In the first part of this weekly mini-series (which you can still find, here), I revealed my current obsession with finding more interesting, transformative ways for people to access/ come into contact with the art they consume. I’ll get into what that might specifically look like, with relation to my music, in next week’s email!
Meanwhile, I promised some inspiration from Mad Men’s Don Draper:
That’s not right! Let’s try again:
I thrive (in almost a manic way) when faced with a challenge like what I talked about last week, namely “addressing artistic format” from an original angle. I can feeeel that an aesthetically gorgeous and transformative solution is out there. I senssssse that I’m uniquely equipped to make the right call for my own music that no one else can make. It has become an urrrrrge I can’t resist… if I don’t make this happen, I knoooow I’ll never be content! … When I noticed myself thinking and feeling this way, here’s what happened next:
All kidding aside, I’ve actually been in the process of realizing I am, indeed a music-based artist (not really “just a musician,” like I’d been calling myself in my head all these years). It’s so fun that I’ve started shifting other areas of my vocabulary, too! Haircutting many strangers every week (my day gig) is a fantastic litmus test for trying out what works and what doesn’t when talking about my music! For example, I’ve noticed when someone inevitably asks the question, “What style is your music?” it’s a total conversation killer to answer by saying, “Jazzy lounge-pop.” Technically, I’ve answered the person’s question, and more-or-less accurately. But allowing the conversation to go someplace deeper is a priority for me, and it always seems to take quite a bit of awkward cajoling from there. (And by then it’s hard to feel it’s worth it, since they usually didn’t exactly “spark up” when I said “jazzy lounge-pop” to begin with.)
On the other hand, I’ve discovered it’s a total conversation STARTER to answer their question with, “Well, I’m really into exotica from the ’50s and ’60s right now, do you know that stuff?” Firstly, it invites the person back into the conversation, which is always better. But secondly, since 80% of the people seem to draw a blank whether I say “jazzy lounge-pop” or “exotica” anyway, at least the latter provides a lot more directions the conversation can go, a lot more fluidly (e.g., Tiki parties, the Hollywoodification of “exotic” cultures, 1950s surburbia, the cocktail/lounge revival of the ’90s, space age pop, sincerity vs. irony in art-making, my real, real love of fake fake-jazz… and so much more!). And any of these directions is an association I’d like to have come to that person’s mind when they think of me! Whereas the former is a corny three-word categorization fit for “tagging” one’s material on the web, and that’s about the extent of what it’s good for.
The potential to kill the conversation about your life and story or spark a more interesting and engaging one is very much in your own hands.
I’ve done my best to make sure my co-converser winds up with a fairly well-formed sense of the forgotten island beach, where half of my brain is perpetually stranded. And: a sense of the kind of music that might be coming from there. If they can’t imagine the sound of my songs exactly, at least they’re certainly more intrigued to have a listen, now.
To bring this back around to last week’s topic of “format”: I’ve also realized I’m not actually recording a “new album.” I’m recording songs for a new “project.” See, sadly nowadays an “new album” sort of implies “music you can stream/ download and gradually allow to fade into the white noise of your life.” But “project” implies the music is a companion to something bigger, which, in the case of my new songs, is accurate. And doesn’t that make you at least a little curious what that bigger thing is?
Giving people something to be curious about is an invitation to come along with you into the future. It means there’s still an interesting conversation to be had.
All of this in mind, something trippy and fabulous (and freeing, in some ways) that I’ve learned as a result of commissioning a dozen portraits for my “Theater of Mirrors” party coming up on 15 November (details at foot of this email) is that you can’t control what others think about you or what they would say about you (i.e., how they “paint” you). That’s up to them, their vision, what need they need you to meet in their life, and their “painting” skill-set, so to speak. But as for your half of the conversation: you hold that paintbrush in your own hand.
You dig what I mean? I’m sure there’s been a time when you’ve tried this out. So tell me about it!!
Ever changed the conversation about yourself? Your work? Your life? Ever removed words from your vocabulary? If you’ve ever made even a subtle change of wording and seen it create an interesting shift in your life, please leave me a comment to tell me all about it! I’d really love to connect with my readers more personally.
If you know anyone else who you think would be interested in the ideas I’m writing about in this mini-series, please share this post with them! Like it, tweet it, etc. Stay tuned for part 3 of this series next week – I’ve got a huge announcement to make then!