One of the things that I see in musicians all around me is an enormous difference in growth between the ones who are able to set their minds free. And those that aren’t.
What’s your mind got to do with it? Pretty much everything. It’s your mind that controls your performance. And your mind that really feeds your creativity. And your mind that will either allow or not allow you to become the performer that you want to be. Want to get to the next level in your playing or performance skill...try opening your mind to something entirely different. Something not very “you.” Maybe an idea that you consistently resist.
There’s a certain thing that happens with openness of the mind - it breeds creativity. It also instantly accesses talents that you probably didn’t even know you had. But you can’t find them if you’re only listening to the same 20 artists you “think” you like. Or are unwilling to really explore the vast sea of music that has been written in the last 10 years.
What about songwriting? Are you a total snob? Do you only consider the work of certain songwriters worth listening to? Are you constantly complaining that pop music sucks now and there’s nothing good on the radio? Then maybe you need a quick infusion of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Maybe you have just not gotten much in touch with your inner Mountain Man. Maybe your mind is so closed that, as the French say, “you’ve got cow shit in your ears.”
When you free your mind as a musician from ideas like “this music is better than THAT music” or “only losers play THAT genre” or “I sing, but I don’t think I could ever play an instrument”, or “this kind of songwriting is better than THAT kind,” you do the artist in you a real disservice. Chances are your set lists will be boring, your writing will stagnate while time and musical progress fly past you, and your playing will suffer from only knowing the one thing that you have convinced yourself is the one thing worth liking. It is a very limited path as a musician. And, frankly, not very good for your career.
Great careers are built on musical minds that like to explore, that push limits, but also are willing to use them if they need to, and most importantly, see the musical world as a playground to run around in, rather than a boring classroom where musical dogma is constantly shoved down your throat.
If you’re really having trouble with discovering the you that is unexplored, try doing something totally bizarre. Take a yoga class. Do an actor’s workshop. Start telling your friends horrible jokes you found on the Internet. Play charades. If you don’t cook, try to. If you suck at dancing, have enough drinks to gather some courage...and dance like a fool. If you’re not an athlete, go to the gym. If you can’t sing, do karaoke. Do something that--for you--is absolutely crazy. If you’re only comfortable in bars, go to church. Just...you know...don’t be too big a jerk while you’re there. Because the point of it is not for you to change the experience, but for the experience to change you.
I know a lot of musicians. Most are, in their own way, filled with ideas about their gifts and music that not only hold them back in the music world, but totally stunt their growth as people. Some of them constantly complain about the level they are not reaching. In fact, most of them constantly complain about it. They’re unable to see how their inability to explore their one real love is making them a lesser musician.
So...just like the song says...Free your mind, and the rest will follow. For musicians, this is doubly true.
Stop telling me what you don’t like. Just f-ing do it already. Because there is no spoon.
Throughout my touring travels, many stories pop up about the resilient nature of the human race; folks facing some sort of tragedy or crisis, only to rise up over adversity. The ability and willingness to take a different path, navigating around the one that may have moved out of reach, are human characteristics I like to see.