Fiona Hardy’s funny and heartfelt new novel How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life is a celebration of music, creativity, and listening to the world around us. Here, Fiona shares some of the music that has shaped her life.

The song that made me realise I don’t listen to lyrics properly

I always absorb music as a tune first, and listen to the lyrics later. ‘Later’ can sometimes mean ‘in a few months/years/pretty much never’, and it leads me to equating songs to certain moods they do not belong to. I will sigh over a pretty song I’ve only ever taken in the melody of and say, ‘What a romantic tune!’ while my partner will stare at me and say, ‘You know it’s about a murder, right?’ (Which is exactly why I don’t pay attention.)

A prime example is the song ‘Ole Rinka’ by New Zealand band The Ruby Suns, which I thought had the word ‘author’ in it somewhere and therefore assumed was made for me personally. I told my partner this once, and he said sadly, ‘Sorry, but the line is “the earthworm eats the leaves”.’ Thanks brain, that sure was a swing and a miss.

The songs I always cry to

There are some tunes that set me off as soon as I hear the opening bars. One is ‘Bright Eyes’ by Simon & Garfunkel, which takes me straight back to being a tiny, traumatised child thinking that a movie about rabbits called Watership Down would surely be a quaint and lovely experience. More recently, there’s the beautiful Solange song ‘Momma Loves Baby’, which I used to sing to my daughter to help her sleep. Okay, so maybe that song’s from the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba! and not one of her more well-known albums, but it’s gorgeous, even when I’m the one singing it.

The first time I started a singalong

Recently we were staying with my father-in-law while his wife was in hospital, and while we love him very much, we just don’t agree with each other’s choice of tunes. Now that it’s the future, we spent all our time shouting at Google Home: ‘Hey, Google! Can you play—’ and whoever got in first would win. The most successful time was during one dinner when I told Google to play Harry Belafonte, starting, I think, with the boppy Angelina: ‘Angelina, Angelina/please bring down your concertina and play a welcome for me/‘cause I’ll be coming home from sea’. Because having the sea in a song instantly makes it a rousing shanty, we all burst out into song to accompany him (I’m sure Harry was thrilled), and all of the following tracks – ‘Day-O’, ‘Jump in the Line’, the scandalous-slash-inspirational ‘Matilda’, old favourite ‘Jamaica Farewell’ and my personal love, ‘Zombie Jamboree’ –we sang along, happy and content. Having never been one for camping or playing by the family piano like they do on TV, this was a first but hopefully not the last.

The song that cures my mood

Sometimes when you’re down, it just takes a song to lift you up. There are certain tunes that can fix basically any mood, especially if they’re played driving down a freeway with the volume up high. One such song is ‘Wings’, by HAERTS, from the Love, Simon soundtrack, which was the song I played on the drive home from work after finding out Affirm had offered to publish my first book. I was sobbing and singing with joy, and even now that song fills me right up when I hear it. (Another song where I don’t know the words, just the mood it brings.)

Please note: The actual list is far longer, but apparently this post can’t go for 60,000 words, VERY UNFAIR.

For more of Fiona’s musical favourites, listen to the official How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life playlist here.