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If you want to make great music make sure you surround yourself with musicians who are better than you are….

January 22, 2016 2 comments

If you want to make great music make sure you surround yourself with musicians who are better than you are.

Because you know what you don’t know. You know what you want to sound like but can’t. You may not brag about your shortcomings, but you sure as shit know what they are.

If you’re the best musician in the room…..your head is already hitting the ceiling.

When I write songs they don’t have notes in them that I can’t hit or guitar parts in them that I can’t play. On the surface that’s just common sense. But what if the song would be better if it contained a note I can’t hit or a lick I can’t play? And believe me….that’s a shit ton of notes.

Hmmm.

That’s where the cats who are better than you come in.

So somebody adds a killer harmony vocal and another dude nails a nasty little 5 note hook at the speed of sound…..and everybody thinks….”gee….what a great song.”

‘Cause that’s how it works. We “play” music….we don’t “work” it. And playing alone sucks unless you have multiple personality disorder….and even then it can get creepy.

The best songwriters in the world surround themselves with better musicians…..because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be the best songwriters in the world.

Our area is filled with great musicians. Name-dropping can be dick-ish so I won’t go there…but a part of me really really want to because I feel honored to be in the same room with these guys. Guys (and gals) who are good enough to play anywhere with anybody. I’m leery of anybody who looks like they’re working hard when they make music. The names I ain’t dropping might be working hard….but they never sweat..

I never think about the business side of music. Admirable self-denial I know…as my mail-box isn’t exactly overflowing with royalty checks. But still….it seems rather odd to make original music for 25 years without expecting some type of return on the investment. Even home gardeners get to look out the window and watch the fucking rutabagas grow. All I get is watching the un-sold CDs pile up in the basement. The last time I checked my mentally deranged cat shit in one of the boxes….which must mean something but I shudder to think of what that might be.

300_2466910I might get discouraged for a few days. A few weeks even…..when I’m playing rusted guitar strings ‘cause I can’t afford the $5.75 for new ones. But eventually the sun rises….I get myself a new set of Earthwood light gauges from a soggy $10 bill left over from a paid bar tab….and I grab a notepad and pen and write another song. Not because I think this is gonna be the one that pays for the house that the bank is nice enough to let me live in for 30 years….but because writing songs is what I do. Just like the guy who grows rutabagas.

I feel very self-conscious performing. It doesn’t come naturally. I tell myself I’m going to do A, B, and C and I get onstage and mumble something (usually my name) and do X, Y, and Z and try not to get heart palpitations. If there comes an opportunity to take a genuine chance….I won’t because that’s how self-conscious performers perform. When writing I’m totally free…nothing is off the table….there are no rules. I ignore the basics of structure and phrasing and how many words are allowed to be jammed into a line (ask anyone…the answer is “lots”). I’ll attempt to go around the world with 3 chords…..and if I feel like navigating side roads maybe I’ll stick a capo on the third fret. I’m badass that way. I can do all of this, of course, because nobody is watching me at the kitchen table. If you feel self conscious when you’re alone you probably need pharmaceuticals.

Writing is solitary. When I’m asked to co-write a song…..I get all nervous….because I’m not alone anymore. So the only way I can do it is by dividing by 2. I’ll write the words and send them off for a tune….or I’ll take a finished lyric and add a tune to it. Either way I’m up for….and love being a part of. Sitting knee to knee with a co-writer freezes me. I can go in another room and write you a verse, or come up with a simple melody…but not if you are staring at me.

Music is life. And music shared is not having to live that life alone.

And really….how cool is that?

In a bit..

–tf

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