“This next song is about a nervous breakdown in reverse,” Carrie Brownstein said while performing at Coachella in spring 2006.
Her band Sleater-Kinney, along with co-guitarist and co-singer Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, had been around for about a decade at that time. They had just cemented their icon status with the release of their seventh album, “The Woods,” and were on the cusp of dissolving for the next decade.
The song Brownstein is referring to is “Modern Girl,” a worthy synthesis of “The Woods” in full—a warm, fuzzily produced, nostalgic anthem—the feeling of a sunrise in the Pacific Northwest.
Its lyrical centerpiece is also the title of Brownstein’s debut memoir, “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.” Due out Oct. 27 from Riverhead Books, the book is described as “an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue.” It’s familiar territory for Brownstein, an insider of the independent music scene, the riot-grrrl movement, and child of the Pacific-Northwest.
On the heels of literary endeavors like Kim Gordon’s “Girl in a Band,” Patti Smith’s “M Train,” or Grace Jones’ “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs,” there is a surge of interest, or perhaps simply an unearthed key market, in what critically successful women in music have to say about their craft.
“There are a lot of exciting memoirs by women musicians coming out right now, and some of them are getting more attention than memoirs by important women musicians have in the past,” Angela Schwesnedl, the owner of Moon Palace Books in St. Paul, said.
This is not Brownstein’s first foray into the written word. For a while she wrote a blog called “Monitor Mix” for NPR, which she says made her “able to connect with other music fans.” The blog was an exploration of whimsy and fandom at its finest—posts include total immersion into the band Phish, letters sent to and received from music idols, and unforgettable camp songs.
“Music has always been my constant, my salvation. It’s cliché to write that, but it’s true,” she writes in the blog’s last installment, “A Final Word from Carrie Brownstein,” in 2010. “Over the years, music put a weapon in my hand and words in my mouth it backed me up and shielded me, it shook me and scared me and showed me the way; music opened me up to living and being and feeling.”