Four years is not a short amount of time. That sounds like an obvious thing to say, but I mean it sincerely in the sense that so much has happened since I began my time at UC Irvine. I’ve played at open mic nights at the Phoenix Grill, the Anthill Pub, at Thai Culture Night and on the Student Center stage, among other places.
I’ve learned quite a bit about myself as a musician in those four years. I’ve come to realize that I still have so much to learn, whether it’s with fundamental things like practicing percussion rudiments more often or getting better at playing with click tracks, or with the marketing/business side of things, like with organizing recording times and putting music out there via social media outlets and through other forms of promotion.
More than anything else, perhaps, I’ve learned that trying to force any sort of creativity is the worst thing one can do. Sure, getting inspired by other artists that we enjoy is all well and good, but forcing your creative energy in a certain direction can be destructive in more ways that we might imagine. It’s best to understand our own talents and influences as musicians, and let the songs that we write develop naturally and have lives of their own. That sounds like a rather hippie-like thing to say, but I’m confident that this is the case when it comes to making music that you’re going to love. If you make music you love, others will love it too.
On that note, I’ve also learned that music, as always, should be fun. Taking music too seriously can lead to a downhill spiral, making music into a chore. I’ve seen plenty of friends go into projects too hard and too fast and let things go south super quickly because of arguments and disagreements about “band direction.” Don’t focus too much on a direction, or a sound that you want to go for. It rarely ends up working out.
I can’t say for sure, but I can’t imagine that bands like blink-182 or Green Day sat around thinking more about their music than they spent actually making it. I mention these two bands because they hold such huge influence over musicians in our generation (among a plethora of other artists, obviously). They play the music they want to play and play what they like. Ultimately, that’s what matters the most.
To end on a cheesy note, all you really need to do is create from the heart. If you like music with banjos and cellos, make music like that. If you like electronic music, make that. Don’t, however, force yourself into making music with a certain sound that fights your natural abilities. Go with what makes you a unique individual with an instrument in your hands.
Write from the heart. Nobody has the same heart, inspirations, struggles and everything else that makes you who you are. Play what you love, and love what you play. Nobody else can do that for you.