I heard someone say this weekend that if you're listening to the same things that you listened to five years ago (or fifteen years ago etc), then you're not growing. And not growing is death to a musician.
This got me reflecting on what exactly I have been listening to lately. My current and past musical DNA if you will. Since moving to Nashville, I have definitely been challenged to "get into" things that I normally never would. Not because I would refuse to listen, more because I never would have been exposed to these new sounds in my former surroundings. I'll be honest, I don't love it all. But there are nuggets of greatness in almost everything. Every day, by being willing to listen to new things, I grow as a songwriter and a producer. Which in turn, helps me do a better job in realizing the dreams and goals of the artists I work with, gives me new inspiration and new techniques to try as a songwriter, and new vocabulary for this beautiful language we call music. From Eric Church, to Lourdes there are a lot of crazy and creative new ideas flying around, so I challenge you to listen to it all. The cool and the uncool. Eat it up, consume every dotted rhythm and inverted arpeggio, every auto tuned vocal, and every raspy whisper of Tom Waits.
I challenge you to listen to something you would never have "liked" before, in your past musical life, and write down five things that you like about the song. I'm going to do this right now with a Taylor Swift song (yup, thats right, T. Swift!) to see if I can prove my point, here we go (by the way, I've never heard this song before right now):
1. harmonics in the banjo in intro: who doesn't like harmonics!
2. guitars panned r and l at 1st vs: I'm a sucker for panned guitars, especially when they are doing the cool layering type of parts, not just out right strumming
3. the scarlet letter you were Juliet line is a good one in the 2nd vs: it stuck out to me, I couldn't type fast enough though to get all the words down right here.
4. the pizzicato in the violin at the breakdown: sometimes I forget that you can pick at the fiddle, you don't always need to bow it... a nice reminder
5. i like the simplicity of the instrumental, and how the fiddle sounds more like a guitar... a little coldplay in terms of the rhythm/phrasing: just a cool and creative instrumental break, not a solo per se, which is a nice change
Well, there are my 5 things. For the record, at first listen, I see why the song has over a million you tube views, it's catchy, it pulls at the ol heart strings... I think the song is good, but I don't necessarily like it. And really, whether or not I like it is irrelevant. The important part is that the next time I'm recording a banjo, maybe I'll think to have the banjo play with harmonics instead of the actual fretted note. Or maybe I'll ask the fiddle player to play it pizzicato instead. There is a whole big world of inspiration and ideas out there, we just have to be open and wise enough to know that we should be looking and listening for it in even the most unexpected of places. Once again, if you're only listening to the same music you listened to in your past, you're musically dying.
What song did you try the challenge with? What did you like about it?
ps: I have to congratulate Danny Sierra on releasing his first EP this week. Danny was the first artist that asked me to work with him when I moved here some months ago. He is an amazingly talented songwriter and singer... you can check him out at http://danielsierraleone.bandcamp.com Go Danny Go!