Zia Hassan

Singing To A Mirror

Songwriting is reflective by its very nature. Writing lyrics is a kind of therapy, of course. But how those lyrics are presented, the texture of the music, the sentiment of the chord changes, the choice of instruments… all of these artistic choices are part of a reflective process.

Because when artists look inward, we’re sometimes confronted with stuff we’d rather not acknowledge. Other times, it’s stuff we were actually searching for, like an understanding of why we feel what we feel.

And other times we write about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. It’s a phenomenon that always baffles me, but I sometimes write a song that sounds and looks great but has no connection to my life until a few months later, when something happens and the song suddenly makes total sense. It’s a type of clairvoyance that I’ve never experienced outside of writing music.

I upped my game quite a bit when I moved into an apartment with a huge bathroom back in 2011. Huge bathrooms mean great acoustics, so it was the perfect place to sing and record ideas into my phone. But along with a huge bathroom came a huge mirror. And suddenly I could see myself as I was generating ideas.

And weirdly, it helped.

My face and body language, I discovered, are incredible feedback machines. Generally, if I write in front of a mirror I make a better song. I can’t pin point the exact moment where the mirror helps me make good musical choices, but I can feel it.

I sing words, and my face tells me which word needs to change as I sing it. My reflection is unsure, like trying a new food for the first time.

When the song can’t be improved, my reflection is confident, overjoyed even. Like being wrapped in a blanket.

I learn more and more about what it means to reflect every time I pick up an instrument or sing.

But it was a literal mirror that taught me the most.