Week 13- "Who's Better Than You" (Part 1)?

Hello friends, back at it on this rainy tuesday. I'm looking forward to that break I was promised in a few weeks. Anyways, this weeks topic is about the importance of playing with other musicians, and the proper mentality to effectively create and improve. Realistically, it doesn't matter who you are, you will play with another musician at least once, and if you want to play more than once, you'll learn how to act. Cool? Cool! Let's get into it.

There is no one in the world that you aren't good enough to play with. 

Nope, it's just not true. Look, there are amazing musicians in every town of every area of the world. Seriously, there's an unfathomable amount of talent. But because of that, you should realize that you are just as valuable as them and just as able to create and express. Ideally, you should remove the phrase "better than me" from your vocabulary. It's negative reinforcement and if you do end up playing with someone like that you'll be trying to outshine them or shying away from playing; either way, it's not healthy artistry. If you feel like you need to identify the difference between you and another player, it's "He/She is better than me at _____ (Blues, Writing, Singing, etc.), but I have my own talents". And is that worth saying? Most definitely. Do not be intimidated by the players you respect. Instead, get close to them and show them how you would love to learn from them. Even the top players remember what it's like to meet idols, large or small. A determined and open minded individual can go a lot farther in that situation than someone who just plays well and doesn't quite care beyond that. Remember that half of your battle as an artist, player, writer, producer, etc is just being likable and giving people good reasons to have you around. When I went to Nashville last spring, a very big producer told me and other Berklee students something very important- he called it your "Hang Factor". That means how fun you are to have in a studio, how reliable you are- it's a very important quality in most successful musicians. You want to be the type of person that improves whatever environment you're in. That will breed better musicianship, creativity, and all in all, put everyone in a good mood and keep them there. That will take you very far. The best musicians gravitate towards the people who let them have the most fun (while still being professional of course) so always keep that in mind. 

I'm running just a bit short on time, so I think I'm going to call this part 1, and part 2 will be out next tuesday, keep an eye out for it. Sorry about that! Have a great week everyone! 

 

Week 11- "No, You Don't Have Writer's Block"

So at the end of this semester, I'm proud to say that I will officially be halfway done with my degree here at Berklee, and so I wanted to take this week to share one very important thing that I have learned. 

Writer's Block is not a CONDITION, it is a CHOICE

I can see how some would be offended by me saying that, but I promise you, it is the truth. You might have a slump of bad songs like everyone else, but you are not blocked up. You are lacking inspiration and motivation. But good news; both are all around you, always. Rejoice! From this point forward, you should never give yourself the writer's block excuse again. It's a mentality, and an unhealthy one at that. I've gone through month long stretches, one even close to a year, where I felt like I couldn't produce any quality work and whatever I did manage to write was all white noise. But I never stopped for a second to find new inspiration. I wasn't reading new books, listening to new music, traveling to new places. I was very complacently living life, and yet somehow I still expected my mind to procure interesting and new topics to write about. How is that ever feasible!? It's not! 

So what specifically are we talking about? How do you truly connect to the inspiration that has been eluding you? Open your mind. Remember that children's book that your parents read to you when you were young? At least 10 good songs in there. Have any friends who have a life more interesting than your current one, or maybe they could use a pick-me-up song to help them work through some struggles? You'd have to be crazy to think there isn't hundreds of songs waiting. If you take that mentality, you are unstoppable. Songs are in books, movies, and general ideas (yes, I know it references Writer's Block, but agree to disagree- there's good ideas in that list). 

If you feel that your songs are lacking originality, or that they are all sounding the same, it starts with your inspiration source. If you're writing to your anger all the time, or your unrequited love for someone, well it's not too surprising that the other pieces of the song follow suit. You need to find the unconventional ideas that are floating around in the auxiliary parts of your mind. When you write about love, be creative, the audience will understand from the get go that it's a love song, so you need to throw in a twist in there that revitalizes the meaning and the importance. Or find a new way to say "I love you". Angry songs, I've been there, you just want to spew it all out at once and wreak havoc on whoever is on the receiving end- but that just will not translate to the audience. And I don't believe that you'll like listening to it either when you're in a good mood and you're trying to sing your way through it. If you need to write that song, incorporate a new emotion, like remorse, or pity, because unfortunately hateful songs will not quite hold up on their own when its just unrelenting degradation. The bottom line is, if it seems like something you've heard before, put in something new that makes it yours again. Maybe instead of attacking someone, make the situation into a metaphor and disguise the scenario. Maybe instead of talking about your undying love for your counterpart, tell the world how miserable the world would be without your partner, how they brighten everything around them. Now it still says what you wanted, but it puts a much more concrete image in your audiences mind and they get to peak into the story and make their own conclusions about what the song is supposed to be about. Generally, people would rather get their own input as opposed to having the meaning forced down their throat. There's no greater compliment then when a member of the audience is so intrigued by a song that they come up to you after a performance and try to know more about the background of a song. We're all human, start relating to people and favoring their curiosity!

I don't want to go on all day about this, I think you've all gotten the point. But really, you have a job as an artist or a creator of any sort, and it's to brighten the world with your abilities. Make the world feel your emotions, and allow your audience to unlock theirs. I don't have to tell anyone currently living in America that what we need the most right now is compassion and empathy. Regardless of your political views, this is a unified nation and the only people who will be harmed by fighting or violence is ourselves. I know in my heart that there's been a call from the establishment as a whole for new and vibrant art that lets us all push the reset button as we move into the future. Yes, your song may not travel far and wide, but if it affects even one person positively and convinces them that we need to collect ourselves as a nation, then you have outdone yourself. Keep writing (or painting, or dancing, or speaking, anything expressive) guys, it's what the world needs. 

Thanks so much for reading as always, I'll be back next week.

-Jamie