The pre-teen years of a girl’s life are so frequently just terrible, I suspect even for the small percentage of the population that we decide is “popular.” I was so naive, leading well into my teen years and even into college, and of course, never popular. My yearbooks are filled with reminders from friends about how I pined after guys who would never date me, but at the same time I was telling anyone who would listen that I never wanted to get married and had absolutely no desire to have kids. I said no to every person who ever asked me to a dance. (WHY?) But I was the Band Queen! (Elected, so maybe “popular” in band?)
I really look back on those years with some fondness now – there is beauty in coming out of the pain that, at the time, you feel is gripping you, strangling you, preventing you from reaching some greatness you think you’re destined to achieve. I’m lucky; my resilient and slightly oblivious personality helped me thrive through these years, but I still had pain, and I wish that I knew I wasn’t alone at the time.
Dear Young Rocker is one of the best new shows I’ve listened to this year, and it’s all about the uncomfortable, distressed, rollercoaster pre-teen and teenage journey girls go through on the path to becoming a woman, against the backdrop of retreat into music. Host Chelsea Ursin, who took up playing in a rock band as a pre-teen, takes us through her youth and offers some advice to other young rockers.
Part memoir, part advice column, Dear Young Rocker is billed as “the podcast about rock music and growing up an anxious loner.” Ursin brings us chronologically through the earliest coming-of-age years when she first noticed she was “an anxious loner,” who found solace in an instrument. This connection to music, in particular, rock music, has been a thread throughout Ursin’s life, and served as an escape for her. I can so identify with this and I know so many women can. I felt such an emotional tie to music as a teenager, it was almost a religion for me. I’m from the casette tape era, so I’m talking Bon Jovi’s Cross Road on repeat. Side one, flip, side two, flip back to side one, repeat. (I knew, no one was EVER going to lay me down on a bed of roses.)
Within each episode, the content alternates between letters to young rockers and the memoir Ursin started dreaming up when in her M.F.A. program for Creative Non-Fiction. She started writing about her relationship with music, and felt that rush of emotion familiar to her young rocker self. That prompted her to begin volunteering with the Girls Rock Camp as a mentor and playing music again.
Ursin told me, “I realized how these kids and teens were going through the same self-esteem issues I had when I was young, and that I could help them with music the way it helped me. Seeing 8 year old girls pick up a guitar and write a song and perform inspired me to realize I had what it takes to lead my own band and write my own songs, so I started my very own band after that.”
Ursin funneled the experience and emotion into her writing, and eventually wrote a 250-page book as her M.F.A. thesis. After shelving the book for a couple of years, she had an idea to turn the book into an audio project – including some of her own original music. Thus, Dear Young Rocker – podcast version – was born. And I’m thrilled that the way this story is being told is by using music as content, not just words. The music and sound effects in the six episodes to date have really enhanced my listening experience. Even the short theme song is so memorable, it makes me picture a teenage girl with a bass guitar, maybe some heavy eye makeup, some piercings, and a cold, hard glare as she sings at the mic. Just a total bad-ass who feels misunderstood. Every time I hear it at the beginning of an episode I fly back in time to when I was about 15.
One of the most tender parts of the story so far has been Ursin’s self-discovery about gender identity and sexuality. She isn’t sure if she likes boys or not, and I love the honesty about that. I wish more young people felt the freedom to explore that instead of just accept what society tells them is “normal” or expected. As she gets into those cringe-worthy teen relationships with boys, we get to relive her constant questioning of whether this is truly how people are supposed to treat each other. It’s so familiar.
I love that Chelsea Ursin is sharing her journey so she can tell other young people that they’re not alone, and they’re going to be okay. Hopefully they’ll be able to look back and realize they were awesome, but yes, it can be awful at the time. Through volunteering and through this audio project, I can tell that Ursin pours her heart into helping young girls who are so vulnerable, and I absolutely adore and admire that.
The show has helped me, too, even as an adult with kids of my own. I look back and accept myself a little bit more than I did before. It’s good for me to remember those times, give them credit for the good that came of the pain. If you’re up for a trip down memory lane to those awkward pre-teen and teenage years, or you’re a young person who thinks they’re a weird loner, you’ll love Dear Young Rocker. Congratulations to Chelsea Ursin on a terrific audio project.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter!
Audible Feast Ratings
I review all podcasts on the following eight areas. They don’t all always apply, but it helps me fairly evaluate each show.
Educational Value (4 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (5 / 5)
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
I love what Ursin did with music and sound effects. Original music by the producer/host, in a show where music is so central, is a fantastic idea.
Humor (5 / 5)
Investigation (2 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
Ursin told me she hadn’t shared this podcast with a lot of her family or friends, which obviously made me feel like I found a hidden gem and was part of an inner circle. After I heard the story (at least what’s been released so far), I felt like I was hearing something really special and I felt even more part of that special club. This podcast is for me, it’s for you, it’s for young girls, it’s for people who know or have known young girls and teens … so great.
Makes Me a Better Person (5 / 5)
In one of the episodes, there is a letter to the listener that basically says when you are in that moment where you’re wearing weird clothes because you think you’re a weirdo, you don’t fit in, so you might as well go all the way and just be what “they” expect you to be … you’re actually awesome in that moment, because you’re choosing to express yourself and not conform. And that’s bad-ass. I have thought about that several times since I listened. It reinforces a message I wish more young people believed in – that everyone has self-worth and is contributing something to the world. Never doubt that.
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
Start with These Episodes:
Proceed in chronological order, starting with episode one – Steam.
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