Nine Lives of the Muse

Musical BarriersBridging Musical Barriers … 

So it occurs to me that not everybody gets ample opportunity to break the mold. Most of the time our band mates give us weirdo looks if we try stuff that doesn’t jive with the current song, but every once in a while we get it just right and something beautiful happens … we somehow manage to bridge a musical barrier. You’re up there playing Van Morrison, and somehow you manage to get the entire band on some incredible reggae funk, or maybe you’re in the chorus of a classic Eagles tune but somehow you have the crowd going bananas over your amazing and impromptu tribute to some forgotten rap hit from the 80’s … congratulations, even if it was for a fleeting moment, you made it to musical nirvana.


My First Cross-Musical Experience

When I first started gigging, I stuck religiously to the program, imitating every nuance I could to try and show how perfectly I knew a cover song, but after a few years it became painfully clear that the same old was killing my creativity … and my musical soul was crying out for change. At first I was apprehensive to break the mold, because you know, I was worried what the band would think; but what a pleasant surprise it was to learn that the audience would become my secret weapon. There’s no denying the plain truth of several dozen drunken patrons when they suddenly take notice of your originality and make it clear that they want more … even the biggest control-freak in the band becomes powerless when a gaggle of elated dancers comes pouring onto the dance floor to support your wiley antics; being different is what real life is all about!


The Silk Road


I recently came across a well-camouflaged article that goes on at length about how hard it is to convey a complicated musical message in just one show. Busting out into a new style in the bridge of a popular cover song might be cool when you’re gigging at your local pub, but will anyone remember it the next day? The article I found takes that concept to a bigger level , explaining how musicians these days should look beyond the one-night gig if they want to impress people in a lasting way. Why put all your effort into just one live show when you can post multiple episodes with behind-the-scenes footage on your youtube account and have a more significant impact on a much wider audience. Yo-Yo Ma gets this concept very well, and he seems to be making a much bigger difference than the average classical musician. Personally I’m glad to have learned about his Silk Road Project and the serious inspiration it has brought me … not to mention that, I didn’t have to be there on the one night his performance of ‘Ascending Bird’ took place, I just absorbed it late one night while surfing the web, and what a lucky night it was.


Why Thinking Out Of The Box Is Important

Breaking the mold is hard at first, but once the damage is done it seems easier to do again and again. Overdoing it though can clearly be very annoying and whatever band you`re in, the show must go on so you may only be able to get away with so much creative indulgence. In time however, experience will dictate when that perfect moment arrives, once or even twice a night, where you can shine as an irreverent breaker of rules that turns an otherwise triple-cooked song on its heels and suddenly the world is hanging on your every note. Egos can be overpowering, and band rehearsals can sometimes make us feel like there is no creative hope in sight, but live performance is the unmistakable testing ground and showing your colours in public is what it`s all about. Once you flaunt it for the world, there`s no going back, and even the biggest egos melt away leaving nothing but open creative road to follow … believe in yourself, nobody else can do that for you.


Whether By Mistake Or On Purpose, Embrace Change

Fear of change can be a massive deterrent to your creativity. Why try something new if the safe and cozy path you`ve been on has been working well for you so far. I hear you, it`s tough to bust out of the comfort zone, but I`m willing to bet that most of the great people that ever inspired you to be artistic in the first place were rule-breakers in their own right. You may not think of yourself as an innovator, but neither did those heroes when they started out … they were just being true to themselves, and the incredible side-effect of that creative honesty was: inspiration. Breaking the mold satisfies your soul AND inspires people around you all at the same time … how cool is that!