This is a topic which has haunted me for ages now. Well maybe not quite that level of drama, but it is still among one of those top reoccurring convo starters that drifts forwards and back, ebbing and flowing. Its not hard to imagine a scenario where you see someone on tv or the radio, web, whatever.. and you say to yourself, this is exactly what i want to do.
From that point onwards, you maybe use their music or genre as a “study” of sorts. Try and glean as much about them as you can. Eat,drink and think like someone who has trod a path you crave to emulate. But its not just the world of childhood hero worshipping, its far far greater a thing than that ever was. In retrospect, i did spend years (much like millions of others), air guitaring on anything that you could fashion into a guitar, addressing an imaginary stadium, and fondly picturing a life of sex, drugs and rock n roll.
If their was a desire template, that would at least sum up a high ratio of 13 year old boys.
It was most certainly me!!
But in the years that roll by, nothing changes.Maybe the medium in which you soak up your heros and the way we now interact with all manner of media, thus making it impossible not to latch onto something out there,abeit drowning in overloaded input.Like your breaking your own server in the process.
The area which fascinates me is professional career emulation. Their is a huge divide between watching a million online courses, attending shows and talks, listening to whatever the latest interweb preacher has to say putting his and your world to rights, and soaking up some healthy influence. Adding some fuel to the tank.
Its what we do isnt it? We are supposedly a vessel of all we listen to and like gigantic sponges of youthful enthusiasm, we regurgitate all our best recorded chops and tricks through the channels of our own creative juices.
We siphon and are left with the pulp that along with our musical decision making, our raw emotions on that day, we craft something that hopefully becomes our own voice.
Our own version of ourselves filtered through millions of moments we live and breath, through endless memories and reactions. Impulses and the moments the hairs stood up on the back of our necks.
But being told to and preached to about how to do this, does this not feel like a degree of separation too far?
Can you truly be moulded by others who have either carved out their own path or emulated others on the basis of their complex life decisions and experience?
But i say this as someone who has fell into that trap. I was lured in and on so many occasions did i feel empty in the process. It came and went in many forms too.
From listening and learning from mentors around me, to believing imbittered rants of loony tunes musicians who have lived so many colossal ups and downs in their lives, surely they know exactly what they are talking about? surely……
I guess you could look at this in so many ways covering so many facets.
Do we all need to walk down the road of a solid college education, a conservatoire,a scholarship blah blah?
Are we more pure and capable of finding identity through the school of hard knocks with all the will in the world but no direction or study?
For my own sanity, i love learning about my heroes but only up to a point. That point of realisation must come quick too before the gravity of its black hole convinces you the path only has a handful of choices.
Ive swapped out my career path now so many times, im positive that no amount of blogs(just like this one), or pod casts, live panel talks, listening to every single opinion their is out there,will help form me or what i need to do. I appreciate the effort, i always do.But in truth i always come away thinking, well parts of that were entertaining, some of that had some nuggets of truth in there and one most not be ignorant to some stone cold truths when you embark on any journey into an industry that will gleefully consume you where you stand, leaving a pair of smoking boots and a life experience that might just guide you somewhere in earnest.
By typing this, im so aware that im also part of that symptom.When i do spend time mentoring others, trying to offer some advice, its still only my advice based on what worked for me and at best, a mere 10% of whatever i have said must be taken as something highly useful.
I have no beef with admitting that at all. It simply has to be the way. You can preach and rant as hard as you like and through in some name drops, career highlights and all the scars you have on a given day, BUT….crucially, we must all be fully able to say, look thats great for you, but im feeling its bollocks for what i need. Do you even know anything about me and what i need in my life?
No and neither does anyone else. Just you, and only you. (cue a dozen songs about now)
The allure of career emulation shows itself more readily now, as i mentioned above, the sheer amount of opportunity we have to glean from a million sources, is something that pre 1995, we perhaps just didnt function or operate like that.
Begs the question, are we better off now soaking up the entire net, or were we naively ok with a limited absorption of VHS tapes, TDK recordings of the top 40 charts and aspirations to wear all the things Duran Duran wear around the mean streets of Essex not being guided by the sense of the interwebs?
Among a 101 role models and heroes i have, i know i spent most of my teens wishing i was Tears for Fears. To the point nothing else seemed quite right. Whether lyrically or musically, the fashion, the perception, i just plain wanted to be those guys end of story.
Professionally, i aspire to so many artist like Cliff Martinez, Paul Haslinger, Bear McCreary etc, but do i want to end up only sounding like them, and do i need to have trodden all the same paths as them, do i need to make sure all my work flow emulates theirs?
do i need the same mac and pc slave setup, do i need to move to LA and shmooze like my life depended on it……
Well since you put it like that, of course not. How utterly ridiculous would that be?
It just fascinates me to the umpteenth degree that we have had to evolve how we grow as creative folk. We went from a few sources of interaction and absorption and just drown in it nowdays.
I want my limitations back damn it!! i loved how cutting off too many choices led to more focused singular path and series of decisions that seemed to have logical progression.
Its hard to moan too much about having myriad of choices isnt it?
In convos with extremely talented friends, i have learned so much from them as a by product of good old fashioned honest friendship. I truly think the same came be said in reverse. minus intentions and prattling on at people about what you think is best for them, in a relaxed setting, when you are just being yourself, thats the only time you can ever find out who you bloody are and how that will bleed into your creative output.
The only thing i always urge, whether its directed inwards or to someone asking for advice is, just be very cautious and brisk when listening to a universe of opinion and advice.
Dont be arrogant, no need to stick fingers in ones ears thinking you always know better, but surely just learn to skim info than to try and grab the pizza slice from that composers hand and emulate them and what they have built.
Interpret that last part however you like 😉