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How I Reclaimed Myself After a Decade Long Relationship Ended

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

You may know that for the majority of my twenties I was in a very serious relationship.

We met in college, toured the country, moved to LA, started a life here, and a little over a year ago, decided to part ways. This relationship lasted 1/3 of my life. Over a decade. The breakup wasn’t dramatic in the traditional sense. But it was monumental and painful. An end of an era. For the first month of our conscious uncoupling, we still lived together. That presented warped versions of reality and an imbalance unlike anything I had experienced up until that point.

I moved into a new apartment on the other side of town and began to build my new life on my own. Reclaiming myself.

You may also know that over the past 5 years I haven’t released any new music under my own name.

I launched a funk band, released a couple books, started a podcast and an Academy – which all kept me busy. But I wasn’t writing songs that were personal to me. I either didn’t feel the need or was afraid for what it would uncover. But after this breakup, I realized that the only way to process what I was going through was through songwriting.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few years and he’s great. Very helpful at enabling me to see clearly and uncover the why and the how. But not the what. Therapy, for me, has been all head. It wasn’t penetrating my heart. The only way I can adequately process what’s going on inside my heart is through songwriting.

For the first couple months of living on my own, I was very unstable. I was living amongst boxes. I couldn’t unpack my former life into my new one until a friend came over and forced me to. I hadn’t quite learned how to stand on my two feet and hold myself up – on my own. I buried myself in work, in community, in live music and occasional sexual explorations which were fun, but confusing.

It wasn’t until I carved out Tuesdays for songwriting, did I start to actually process what I was going through.

I needed one day a week where I didn’t focus on anything else, but songwriting. My entire routine shifted. When I woke up, I didn’t grab my phone. Instead I grabbed my sneakers and went straight to the gym. At the gym I didn’t listen to podcasts like I normally do, but rather music. I kept my phone on Do Not Disturb and stayed off social media and email. When I got home, I made myself breakfast and coffee while either continuing to listen to music that was inspiring me at the moment or began the writing process if a melody or lyric was bursting out.

Then I retreated to my studio to write. Sometimes a song poured out in an hour and other times it took an entire day. If the music wasn’t coming, I would learn a favorite song by someone else. I would play their song over and over again until it eventually ceased to become their song and started to become my own song. This exercise was awfully helpful when I had trouble getting the process started. And for the record, no, the end product sounds nothing like the song that inspired it, Marvin Gaye estate.

I took myself on solo writing retreats – like to Mammoth Mountain where I skied during the day and wrote music at night. Or just spent the day songwriting.

Sometimes I went to my friend Brett Nolan’s place to write with him. He and I created the Brassroots District record together and I loved collaborating with him.

I wrote about 40 songs last year without intention or direction.

Sometimes people write music intending it to be for something or for someone. I didn’t. It was for me. I needed it. I’m fortunate I have songwriting as a tool to help me process my emotions. I didn’t turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or adrenalin. I turned to songwriting.

I worked through it. It wasn’t easy.

I remember one day, after a full day of writing, my friend Andrew came over for dinner. As soon as I opened the door he said “Hey!… Woah are you alright?” It was all over my face what I was going through. I had spent the entire day in it.

Writing about heavy topics is not easy. It’s heavy. I force myself to feel everything. It’s therapeutic. And it’s how I came out on the other side intact and a more complete individual able to love again.

This first song I’m releasing today I wrote with Brett Nolan and is called “Retrospect.” It’s the first of many I’ll be releasing over the coming year about this experience of reclaiming myself post breakup.

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I recorded it at 64 Sound Studios in Highland Park, CA last December, live, one-take with a band. If you watch the video (released next week), you’ll see us in the room together. These musicians are good friends and phenomenal musicians, and I was so honored that they joined me for this.

I hope you enjoy it.

You can stream it or download it here

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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