Last week, I went up to Manchester then Perth in Scotland to do two University masterclasses. Luckily for me, neither of them were billed to specifically, so I got to get up and play a bit, then talk about a mixture of musical things and business things. The reaction was largely wonderful, as I’ve already mentioned, and I’ve had quite a few nice messages via email and myspace from the students saying that they were inspired to think differently about their career, their creative path and what it is to be a musician… That’s magic, and I’m delighted that what I was TRYING to say actually got through…
Here’s a summary of a few of the things I was telling them – much of it was the same as I posted here last week –
College is the only place where you get the time and space be absurdly creative without considering how to pay the bills – it may be that you’re having to work a job to pay your way through college (I did for a while), but your actual college time should give you space to do the kind of absurd creative things that you probably won’t have much time for once you’re in a band that’s trying to get gigs and find their niche. You’ll have some time for it then, I hope, just not as much. So make the most of it.
Being a great musician is not guarantee of work – I know lots of great musicians who aren’t making a living at it, and a fair few shitty ones who are millionaires. So think about the business now, think about what’s important to you now, start thinking like someone who is going to spend their life making music now. Cos the only concrete difference between you as a student and me as a ‘pro’ is purely financial. The rest is perception.
Music is way too important to be wasted on fame – fame is, by and large, the penalty you pay for musical success. If your aim is to be famous, write to Trisha about your unnatural love for large breed dogs, don’t devalue music in your own life and that of the people around you by trying to use it to chase fame. The chances of you finding ‘fame’ are minute, and when you get there, you’ll probably hate it… So instead, look for a way to make money playing the music you love. It is possible. Tough, but possible.
If you were there, can you think of any other things I said that helped? Oh, yes, I talked about finding your voice as a player, and made my regularly made point that if you’re looking to absorb an influence, don’t write music that sounds like their music, aim to write music that makes you feel the way their music makes you feel – it’s no use me trying to sound like Joni Mitchell, or else people will just say ‘he sounds like Joni Mitchell’ – no-one says that about Joni, or if they do it’s a way of highlighting her originality, not her derivativeness! Instead, when I listen to Hejira, I try to be aware of what I feel like, what mood it evokes, what it is about it that makes it such a special record. And I try to embody some of that honesty, integrity, transparency and narrative clarity in my own music…by