Music Blog

Week 12- "Thankful To Be Thankful"

Hello my friends, it looks like winter is finally here! If this ends up being a short article, it's because my fingers finally gave way to the cold and have unfortunately fallen off my hands. Solid starting joke, some A+ material (yes, it's sarcasm; go ahead, have your fun). 

Anyways, so this week will be less musical than most. This week tackles a mindset that I believe has been the most reliable tool for me in continuing to grow week to week as both a musician and a person. As I'm sure most of you know, this week is Thanksgiving. Now as those of who you know me would surely guess, I am not planning to get into the pro's and cons of the holiday. But what I will do is give a few things that I am thankful for, and more importantly, the way that I practice appreciation. Let me start here; Life was never meant to be perfect, and I do believe that if everyone made a list of all the troubles they had in their life, we would all have good reason to feel bad for our friends- but that's not how society works and not how any person who wants to better themselves should ever approach their life (So what was the point of that whole sentence? I could not quite tell you, but it's [probably] important). Here's what I am thankful for, and I think that you should be thankful for some of them too, they do not apply solely to me.

1. I have passion in my life. I have things I love to do, I have people I love, I have things I aspire to be. And I love those who have love. When we open our minds to the gift of pursuit, the magical feeling of chasing something rare or elusive, or being rewarded with the compassion of another human being, we are at our best. Start your day with a quick moment to appreciate that today is an opportunity. Always. Never stop keeping a place at the table for passion in your life (I guess I just tied that into Thanksgiving, but I don't think I meant to). 

2. I can learn from both failure's and successes. We have been given quite the blessing as a society, where we will be able to experience both scenarios. The question is, what follows? I've talked before about how I believe both should be handled. But at the core, you are always able to learn from it, whether you've advanced in life or you've been set back, there is a lesson, and you are now that much wiser. I get mad about failures, I do. I'm also elated by success. But regardless, I analyze my actions and I end up in a place of greater self awareness, and I know how thankful I should be to be able to have those experiences.

3. I have a beautiful dog at home. Nothing to add here. If you don't have a dog (or a cat, bird, fish, pterodactyl, etc.) at home, I would recommend you invest. 

4. I live in the community that best fits me. I have the blessing of attending the music school of my dreams, but believe it or not, this does not only apply there. It should never apply only to one place. You must take your positive attitude with you wherever you travel, because every single place on Earth has something to offer. Even if it's not perfect, there's upsides, and happy people are not happy by accident, they embrace their surroundings and enjoy life because that's their mindset. Your internal truth will always take precedent over your external, never forget to be the positive change that you wish you were part of.

5. We have a beautiful world to make our own. I hope that those who are struggling remember to look up at the sun and realize that the world still turns. I know there's unfathomable hurt and anguish in this world, but it will not stop unless we turn our minds to the positive future. There is always resources to turn to. Always a hand to hold. I offer mine to those who need it, I hope that those around me do the same. When we embrace each other, we can heal any wounds. I hope that you find the love in your heart going forward and be the best version of you that you can be.

Well, my laptop is slowly quitting on me, so I suppose it's time to end this weeks post. Thank you all for reading, have a lovely holiday!

-Jamie  

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 

Week 9- "What is 'Good' Music"?

So I've been trying to answer this question lately (Nope, there's no friendly intro to this, we're going full steam ahead my friends); "What makes music enticing? Why does some music stand out so easily"? To this point, I don't have anything concrete, but I've got a few strong feelings and well, what are blogs for right? Exactly, I don't really know either. Let's do this.

**WARNING; This post has a lot of quotes- I mean it, there's so many "Quotes". If it makes you more comfortable, say "Quote-Unquote" to yourself every time I use them, it'll be pretty entertaining.

It is impossible to say what "Good" music is. It's subjective at every turn. Now, moving past that, we can certainly distinguish strong, thoughtful, well-crafted music from the opposite (I bet you wanted me to call out a certain genre or artist here, but I respect Pop Punk and people like Lil Yachty too much to ever do that). What separates the top artists is the attention to detail, the undeniable confidence in the inner workings of the song. It's no accident that Top 40 songs become Top 40, and it's also not surprising that music from the 60's and 70's still lives on with us today- it's worth the loyalty and attention it garners. If I was going to get technical, I could pass everything off to just opinions and suggest that really none of them matter, but thats just plain untrue. Collective opinion determines the success of a song, no matter what level we're talking about. Now, I want to be very clear on this; If you're not writing for you, you're never going to truly love the song. There's exceptions, of course, if you actually are writing for another artist, but in this blog I like to assume that people are primarily writing for themselves and aiming to express themselves in their music. Realistically, we're human, we will not connect with every single song. Stop treating yourself like some sort of fruit that can be endlessly juiced. It's impossible to get deep with every song. But you should be always be trying. Contrary to popular belief, deep songs with a lot of emotion don't always have to make you feel vulnerable. You're an artist because you express what others have trouble with, don't shy away from your ability, embrace it! Your emotions, along with your flaws, your achievements, your mindset, your charisma, they all make your songs uniquely you. And realistically, that's where the "Strength" lies in the song. Does your audience hear the song? Or do they listenKnow the difference- when they hear your music, they should want to listen because it makes them feel something that they love feeling (and oh hell yes that can be sorrow too- just because people are afraid to be sad doesn't mean we don't all need moments to release a bit!). Authentic music speaks volumes (Ha music pun) over well produced music with the top musicians on the tracks. That's not to say that the sonic quality isn't extremely important- of course that matters towards your professionalism, but unfortunately spending time and money on those things for a song you don't truly believe in, well that's just a waste. I write more "Bad" songs than "Good" ones, but that's because my emotions don't always show up. When they do, however, I almost always end up with something I love, or at least a song with tangible raw potential. 

One of the issues that every artist will encounter is that your "Best" music is not your audiences "Best" music. So what do you do when the golden child song of yours gets an "Eh" (Hope you're still sticking with the quote plan here) response from your friends? First off, do not get angry. The reality is their reaction to your song is not their reaction to you as a person. If they're giving you an honest opinion, you thank them and then you reflect. Trust me, it's not them misunderstanding you. The people listening to your music are the ones who dictate where that music will end up, and they should not have to work hard to like it. If you feel like you still know better than them, maybe you should watch this video from a pretty successful guy who explains this a bit more in depth. The reality is if people aren't responding to the music that you believe in, and you've covered the bases on production and you're not sure what else to do with the song, then chances are you're not giving the most honest representation of yourself. I've made the mistake for years of basing my songs off the feedback I receive and never considering that I'm not trying to change internally. You can dress up a song to be perfect for a listener and they could still quite easily tell you it's not their favorite, because really I think they will know that it's not where YOUR heart is. I can tell this is getting more and more unclear, so to summarize; MAKE MUSIC YOU LOVE BEFORE EXPECTING OTHERS TO LOVE IT. And if they still don't love it? You keep writing what you love, because there's an audience out there for it that has been waiting years to find someone like you. 

Well, that's my article for this week. I hope you "Enjoyed" (I'm thinking about removing the quote button from my keyboard for next week) it! Let me know what you think makes a song great! Thanks!

-Jamie

P.S. No one tell Lil Yachty about this article, seriously, I respect him so much.