Author Sean Madigan Hoen plays to a familiar beat in 'Songs Only You Know'

Apr 28, 2014

  The idea of sex, drugs, and rock and roll is a lot more glamorous than the actual circumstances themselves. 

  Just ask Dearborn native Sean Madigan Hoen, writer of the new post-music memoir Songs Only You Know. Hoen came of age in the punk rock scene of Detroit in the 90's, where he struggled to craft his own identity as a musician while dealing with the realities of having a drug-addicted father. Hoen kept his music life secret and also struggled with his own substance addictions, eventually moving past music and into writing. Hoen is now based in Brooklyn and graduated in 2011 from the MFA program at Columbia University. 

Hoen will be appearing at Bookbug on May 1 for a conversation with former WMU professor and National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon

Credit Courtesy of Soho Books

Here is an excerpt from their conversation: 

On the unlikely surrogate family created by his bandmates after distancing himself from his own:

"I felt that the two threads in the book, my family and my music life, I though that structure was part of the reason why I thought it might be an interesting story to tell. My dad was in pretty deep with drugs, and that was, for the most part, a secret. It was his secret life and when we finally knew about that it was our secret for awhile. And in ways my band life was my secret life. When you're living in a state of denial or repression - what you're feeling is going to come out one way or another, and for me I was really drawn to extreme music and extreme adventure and extreme performance, and I think that's what the music life was for me at that time.

On looking back at his music career, which included playing in the bands Leaving Rouge, The Holy Fire and Thoughts Of Ionesco:

"Music was always just such a struggle for me. For me it's not really about 'Oh I could've made a million bucks or made a living doing this so much as there was something I really felt the need to express through music and songwriting that I wasn't able to get to. I look at my life now and I can draw a line back to music through so many of the people in my life and so many of the good things in my life. And in that way it was a successful journey." 

On why he chose to focus on a memoir-style story as his first book: 

"...first time authors often write the book that they feel they have to get out, and this was just the story that I had to get out. I think it was why I started writing, to take this story on.  I had a dialouge with myself that was something to the effect of 'Okay you want to be a writer, you think you can be a writer well you'll find out on this story.' I didn't want to fail, I wanted to do justice to these characters , I wanted to do justice to the scenes and I knew I would give it everything I had."

On going against the grain of his father's life as a drug addict:

"I was in my own way certain reliving his life. Part of this book was putting some things out there that I've never told anybody and that I feel that I had to cause otherwise I'd just be carrying them around as I had been for the past twelve years, fifteen years. And I didn't want to carry those secrets anymore."