Modernizing Your Music
I struggled with whether I should title this post as “Modernizing YOUR Music” or “Modernizing MY Music”, because really it is about both, and possibly the former more so than the latter. I listened to an alt-pop-rock duo’s website today, “The Lyra Project” because we are on the same program bill to perform at PASA’s upcoming house concert as featured songwriters, and I like to hear who else will be playing before I show up. I’ve met this couple before, and Rick and Debra are very nice people. They are part of the NSAI, and have a home recording studio that does quite well from what I remember. At our last meeting, I had complained of my keyboard stand’s legs being slightly too long to store it in the travel bag making it a burden to tote around. Rick had kindly offered to cut the legs shorter for me. Luckily (or not so luckily), someone accidentally turned the screw-held spring adjustment in the middle of the keyboard stand which was NOT supposed to be unscrewed, dropping the spring into the leg tube and rendering the stand forever useless. So….I have a new keyboard stand now, with legs that fit into the gig bag.
Anyway, after listening to the alt-pop-rock duo’s samples on their website, I had several thoughts come to me. The most prominent of which being that I can hear this duo’s influences quite readily. I don’t mean exact artists, but rather the musical trends of particular decades. I would say the husband and wife team are children of the 70’s, and a lot of their music references music of the 80’s and early 90’s. It’s good music, well performed and all of that. The vocal style of Rick reminds me a bit of the rock artists from the 70’s and 80’s while Debra’s vocal style seems more similar to the 90’s Cheryl Crow, Tori Amos, and the duo Heart. The songwriting is a similar story. The intervallic structure reminds me of songs I have heard from the 80’s, while I can’t point to any particular song and say it sounds “just” like another more famous song, which is good.
Introspectively, however – When I listen to my own music, I hear a lot of influence from the early 2000’s music. Some influence from the pop artists of the late 90’s is there too. And less noticeable but still present is the influence from older music like the Andrews Sisters, Doris Day and the 50’s mix tape that I played over and over until my cassette player ate the tape one day. There’s nothing wrong with my songwriting or musical performance style occasionally tipping the hat to earlier influences, but the problem is when my own personal style becomes enshrouded with this mask of my interpretation of what pop music “is”.
I’ve noticed that each time I set myself out on a mission to find new music and artists and listen to music that is outside of my comfort level, I soon after write a plethora of songs that are some of my best work. So, I think I know what I need to do next. Find modern influences to open the channels of creativity. I’ll never copy anyone else’s song, and work hard to review my compositions for “likeness” issues that arise accidentally, but there is certainly something to be learned from listening rather than always making noise.