Happiness can be slippery to define, and even harder to hold onto. Basing what gives us joy on fleeting things (as we’ve all discovered at one point or another) never ends well. In the spirit of discovery, we asked 12 of our favorite musicians what’s currently giving them the most joy. While their answers varied wildly, there were some common threads—friends, family, giving back, the satisfaction of a job well done. We may lead very different lives, but some things are surprisingly universal.
Happy. It sounds like such a one-dimensional thing, doesn’t it? But it’s very complicated. That’s the reason I pursued music. Because it was one of the only things that made me feel amazing and transcend into this larger-than-life womb of comfort. I wanted to create that experience. I think I had many times where I thought a record would save me, or if I made a record it would change my life in such a way that I would be a different person. It never does. I don’t know. I guess records aren’t the answer…It’s a funny thing to ask me because it’s a question that I have been considering a lot, because I’ve never been a very happy person. I think I’ve had it in my mind forever that I wasn’t going to be a very happy person, and I had accepted that. That’s not my situation in life. I can do these awesome things, and I can be proud and have moments of creative elation, but I’m not going to be happy. Now that I’m getting older and I’m a woman, I’m realizing that’s a cop-out and that I owe it to myself to figure out what does make me happy, and to pursue that. But I have no idea, yet.
2. Ben Lee
Often I hear these voices in my head saying, “You can’t do everything.” I’m realizing that’s such a lie. We’re allowed to build a multi-faceted life. That’s truly making me happy.
3. Dan Bejar (Destroyer)
Things I wouldn’t talk about in an interview!
4. Torquil Campbell (Stars)
I hate space. I don’t need the cosmos. I don’t get it! I have ketchup and sex and Dionne Warwick and the color orange. Bicycles and ice cream and dogs. I have the world and a love of it. I don’t need to know why it’s here. It’s as ephemeral as a pop song. And I love it all. People say that they never want to live forever; that would be so awful. If they can invent a way for me to live forever, I am staying forever! I don’t want to say goodbye to this beautiful place with all these ridiculous, hilarious people. My life is a dream.
5. Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of)
I really really really love that I’ve been able to share something that been the most positive thing in my life with other people. I get messages on Facebook and Instagram saying “I’m going through a relationship breakup right now, and your album is teaching me to love myself more and put myself first.” If you got that out of my record, that’s the most incredible thing!
My family could be very broken. But I’m very happy that the energy of me and my sister, and my brothers and sisters on my father’s side—all this love that we carry—the children, have healed the family. So now that I’m grown-up, I have a really loyal, stable base of family around me. I feel like I take pride in that. It doesn’t happen over night. You need to work on it. You need to let go of your anger towards your parents. It’s so easy to get stuck in disappointment and anger. I’m very proud that I let go of all that a long time ago and I healed my family and my love for my family. That’s the reason why I can be strong.
I’ve been really lucky and really blessed being able to do what I’m doing as a career. All the opportunity itself. I’m really lucky to have the friends and the family that I do. And to be in the position that I’m in all together. There’s not much I could fault. It would be ignorant not to acknowledge it!
8. Ellie Roswell (Wolf Alice)
I feel so lucky to be supported by so many people—my family, friends, people who are coming to our shows and buying our album. I’m not sure I’ll ever get my head around that. I feel like I don’t know how to say thank you. It’s crazy for us, and I think we genuinely really really appreciate it. It’s great to be supported by people in doing something that you want.
9. Ron Mael (FFS)
“Happy” sounds kind of contented. I never feel that way. I wish sometimes I would. Also sometimes happy makes it sound like you’re not a serious artist. So that too. Just doing what we do in a non-Pollyanna way.
10. George Lewis Jr. (Twin Shadow)
When I hang out with my friend Adrian, and we’re not in a typical bar setting or a nightclub. We’re just hanging on his front porch, and he’s working his motorcycle, and I’m working on my motorcycle, and we’re just laughing about the silliest things. There’s no happiness greater than that. The most simple things are where the most divine happiness lives.
11. Zach Condon (Beirut)
The fact that I’m working again. I feel such a renewed sense of focus. There’s purpose again.
It’s easy, but love, I think. Love to everything and everybody—the people you meet, the job you do, your family. I think that’s an important word. It’s not just a word! A bit cliché. But it’s important to be cliché sometimes.