Your music is great. You are a genius. You are better than everyone else.
Keep telling yourself that, hold your breath and see what happens. We’ll wait. There are millions of musicians around the world vying for attention but none of them are as talented as you. Amazing how many musicians actually say that out loud on a daily basis. That’s why they live in their parents basement, have no money and have done one gig in the last year; because they are so in demand. They are too good for anyone to like their music. The ignorant masses don’t recognize their supernatural talent so they must live in obscurity. They don’t dare reach out, create an online presence, talk to potential fans, or grace the clubs with their incredible talent. No one will understand them. Yawn.
How do you know that you are the best? How much music do you listen to on a daily basis from around the world? Do you know 90% of the songs ever written and could you perform them for us right now? Without diving into music discovery every day in every genre, you are a dinosaur. The music you are writing isn’t unique, brilliant and ground breaking because you have no sense of history. Have you listened to the masters of jazz, blues, rock, soul, pop, gospel, R&B, classical, Urban and every genre in between? You can’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you’ve been. Music has a rich history and thousands of fearless pioneers broke sacred ground before you. Their music and their stories are important and necessary in order to create something new and innovative. How can you say, “What I’m doing has never been done before,” if you never listen to anybody else’s music? It’s probably been done to death and done a thousand times better than you. Wake up!
All great artists borrow from the giants that came before them. We are influenced every day by incredible songs that have marked important moments in our life. Your first kiss, your first serious relationship, the first time you___________….well first whatevers are burned into your brain by the music that was the backdrop for those amazing moments. Those songs mean the world to you and nothing can tarnish those memories. That’s what you are making, memories to mark time in the lives of your fans. So that music needs to be undeniable, incredible, and without question powerful. It must be brilliant. The only way to really know if your music is great, is to put it out to the fans and see what happens. And before you do, you better have heard tons of other people’s music so you know for sure that you have fantastic content. Stop deluding yourself about your talent and actually listen with an open mind to what is happening now.
“Now. Now. Now. It’s all about NOW.” – J. Buckley
Jeff Buckley was an innovator. He had a signature sound that was ground breaking and so distinctive that 16 years after his untimely death, artists are still trying to emulate that ethereal sound. So who influenced Buckley? Jeff was influenced by a wide variety of artists. A few include, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Edith Piaf, Judy Garland, Nina Simone, MC5, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Genesis, Weather Report, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Patti Smith, The Cocteau Twins, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Merle Haggard, Aretha Franklin, The Pixies, David Bowie, Sebadoh, Stevie Wonder and Louis Armstrong. If you listen carefully, you can hear flashes of all these artists in his work. But when he took a song and made it his own; it was undeniable. In case you never listen to any music other than your own, here is Buckley’s phenomenal interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
It’s tough to listen to any other version after hearing Buckley’s. Ridiculous, stunning work. But you are better than him, we forgot for a moment.
Another ground breaking artist who left us too soon is Amy Winehouse. Her quirky blend of jazz, soul, pop and R&B took everyone by surprise. With her sly delivery and signature vocal sound you knew the second you heard a Winehouse tune that this song was going to take you somewhere you had never been before. So who influenced Winehouse? In a candid interview recorded at the Other Voices festival in Dingle in 2006 edited and extracted by The Guardian, Winehouse said, “When I was younger, I didn’t really listen to a lot of soul. But in the last year I got really into Motown girl groups. I liked Otis Redding from 14 or 15, but I listened to hip-hop and jazz for so many years. It goes jazz, soul, Motown, then hip-hop. Obviously, I’ve gone in the middle.”
Listen to her amazing rendition of, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” with Paul Weller. Killer. She totally commands the stage.
The reason that video has over two million views is because it’s amazing. Period. You want something to go viral? Be amazing.
Jay-Z is one of the most influential and powerful artists of our generation. “The Blueprint” is a masterpiece. Timeless. So who influenced Jay-Z from a young age? In this interview with MTV, a young Jay-Z speaks to those that came before him:
Back in 1998, Jigga revealed that his earliest exposure to music came from his parents’ extensive collection of vinyl. “I grew up around music, listening to all types of people,” he said. “I used to listen to old music like Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and things like that. I’m into music that has soul in it, whether it be rap, R&B, pop music, whatever. As long as I can feel their soul through the wax, that’s what I really listen to.”
Jay-Z is all hype you say and can’t touch what I’m doing. Check out “No Church in the wild” a genius collaboration with Kanye West and then say that again with a straight face. The innovator Frank Ocean is also featured on this track. Ocean was a ghost writer for years before he decided to take the fantastic music he had been writing for others and launch his own solo recording career.
You need to get educated about music history. Before you talk a big game, know what you’re talking about. Your ego is getting in the way of your art. Listen to everything you can get your hands on, old and new, then go back to the recording studio and start over. You aren’t the chosen one; you might not even be mediocre. Until you can play and perform every song out there ever written, stop talking and start creating. We will decide if it’s any good. You think you know more than everyone else on the planet? ”You say you got a real solution Well, you know we’d all love to see the plan…”