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Brighten up your playlist (and your mood)

April 19, 2019

Mark Mallman’s “The Happiness Playlist” is a book about listening to tunes to put you in a good mood and mindset. The Minneapolis musician is hosting a book reading and signing, as well as playing piano, at Canvas and Chardonnay on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. We caught up with him to chat about the new project.

How would you describe “The Happiness Playlist?”

It’s a chronology of listening exclusively to happy music to see if it would affect my overall disposition on a day-to-day basis over the course of a winter.

What are you hoping people get out of this book?

I wrote the book to share this idea from an expert opinion that music has healing qualities that can collectively function if applied in a thoughtful manner. (Although) I’m not a scientist or a psychologist, I do have 30 years of music experience as a music professional. So I do feel like an authority on this topic.

What was it like writing the book?

I had the playlist around for two years. Everyone has a playlist you just kind of keep. And I had been going through some self-help books and thinking, “God, these are all a pain in the ass to read.” They’re either one of two things: too big and boring and you never finish them, or too depressing ... Or third thing: it’s a Ponzi scheme. I can write an expert opinion on how I use music to help me through my regular day-to-day stuff. And it’s a totally different perspective than a doctor or priest writing about music. I feel like it’s an insider’s how-to guide. Most music books are “here’s my tour” stories. I kept a journal and refined it into a piece of literature that uses music. I feel like it can help people go through heavy stuff, but it’s not a heavy book.

How can people make their own playlist?

For me, when I’m in the studio and writing, I’ll listen to my body. That sounds mystical and hocus pocus-y, but when the music comes on, pay attention to how your body responds, and not your brain. For instance, there’s a Sting song on my happiness playlist and there’s a lot of narrative about Sting that doesn’t have to do with the melody. You mention Sting and talking about his music is lower down the list. (People) might talk about his history or acting. By listening to your body, you become more in tune with what’s happening. I try not to discriminate based on a critical review or what my musical peers might think of that artist. Someone like Joni Mitchell… widely accepted. Someone like Pharrell (Williams) might be disputed. I’m more inclined to resonate to R&B and funk, and indie rock and punk. But it’s different for everyone. Recognize that this is for just you. It’s not for anyone else. Don’t worry about if it’s cool. Throw the idea away that you have a guilty pleasure. It’s like food; order what you want.

Did you include shout-outs to any Minnesota bands?

Lizzo’s on there. Prince is on there. A lot of the happy music I found is R&B and funk. That’s the one thing I discovered that’s influencing my music now. There’s something about dancing that bypasses the ego. R&B, and funk, and soul… music that has to do with dancing generally is not depressing. And even the depressing stuff, it’s still awesome to dance to.