Musicians Don’t Like Music
There are not many singers I spend time with outside of a musical context. Part of what makes a lead singer is that in their mind everything is about them. Everything. If you get an email from a singer the words ‘me’ ‘my’ and ‘I’ will appear scores of times and the words ‘you’ or ‘yours’ will appear maybe twice.
Of course that is the thing which makes them what they are…..how many van drivers would want to strip naked in front of a thousand people and talk passionately about their life, their troubles and their fears?
Working on music then singers are my favourite people in the world provided that they are fully obsessed and absorbed in what they are creating.
It’s important to be aware that you are making music for other people but you do that before you start work. Once you are committed to a project I feel better totally ignoring the market. In my case of course that is because with a recording at least a year will elapse before it hits the outside world and so any attempt to follow the market is null and void by then. In fact the best approach for me is to make the music timeless. That get’s around the problem completely.
What I love about the scene now is that with DIY and online social networking sites you can make a track on Monday and put it out to the world the same evening….that topicality gets us right back to the poets, troubadours and minstrels who took up the day’s or the week’s issues and sang them there and then. Nice.
You need to find the centre of where an artist is if you are going to do them justice in the studio. All artists have a heart….a centre, however eclectic their output may seem. Once you find the heart you can radiate out safely in any direction you want but if you don’t know where the heart is the music will have no soul and the public will instinctively feel this and turn away.
You should always make the best record you can. Always. Then you are entitled to do absolutely anything to draw attention to it….ride naked down the street on a horse….whatever you like….dye your hair, wear silly glasses….that’s part of the process of saying ‘listen to me’. Journalists and singers with no art confuse this in thinking it means ‘look at me’. It doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that.
I’m not a fan of musical elitism particularly from journalists. If anything makes me laugh out loud it’s a music journalist telling the world that Michael Jackson is crap….how can you announce that 40 million people like crap? It’s arrogant and nonsense.
Musicians do this a lot and I do understand why….it’s a thing they have. William F Buckley Jr said ‘central to a musician’s life is disappointment’. This is entirely true...
I actually personally dislike most music a great deal. There are whole genres which make me run from the room with my hands over my ears…very dangerous when you’re blind so go figure how strongly I am feeling. There is a tiny minority of music which I absolutely adore. I think that’s the normal reaction of most musicians. If a person announces ‘I love music’ just like that I immediately know they are probably not a musician. However this means that a musician cannot possibly know what it’s like to be a ‘music lover’…we just can’t understand that.
Very few musicians of great depth and talent love the world’s most popular music. That’s just how it is and that’s the struggle and that’s the disappointment. The music they feel most strongly about just doesn’t sell. That’s all right but it’s not all right to claim you have the moral high ground or some greater understanding. It’s the exact opposite. You have a worse understanding. That’s why very few musicians have led successful record companies. They don’t get it.
I have always been drawn to highly commercial music as an art form. I think it’s partly because as a blind man I always knew I had to earn a living from it….driving a bus just wasn’t an option. It’s also partly because I like the idea of communicating something to a mass audience as a spiritual thing which moves absolutely everyone. This goes back to childhood and church. I don’t like god or gods but I did always have a powerful sense that a whole church full of people, heads bowed, sharing the same humble thoughts about those suffering around us was instinctively the right thing to be doing and that such a mass conscience might have an incomprehensible and spiritual dimension which might actually make something happen.
A great three minute song which says something and which communicates to a mass audience can make something happen.