Chris Conley — longtime frontman of emo pioneers Saves the Day and, more recently, part of Two Tongues, his collaboration with Say Anything’s Max Bemis — discovered a book last month that he says has caused him to rethink his life: Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart.
The California-based musician talked to SPIN.com about how the non-fiction tome has affected his life and his music, and why spirituality is important. But will it take the vicious edge off Conley’s typically biting lyrics? Read on to find out.
SPIN.com: Tell us about A Path with Heart?
Chris Conley: A friend recommended it to me. It’s the story of this man, Jack Kornfield, who did a pilgrimage to India and China and Tibet to meditate. He came back to California and tried to integrate the new spiritual teachings he had discovered into his life — and it really didn’t work very well. The whole book is about his journey through that.
Were you interested in this subject before you read this book?
No. I’d been reading a lot of modern history and political commentary. I was reading George Orwell over the summer. For some reason, this book came across my path and it’s already changed me as a person, in wonderful ways. I feel much more calm. Many Westerners have no awareness of spirituality, or this magical gift of life. We’re all just about paying the bills and getting a job and getting a car. And we’re all so unhappy. It’s a scary existence. So it can be such a tremendous relief to discover that you are okay already. It seems like it would be healthy for people to find someinner strength.
What have you taken away from reading it?
We’re so judgmental of ourselves and others. It’s a hard world to exist in and feel comfortable and confident and strong. My whole life I’ve felt like I wasn’t good enough, or I should have said this, or I should have said that, and I wish I looked like this. I was having a hard time accepting reality, whether it was other people’s feelings about me or my own expectations of me. A lot of the book is about meditation and sitting with yourself and understanding yourself. I’m really thankful I found it.
Would you recommend the book to people who don’t consider themselves “spiritual” or maybe are turned off by the term?
That’s definitely a loaded word. The book is more about being a human. It doesn’t have a New Age slant. It really feels like a human being figuring out how to stay calm in the impermanent world where everything keeps changing. So I think it could be beneficial for anyone. It’s just about life. “Spiritual” is just a word.
Do you think this book will influence you musically?
I don’t know. Most likely, because everything’s interconnected. Whatever experiences I have in my life come through in my music. The music is really just a reflection of me and my changing inner world. This book has definitely made me more calm, and Saves the Day has always been overly dramatic to the point of being uncomfortable to listen to. And that was a reflection of how uncomfortable it was to be me in my skin. The more comfortable I get with myself, the more comforting the music will be. That doesn’t mean I’m going to write music for meditation, but Saves the Day will probably have less of a grating edge since I don’t feel so tangled up inside.