Wednesday, March 31, 2010

To sum up...

Here's a summary of a really long blog post that I read but deleted for being too long:

- I am made to make stuff. 

- I create because I am a creation in the image of a Creator, and my DNA compels me to imitate that creative process.

- Though they are not all that different, I have always treated visual art and music very differently in terms of the creative process. 

- Visual art was about exploration and play and was process-driven; music was about performance and coolness and was product-driven.

- This has been an obvious (but completely earth-shattering) revelation to me.

- I have never considered with visual art that it's wrong when I don't know what I'm doing ahead of time. It's really just about making stuff. And while much of it hasn't been anything special; a few things (like my one-man seesaw; or, as I call it, the "Mee-Saw") were pretty decent. But the end result was not something I had a grip on at the outset.

- Music making has been the opposite. I am paralyzed when I sit down to write or record. There are decisions to make, and they must be the right ones. I must adhere to some rules that may or may not really exist, at least to me. Rules about how things should sound or what-instrument-goes-where-in-a-song. 

- I used to play guitar in my room for hours, recording into the tiny mic input of a boombox while trying to figure out how to record the sound of my guitar amp being played through a box fan without recording all the fan noise, too. I failed at that, by the way. Now I tend to want to write some chords and verses and map the whole thing out before I even play a note.

- That last sentence shows me how off I've been. Music is inherently mathematical, so yeah, there are some things any good musician needs to know. Things like what-chords-are-in-the-key-of-A. But...

I'm just saying that the concept of exploration and play is in there, too. And that my DNA is telling me not to ignore it anymore.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Um, about "giving up"

Okay, so I'm not giving up completely. I guess I didn't do a very good job of being clever as a writer with my last post (or maybe it was way longer than the limits of attention span).

Either way, allow me to clarify:

I love music, and I will certainly continue to write and record it as long as I have the ability to do so.

That post was really about a realization that more than a ways to make a living (or to attempt to make a living), music is a very essential part of my life. It helps me have some semblance of balance as a human. In short, if I don't make music, everything gets out of whack. I need to make music.

Now since writing and recording (and occasionally performing) songs is something that keeps me sane, I have decided to give my time to it in the most healthy way I can. And for me this means I'm not shooting for a career at it, nor am I looking to make any real money from it. Somehow this feels great - I get to do what I love without the parts that really dragged me down.

It also frees me up to see if there are ways in which the art I make (notice I said "art" and not "music") can do something. You know, raising money and awareness for people and organizations that are doing what Jesus did - healing the sick, caring for the marginalized folks around us, and generally looking to do for others instead of ourselves. Things that resonate closely to my own heart.

More on all this as things come to pass. Of course, they may not come to pass. I guess you'll have to wait and see. Or not - that's what freedom is kind of about. Just know that though my musical output as been pretty nonexistent for a while, I have been writing and demoing new stuff for since February of last year. It's been slow, and it's kind of different, but I'm the most excited about my own music now than I've been since Alive in the Fall.

I hope you'll stick around to see what comes of it, but hey, if not, thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm giving up

On a music career. You know, the one I never really had or wanted.

Giving up isn't bad at all, really, if what we're giving up are the things that keep us from being truly alive. Seth Godin wrote a book a while back called The Dip which at its core was about knowing when to quit doing the things that don't work to the sometimes radical changes that will help you to get out of "the dip." Now, he's writing mostly about business and marketing, but I think the sentiment is applicable in a broader sense, too.

For me, this translates (naturally) into music. [Just as an aside, I tend to take EVERYTHING to two places to make some sense of them: 1.) To sports. Nearly everything under the sun can be illustrated to some degree by a good sports analogy and 2.) To the world of music and the music business. So now you know.] More to the point here, I spent a few years trying to do music the way you were "supposed" to, though I suppose my motivations were not so much in building a career for myself as a musician but rather an organization (a platform) with which I could help other musicians make careers for themselves. 

But before I could help anyone, I felt that I needed to see if I could actually do it myself, and so I did the things musicians are supposed to do. You know, trying to build a fanbase, touring all over the place, having a cool haircut, etc. And while I had a blast making albums (even the low-fi "Flavor" ones I did at home), I never felt like the things I was doing really fit, nor was my haircut awesome enough. My efforts always seemed more like a means to an end (the "end" being a vault of experience that I could use to help other folks who did have awesome music and haircuts), but ultimately I was never successful at that part because it wasn't really something for which I felt a true passion. I was trying to shoehorn my foot into an ill-fitting shoe, and in the end, all I got out of it was a funny walk.

So here, months after I gave on trying to learn to walk in the wrong shoes, I am free to pursue and create music (and other things) with my heart. No more trying to build a fanbase. No more playing anywhere and everywhere just because I felt I had to have something to do (and to promote). No more personal branding. No more music business. No more "bigger and bigger" but more "smaller and smaller." Ah... it feels good.

Now, a couple of things I need to say here at the end. One, I'm not trying to discourage you or anyone from pursuing a career in music if that's what you want to do. Seriously. Go do it. Now. And two, if you choose, you could probably look at my "career" and surmise that I'm writing this blog post in this way because I wasn't talented enough to "make it" anyway. Well, you may be right. 

But I also know now at the age of 31 that during the ten years that I tried to "do the music thing," I never once felt like I was doing something natural as a touring performing artist. Writing songs? Yes. Recording? Definitely. Building relationships through music? More please. But trying to "make it?" Nope. I mean, I ran a nonprofit for crying out loud.

So your road may lead you to being the world's next big rock band. I will cheer you on, knowing that I was not made to do what you do. Also, please remember to thank your mom when you win your first Grammy. But I'm excited now that my own road is in a direction of dropping the baggage of what I'm "supposed" to do to make the music I've always wanted to make, to play with the ideas I've always had of how to set it free into the world, and to hopefully build deeper bonds of friendship and brotherhood with the community of other artists I am blessed to have in my life. The art - the music - gets to exist on its own without me having to constantly pimp it out to anyone within earshot or feeling the pressure of making it support me financially. 

I read this this morning from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest:

"Paul [the apostle, not the Beatle - j.] is like a musician who does not need the approval of the audience if he can catch the look of approval from his Master."

I would say if I can do that, I will have been successful at my music. So here's to giving up on the things that never fit and giving my art (and myself) over to something better.

More to come. 

I think.

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