see her again, and this song helps me celebrate that fact. But, man, it tears at my heartstrings and nearly rips apart the Band-Aid on my heart.

“I can hear those echoes in the wind at night

Calling me back in time

Back to you

In a place far away

Where the water meets the sky

The thought of it makes me smile

You are my tomorrow.”

Whenever You Remember - Carrie Underwood

This is the perfect song to set the nostalgic mood. I used it for my Ninny’s (grandmother’s) 60th birthday photo montage video. I think of her each time I listen to this song, as well as the memories from my childhood and loved ones. It’s a comfortable quilt that snuggles my memories to sleep.

Honorable Mention: “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. (Don’t ask.)


Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.