Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Search of Truth

As i sit here at 9pm on a Sunday evening, about to consume a Banana prior to a long night gigging (yes i said prior.. my gig starts at 10pm!) i wanted to reflect on some discussions i have had with my producer lately.

Dave Thompson is a very insightful man, and very much has become a mentor to me. I am blessed i have a few mentors in my life that i trust and listen to- not always agree with, however always process their opinions, taking the time to consider them thoughtfully. We have been talking very much about discovering truth in music, quite specifically 'your' truth in music. And for me this is a process of discovery every time i sit down to write, and especially in the studio. I think back to all the covers gigs i have done and although i impart a sense of me in to those gigs (the show man) i am merely portraying like an actor my interpretation of someone's writing. The real question lies in, how do i portray my own writing. This is something i am still coming to terms with. It is also important to consider how you portray your own writing in a commercial medium that requires a deal of specificity and stylistic confinement. There is a beat- it must be kept not changed, you would think this is indeed the essence as Dave would say to all music, Rhythm, but in covers gigs one can vary this from phrase to phrase, chorus to chorus, verse to verse depending on what you are trying to achieve- usually some form of drunken engagement to lonely souls, or souls out to have fun with their friends with what you are doing not foremost in their minds. But pop/rock music has a specific rhythm- it must be felt in the bones and kept. The melody has to sit on top of this rhythm, to serve the rhythm, in fact i think it is a mutual kind of respect for each other.. they serve each other and no one else. When the melody and rhythm serve each other that is where the feeling, the idea, the message, the magic comes from. If you have killer lyrics as well then maybe you might just change the world, or change people's hearts with that philosophy. Will Smith's daughter's ridiculous new song 'i throw my hair all around' is a prime example of a catchy catchy melody on a stringent powerful groove... for me it still gets me and is swimming around in my head.. unfortunately i think it's for the worse as the lyrical content doesn't connect. But this great book i am reading about Bob Dylan raises a great point on this subject. Dylan was asked about his change from folk to rock music (although he doesn't define either, or doesn't feel he belongs or ever has belonged to either). He said that rock music is different than folk music in the sense that rock music let's you escape for 2-3 minutes on a groove into another place, with catchy rhythm, you are not faced with any world changing message, you are just implanted with enjoyment. I guess Lil' Smith's song is what this is. Pure escapism. Maybe Lady Gaga as well- but its still great music, don't get me wrong, it's just not necessarily the sort of music i want to create. Traditional Folk music however is a thinking constant engagement. You can't just chill out like you can to Bob Seeger's Old Time Rock n Roll, or Chuck Berry's Johnny Be Goode.

So this is what i am learning. I don't want to be Lil' Smith and create catchy rhythmic melody trash to sell records. But i need to take some tips from this music, and harness the energy of rhythm and melody together to create strong phrasing in my writing and especially my delivery to connect with the heart and soul of each song i write. And this is where i believe that truth is found. Its not a huge high kick or spirit fingers done in a lounge to backgroundingly entertain drunk people.

Dave explained that modern pop/rock music by songwriters is effective when the performance is more introverted. It's not just about show. Its about giving one's soul simply through the song. Think of Radiohead, Oasis, and any great singer songwriter. There are show elements between songs, in some solos, but when they step up to the mic (even Bono and Freddie Mercury who are very much show men) they fucking give it right down that cord and into your heart. You are drawn in to their truth and the world of their song.

For an extrovert, hooked on over playing in lounges, this perhaps is going to be the greatest challenge, yet most rewarding in my artistic career.

Always search for truth. Inwardly then give it Outwardly from that place.

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