By Cari Cole
Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself… is a mantra we chant here at CCVM on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. It’s one of the most important things an artist must do, find and settle into.
Because the music pendulum of what’s popular is a moving target, and by the time you catch up, it’s too late. What you’re listening to right now on the airwaves or Spotify playlists is already over. What you’re hearing behind closed doors in rehearsal and recording studios is what’s coming up. But worse than that, is chasing trends instead of being yourself.
For instance, right now, electronic music is the rage, but what’s coming up? What’s next? How will you ever be on top of the trends or better yet, be a trendsetter if you’re always chasing them?
So how do you get ahead? You find your sound, and stick with it.
Now, when I say “find your sound” – let me be clear. Finding your sound is an extremely detailed, often lengthy process of trial and error, experimentation and thoroughly exhausting all the potential possibilities with a team of people whose musical opinions you trust and respect. It doesn’t mean sticking with some outdated sound just because you love it, and worse, without a thorough examination.
“Being yourself” as an artist does not mean accepting mediocrity or musical limitations, but rather, going bravely toward your instincts — regardless of popular opinion in music at the present time. It means NOT being a “copycat” — or hopping on the musical pendulum to be accepted. I get it, when a new sound comes out, everyone jumps on it — not just because they want to be popular, but because it sounds so cool, so awesome and fresh… but remember what I said about chasing the pendulum? Because by the time you get your music out the trend will be waning…
Remember when Norah Jones came out? It was like a breath of fresh air. After listening to the over-produced 90’s era of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, she dominated the airwaves. She had the courage and stamina to stay true to her more organic natural sound, and wasn’t swayed by the current market, so when she arrived on the scene it was — new. It wasn’t just her, she had a great team around her — especially Arif Mardin who was deeply immersed in the recording industry – a real stable producer. The kind that wouldn’t cave to trends. It’s not easy to do – and do it right.
Look at what’s happening in the world today.. the fight for human rights and transparency, authenticity. The rise of the people’s voice — it’s kind of miraculous although coming with a heavy price. But we can no longer tolerate what is fake, what is hiding, what is on the surface. We want real. The age of the ego is over.
Art, music, movies, books exist to challenge our way of seeing the world, to think, to provoke or even to disturb our way of thinking. If not, it is masturbation or manipulation of our senses and nothing more. As a music creator and champion of artists, I am mostly interested in the former. A method to calm the madness, a recipe to change the world, one ear at a time.
You will want to push your own artistry, your musical vision. Expand your ears, and really listen to music – not just to the voice, but what is underfoot. What are the sounds you are attracted to? What is the musical landscape you are looking for? If you are really honest with yourself, what kind of music do you love? What do you listen to when you are alone? Is it Bon Iver or Phillip LaRue with strings, cello and piano? Is it deep emotional vocal centric music like Alina Baraz or Adele? Or is it fun and engaging like Bruno Mars or Katy Perry? Or both? Is it loud, poetic, art-rock like Radiohead or Kings of Leon? Is it punk and rebellious like Green Day or Sonic Youth? Or chill and vibey like Banks or RKCB? What are the elements that define YOU the best?
And – this is really important. What music sounds best accompanying your voice? And how do you hear the songs you write produced best? Just because you like a sound doesn’t mean it’s the right direction for you. You need to ponder this for awhile. I see a lot of mis-steps here – a lot of mistakes. It’s easy to mess up. A & R is the process of helping the artist to find their sound. We start by examining all of that and more to help you become who you really are — and get you more comfortable in your own skin than you ever thought possible.
Start by making a playlist of your favorite sounds that you hear on your next project. Start to define the soundscape you’re after. And make sure it matches your lyrical message. Look for artists that have a similar sound and then add in a few wild cards (music you used to obsess about). This helps to carve a more unique sound and style.
Be sure you get some pro feedback on this before you go heading off into the sunset convinced you’ve found your new sound and heavily investing in your next record ;). We’d love to help. You know how to reach us.
But whatever you do, stop chasing the pendulum and start finding your sound. You’ve got this!