Music can be a great tool to find inspiration.
I often get ‘visions’ of scenes or stories when I’m listening to music, and I’ve heard others say the same. Like I know what would go good with this music, visually speaking. It’s like music triggers your mind to pierce through the mist in the back of your head and offer you a glimpse of what could be.
In his book The War on Art, Steven Pressfield describes inspiration as something ever-present around us, inconspicuous to the untrained eye (or ear). Only those skilled in the craft can pluck it out of the air and shape it into something extraordinary. They’re not yet finished product by any means, just concepts and ideas that could become something more in the right hands.
I like that metaphor, mysticism aside. You could argue this is an almost religious approach to something as ‘simple’ as creativity, but it’s comforting in a way, looking at inspiration as something ethereal that is always there for the taking -under the right circumstances-.
Ok, that was basically a roundabout way to justify talking about music on an art blog. Sure, music is art too, but not in my definition. Well, it is, but I mean when you say “art”, I think of illustrations. But that’s something for another time.
I’m hooked. Hooked on ‘semi-indie’ music. I’ll explain that term in a second.
My relationship with music is not like most I don’t think. Like I described above, music can strongly influence my mindset. Perhaps that is why I can appreciate so many varieties of music (excluding stuff like trance etc); I value songs primarily for the mood they evoke. Lyrics play a big part in this. It’s a public secret pop music these days is little more than an empty shell to entertain the masses, there is no substance in these songs anymore, not like there used to be in yee olde times (circa the ’70s). I can still appreciate these songs, either because lyrics happen to be well-written or because the melody ‘goes well’ with a certain mindset or activity, but it’s not like I can relate much to tales of ‘bitches’ and ‘bling’.
So I’ve been looking to less mainstream-ish artists. You’ve got your aforementioned classics for the last century, but those get old(er) fast. So I’ve been exploring the indie scene. And I found a few gems recently. I mentioned the term semi-indie above, because these artists aren’t really indie anymore. It’s a new generation of singer-songwriters who have just broken into the music industry, more often than not after acclaiming fame via the Interwubs. I follow a few artists on YouTube, but the one who really turned me in this direction was Colbie Callait. She started out singing into her webcam on MySpace. I’m sure you’ve heard her song many times on the radio or on some mutation of MTV. Bubbly is a very solid song, and the rest of her repetoire is fairly decent. But my two recent favourites are Jamie Scott & the Town, and A Fine Frenzy, and ofcourse there’s bands like One Republic and Plain White T’s.
Jamie Scott is a British artist in the line of James Morisson, John Mayer, James Blunt, Paolo Nutini, Adam Levine etc. It’s hard to describe, he writes very soulful, melancholical ballads that at times remind me strongly of Maroon 5.
And then there’s A Fine Frenzy, aka 22-year-old Seattle-born self-taught singer-songwriter Alison Sudol (that enough prefixes for ya?). I am absolutely in love with her music (and she’s not too bad herself either). If you watch music channels, you’ve probably been bombarded with her new video for Almost Lover.
Her music is often described as heartfelt and hypnotic, and I underwrite those connotations. She writes such profound, magical lyrics and evocative melodies. I was so enamored with this song I picked up her debut album, One Cell in the Sea, and I’ve been listening to it continuously the last few days. Just looking at the tracklisting is a treat. The songs are almost exactly what you’d imagine when you read their titles.
When I started listening to the first track, titled Come On, Come Out, the sun just started shining in through my window as she sang
Come on, come out
The weather is warm
A spot in the shade
Away from it all
Watching the sky
Watching a painting coming to life
Shifting and shaping
Stopping the time
Leave it behind
It all goes passing by
And I felt just like it was summer.
Just wanted to put that out there.
An additional bonus to these types of artists is that they are much more accessible. Alison is even on Twitter and Flickr! They just seem much more ‘friendly’ that way, more earnest perhaps. They ‘made’ themselves. And for that they have my respect.
I hope you enjoy these artists as much as I do and find some inspiration through their work.