Whether as an alienated teen trying to find somewhere to belong, or as the singer of a popular band that was falling apart at the seams, or as a drug user spiraling downward in addiction, Spencer Chamberlain has turned to music to help him in his darkest hours. Now, sober and at relative peace with himself, the world and his reunited metalcore group Underoath, Chamberlain still holds tight to the songs that have been there for him through it all.
As part of our ongoing "Songs for Black Days" series, presented in partnership with Hope for the Day, we asked him to share a few of those, along with his thoughts on how they've given him solace, inspiration and meaning.
"This might be a weird one for others, but the piano riff itself felt like it spoke to me. It was as sad or unhappy as I was at many times in my life. The lyrics didn't really make all the sense to me when I was younger, but there were lines that stuck with me with the somberness of the music: 'I jumped in the river, what did I see? Black-eyed angels swam with me.'
"Sometimes I just felt that line, like, I was floating alone somewhere with a bunch of beat up angels ..."
"'There was nothing to fear, nothing to doubt.' It hit me every single time Thom Yorke sang it, like it's OK to feel these feelings, and accepting them. This song was more about the music than the lyrics, but at times, both hit me in the chest."
"This band always had the most brutal lyrics to me as a kid. It's hard to listen to now when I'm older — and I might have been too young to understand fully when I was younger. But I'm so glad I dug deep into this band as a kid. His lyrics were so honest and sad and I think I needed to hear that when I was in middle school and high school trying to figure out who the hell I was.
"'Down in a hole and I don't know if I can be saved
See my heart I decorate it like a grave
You don't understand who they thought
I was supposed to be
Look at me now a man
Who won't let himself be
Down in a hole, feelin' so small
Down in a hole, losin' my soul
I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied.'
"This doesn't need any explanation. I still tear up when I listen to this song, especially LIVE!"
"'Hands are for shaking, no, not for tying, I sure don't mind a change, 'cause I fell on black days.'
"Soundgarden always hit me with the feels from day one. I was probably in elementary school when I first heard them. Nirvana was my FAVORITE band at the time — and still probably is — but Soundgarden's lyrics made more sense to me. I think this is the first band that ever brought a tear to my eye when I heard the lyrics. Chris [Cornell] had a way of making the sadness feel empowering, so I'd always feel better after hearing his songs."
"I'll never forget when White Pony came out. I had a lot of friends, but felt like I didn't fit in with a single one of them. I probably interpreted this song wrong, but the opening lines made me feel OK. Also, this is another song that was more about the way the music sounded with the melody and less the actual lyrics, but when Chino sang, 'You move like I want to, to see like your eyes do,' [it] just hit home with me. Deftones was a band I'd blast in my room and feel like I wasn't an alien after all."
"I could honestly write about every single Nirvana song there is. This band always made me feel like I'm not the only person on earth dealing with shit or that feels alone. Kurt Cobain had a way with the guitar and melody that I feel could connect with anyone, and honestly it would make me mad when my friends didn't get it the way I did. This is my first love. This band is why I play music because of the way it made me feel. I wanted to bottle that feeling and give it to my friends so they could understand what I felt from the music, so in turn I started writing songs.
"'She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak/I've been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks.'
"That opening line still to this day resonates with me. This is the first band I felt powerful while listening to. I'm happy I got into music like this as young as I did — I'm forever in debt."
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of resources.