I’ve been trying to reconnect with the art of having fun making music.
Anyone that knows me well knows that making and performing music has been a big part of my life for, like, forever.
I had the support of some great musician friends to record an EP last year, but that project feels like it’s stalled. Which is disappointing. If only because I feel like I’m dishonouring the effort and creativity of the folks involved. It don’t treat that lightly.
But, to be honest, I’d forgotten the tremendous amount of energy and headspace required to do justice to a project like that. My previous efforts were all group efforts—with a band, where each member contributed some forward momentum to the process. This project felt different, as it was to record something akin to a “solo” project. And a lot of hard work. To co-ordinate. To write. To rehearse. To arrange. To perform. To mix. To promote. To turn it into “something”. Something of note. Something to carry forward. Something that begins something else.
After many years doing the whole “band thing”, I recognise and acknowledge that if you want to make it in the business, you have to treat it like a business. And after many years of trying to do that, I am at a point where I think I’ve worked out I don’t actually want it to be a business.
I want to reconnect with the feeling that I get when inspiration strikes. A sense that you are a conduit for something more. Something outside yourself.
That sense of flow that you get where you lose an hour evolving and developing a riff. A verse. A lyrical idea. An arrangement.
That sense of camaraderie that emerges from being in a room with other musicians and you create something that feels bigger than yourself.
A spark that begets a spark that is transformed into something to share. And when another human connects with that, to honour that mutual sense of connection. Of a shared experience, emotion, sentiment, imagery.
For the longest time I’d start a song, or a project, and enjoy that creative process. I’d enjoy the opportunity to get in front of an audience (with a bit of marketing and relationship building with venues/bookers etc.). And to experience all that.
Times have changed.
My professional life requires a lot more headspace.
To even get a gig now requires a solid Facebook following. And a guaranteed audience.
I get that. I understand.
But I’ve come to realise that’s not what I connect with music around.
So… letting go of some of that, I decided I need to revisit the sorts of behaviours that got me started. And to let go of some of the baggage around the whole “making music” thing.
A new song doesn’t have to be a launching point for an EP or recording project.
A jam doesn’t have to be the launching point for a band.
A performance doesn’t have to be at a commercial venue.
So, I’ve been attending the Western Fringe songwriting sessions here in Katoomba. Stewart Peters and Snez have been organising these for some time (and until recently they were running at Parramatta at, the now defunct, Mars Hill Cafe).
Watching Stewart and Snez perform at those sessions was inspiring. It reminded me about the “why?” A passion for connecting with the creative spirit. To express oneself. To enjoy the process.
Since I’ve started attending the sessions, two songs have flowed. Not a lot (esp. compared to what I used to produce), but a start. And I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the art. With that spirit. And having a small audience to share that with—not necessarily having to have it finished, polished, recorded, marketed, rehearsed, socialised via facebook et. al.
To just create. For the sake of it.
I was speaking to one of my besties the other day, and he was advocating the virtues of just woodshedding on your instrument. To find flow running scales, transcribing a favourite line, playing along with someone else’s work. And, importantly, not having to come up with something new.
There’s something very strongly appealing to me about that.
I remember many hours spent working out (and later transcribing) bass lines at home and at uni. ‘Shedding on scales and patterns from instructional videos from John Patitucci and other inspiring players. There was a joy. In the challenge. In the flow. In the developing of one’s own “voice” on the instrument, through understanding what you liked in others’. To find resonance with/in what others’ have got to say. And to pass that forward.
So I think I’ll be setting aside some time in the coming weeks to give it a go.
In the hope I can rekindle that connection to what is important to me about music.
To understand and process the world around me.
To express my emotions. To transform negative energy and experiences into something positive. (And to celebrate the positive stuff too.)