Thursday, August 27, 2015

Some call it Maize

I call it corn.  By that I mean what I write and record is what others call music, but I call it doing the best I can with what I've got.  I don't claim to be good, nor do I claim to want to be any better than I'm going to be.  I get a kick out of being the best I can, knowing full well that what I do is make up songs, most of which are not that great, and I'm comfortable with that.  I think what I write are songs, and what I record is music, and it may or may not be called something else by someone else.

In my last post I wrote about what it means to call yourself a songwriter, and I want to make it clear I don't take it so seriously that I pretend I'm something I'm not.  It's just a word, and whether I ever sell a song or become rich and famous from it, I can feel good calling myself a songwriter.  Even if I never play my music in front of people.  Actually, when in a group setting where people I gave my CDs to decide to play them in my presence, I cringe.  Not sure why.  I like making the recordings, but a part of me doesn't want to hear them played back with others around.

It's okay to suck and be happy sucking at something.  Others may not like it, and I completely understand that.  They might say I produced something good, or something bad, but it's still sounding close to resembling music.  I know my limitations, I know what doesn't sound right and what can be improved in my recordings, even after I've done the best I could.  It's hard to make people understand that.  Sometimes you lose some magic spirit when you keep doing something over and over again until you get it perfect.  It's better to go with the flow, re-do a few things here and there, get it close to what you envisioned, and call it good.

Be Happy Being Bad

I say go ahead and be terrible, know it, own it, and do it anyway because it pleases you.  It's probably rare to be bad at something, yet have a passion for it anyway.  I say there's nothing wrong with that at all.  What you have that more gifted people might not have as much of is that very passion.  Take whatever level of skill you do have and work with it.  It's what makes you unique.  Whether it's your creativity for lyrics or melodies, technical instrument playing, perfect pitch, etc., its not the level you're at, but rather, it's what you decide to do with it. 

It is entirely possible for you as an intelligent human being to be an appreciator and connoisseur of music - to know what's commonly considered good and popular and what's not.  It's also possible for you to choose to look on the bright side of your own levels as compared with the ideals you understand.  So that when you realize you're quite far apart from that high-set bar as a discerning listener, you do not view it as so much of a negative that you give up trying.  Try hard, and perhaps fail miserably, and recognize it, then rethink how you think about the failure to the point that you only see the good, and the potential for more.

No Need To Rush Into It

Everyone has to start somewhere, and not everyone progresses at the same pace.  Take it slow, take it easy, let it come to you, let it flow out of you.  Keep it natural, don't force it.  If you're not feeling it, move on to something else.  Wait until the mood strikes you, and then harness the power of the moment as best you can.  Making something out of nothing ... a song from a blank piece of paper and quietness.  You have certain gifts, certain abilities, certain talents.  You can never be great at everything.  If you're like me, your singing voice is politely called "interesting" by others who've heard it.  Hey, that's something, at least.  Stay positive, and be thankful for what you do have.

Why Not Continue When You Can Amaze Yourself

Making music is fun for me.  Why would I stop?  No reason.  If you are able and feel the urge, do what you can, when you can.  Find time, make time, do it, make it happen.  It is magic, this thing we call music.  I am amazed by it.  What others would call noise that I make, I call it magic.  It's astounding to me sometimes to come up with what I do.  It's beyond physical.  It's spiritual for me, and it's gathering up invisible forces that exist in the world and working with them to your advantage.  Taking particles and rearranging them with unexplainable power...that's what music making is to me.

Amazing Others May Never Happen

If you're like me, a few people close to you in your life who know you well have given you positive feedback about your music, and you actually trust them.  If they liked something you did too about your music, isn't that a huge momentum-building bonus?  It must be.  It might be jokingly what you refer to as not being so great, but it is also you admitting to shortcomings and imperfections, but liking the overall result - the collective good parts that make the thing you created pleasant to hear.  Even when they didn't interpret it as you did, if others liked the parts or aspects that you yourself also liked, then you've got something important.  You've made something someone else enjoyed.  You've made their lives better because of it, however small a contribution.

Studio Dreams

The method of delivering songs to people for me is making recordings and letting people choose to discover and listen to them.  All of my songs can be streamed free, and if you want to purchase them, you can.  This seems to be the modern model.  Everyone and their brother has a home computer-based recording studio nowadays, and I am proud to say I was among the first wave of people to do such a thing.  It's where I can be alone and make things up.  It's also where I can take the time to get it right - that is, to get it sounding slightly better than how it would sound if I played it for you live and in person.  A big factor with this is I'm able to record multiple tracks with multiple vocals and instruments (all my own), and blend them to my liking.  This I couldn't do as a solo performer or even with a band, it wouldn't necessarily come out sounding how I envisioned it.  Would the recordings be any better if I practiced them live and solo in front of people a hundred times first?  Due to unlimited "takes" available in multitrack digital recording studios, I agrue no.

To Perform Or Not To Perform

Seasoned performers advocate performing to songwriters who are not.  By that I mean that in my life I've run across many different circles of songwriters most of whom cut their teeth and paid their dues playing covers in live settings for many years prior to writing their own songs.  They think their path was one all songwriters should take.  Although I was at one time in my life a live cover song performer on and off for a few short years, I gave it up a long time ago, and other songwriters don't understand why, and when I remind them I'm a terrible singer, they say I shouldn't care and should get back out there anyway, due to the value of audience feedback.  I would argue that many of the best and most beloved Beatles songs came after they decided to stop playing live and focus on songwriting.  Like anything, I advocate for doing it to be better, as in "do songwriting to get better at songwriting."  I'm more like the late career Beatles in that way...I decided long ago to hunker down in my home studio and write and record songs.

No Yearning To Be Heard, Just A Slight Hope

Having people appreciate your music is a great thing when you're a songwriter, but it doesn't need to come from being a live performer.  There's no need for people to take it so seriously that they believe you can't call yourself a songwriter unless you become well known, or have popularity in one way or another.  It's a craft, and a hobby, and it's fun.  To me, I have fun with it, and I call it what I call it - writing and recording songs.  That's what I do.  If regular performers want to call what I do something different than that, I don't have a problem with it.  I call it what I want.  I do only what I want.  It's a creative outlet and I like the parts of it I like.  It's my free time.  I don't feel this burning desire to get polite applause and kind compliments from playing my songs in a bar or coffee place in front of people.  Wanting it bad is something that comes from within.  I don't need people to hear my music badly enough to make time for getting gigs or showing up to open mic nights anymore.  I'm happy enough writing and recording songs the best I can and putting them out there and hoping they'll be discovered and liked, while realistically knowing not much of that will happen.  I'm cool with that.