For a certain type of musician whatever they can do isn’t good enough.
New people to piano have difficulty playing hands together. One forgets how real a complication that is in the early days. Their faces look at me like I’m asking them to step onto the ledge of the CN tower.
The interesting thing is when they do get there, when they can play hands together, they already moved on. I might say hey look you can do it! They don’t care now they’re on fire about what I did in my right hand or my left hand or a record they heard and want to know how it was done.
The brain works like that. It’s as though it always wants to compare where you are with where you wish you were.
Some people realize the great lesson learned from this. They know whatever they set their sights on they can learn, they know to be patient and stay the course and maybe there’s another lesson in there too.
It’s like the music business is a machine with an invisible door and people try to locate the knob. They go to school hoping someone can tell them where that handle is but it’s invisible. Yet you might get in and if so you have a golden opportunity to try to accomplish whatever your music fantasies were because it’s an invitation only party and if you’re inside you can play.
Thinking about this while listening to a retrospective on the radio on Bob Dylan’s birthday filled with a zillion people covering Dylan which is no surprise because he’s a brilliant writer but I started thinking about the fact that because he got inside he had so many opportunities. We all know someone who’s a special unique writer who isn’t inside and they are not noticed… probably die in obscurity.
An older music manager once told me that in early years people had heard a bit about Dylan but he was not the big deal he became until Peter Paul and Mary did Blowin’ In The Wind. Same goes for Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen who’s careers became huge after Judy Colllins covered Both Sides Now and Suzanne. Maybe the lesson there is if you have any access to more commercial people –
If you’re a songwriter and somehow you find yourself inside the machine you should realize
Don’t assume there is no expiry date on the power and privilege that comes with being invited to an exclusive party.
Never give up your publishing it is your future, your retirement, your ticket to not working at Long & McQuade (don’t hate me people at L&M).
Try to get your music covered. The more it’s played the more other people, other than fans you already have, get to discover you.
The difference between these two versions always makes me smile.
Teacher: Try to figure out why these three songs are grouped together?
(Teacher projects lyrics onto projection screen & plays songs)
Pusher Man by Curtis Mayfield,
Free Man In Paris by Joni Mitchell
Lonely At The Top by Randy Newman
Student 1: They’re in the same key?
Student 2: They’re all about people on drugs.
Teacher: How did you get that?
Student 2: Just a wild guess.
Teacher: Listen a little harder please and tell me what’s similar?
Student 3: They happen in different cities.
Teacher: Maybe … but still not what I was trying to point you to hear in this course. It’s about songwriting remember?
Student 4: The songwriter isn’t the actual person telling the story.
Teacher: Then what are they
Teacher: Right. They’re someone else.
Student 5: Why do that?
Teacher: Because you can do anything you want in a song. Because it allows you to say something in a different way than if you are saying it as yourself. Because maybe they’re bored with the usual ways they write? Let’s make an assignment – write something from a character’s point of view.
Student 6: That’s too hard.
Teacher: That’s too hard?
Student 6: I always write from my point of view.
Teacher: Then that’s a reason to try this.
Student 6: I only know myself.
Teacher: Take someone else you know. You think I’m unfair sometimes right?
Student 6: You’re always unfair.
Teacher: Thanks, okay write a song as though you’re me being the unfair person I am.
Student 6: Do I get a bad mark if I make you look bad?
(insert Planet of the Apes soundtrack while teacher ponders answer)