It took me years after I stopped working in music to hear songs in their pure form again. After a decade plus in recording studios and DJing, I heard things in a different way, every song became layers. Recording and sitting in mixing studios made it so all I could think of was how drums were mixed, compression on vocals, trying to identify the synth sound, noting how the ad-libs were done, wondering how many layers were on each voice take, thinking about how or where it was recorded, or how much that feature cost. Add DJing on top of this and I had simply never heard the second or third verse of a lot of current hip hop, and thought of everything under the guise of “but can I play this”, and “what can I play this with”. I was grouping songs in personal playlists roughly by key, because I had it so stuck in my heads to build EDM sets through key transitions. When you stop making music, and your friends are in music, it’s easy to drift away. The hours are different, the life is different, aspirations and priorities shift. Soon you’re surrounded by people who think you’re nuts for bringing up sidechain or reverb when you’re playing something new in the whip. Eventually the songs on your playlists stop having “edit” behind everything and including instrumental intros. Your Spotify discover isn’t ruined by digging through the complete official remixes of whatever new single dropped. In Austin, live music brought me back to hearing things as they were meant to be heard, for pure enjoyment. It’s a ubiquitous background here, well done live music of a startling variety, appreciation of chemistry and a crowd, the audio either being great or terrible depending on how many beers the sound guy has had. It’s a music detox that for me was much needed. Now, finally, the layers all blend together again.