On any given Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, you will find both young and not-so-young musicians presenting their art. They play their music in venues all over town to crowds both large and small. Their musicianship is finer than most any other you’ve ever experienced in your life. Many have come to Music City to find their way into the wide world of the music business. Some never get the record deal, the big tour, or the big time managers. But that doesn’t mean they stop working at it.
I know this is true, because our son, Ben, is one of these hard working musicians. This past Thursday we saw him play a gig at Nashville’s The High Watt, a venue not too far from the touristy area downtown, but light years away. Broadway Street in downtown Nashville will give you the idea that glitz and glamour, or at least a regular paying job, is the life of a Nashville musician. Throngs of adoring crowds pack the honky-tonks thinking this is what Nashville music is all about.
But if they would venture to other venues, sometimes just a few blocks away, they would find musicians, bands, and shows that would make them rethink the whole idea of professional music in Nashville. One can find any genre of music, not just Country Western. Ben’s band, My Red and Blue, was the headlining act, with two other bands preceding his on the bill. The first band was a group of five hard-rocking guys called Chapels, who blasted their way through a short set. They were followed by two young women, an indie-pop duo named Sawyer, who used driving melodies and a variety of instruments to draw in the crowd. My Red and Blue finished the night with melodic, carefully worded pop tunes that had the crowd singing along.
But the show that evening was only a small part of each band’s story. Their art is part of who they are. It permeates their lives and and fills up their days.
The painting you see, the book that you read, the play you experience, the music you hear is only a small part of the creativity story. There is a wealth of life and experience that goes into what gets presented before the public. For instance, here’s a small taste of of what goes into the music My Red and Blue gets to play before the paying public:
- Ideas for songs germinate in Ben’s mind and he writes them down in a journal. Sometimes the whole idea begins with simply a title for a song.
- Songs come to fruition as Ben writes them in his own room at home, or when he gets together with other Nashville songwriters to bring a song to life. Sometimes it flows out of “hook,” a melody that you’ll remember long after the song is over, and sometimes it flows out the theme of the lyrics themselves.
- Once the song is written a demo of the song is made in someone’s room or small studio. Technology is so good these days that decent recordings can be made in people’s homes.
- All the while Ben works a “day job” to help him pay bills and save money so that he can record the songs and put them out into the world. Creating musical art is an expensive proposition involving paying musicians and engineers, footing the bill for studio time, mixing and mastering, and fronting the money for art work and CD’s.
- Once the music is made and ready to go, the musician becomes the distributor and marketer. Getting the word out involves social media, free music web sites like NoiseTrade, and word of mouth.
- All the while, Ben is writing and recording music for Sorted Noise, a music placement company that has signed him to a contract, engaging him to write music for commercials, TV, and film. They recently got one of his songs on a Spotify playlist where it garnered more than half a million “listens.”
The art that the world sees, hears, or experiences is only a small part of the creativity story. It’s only a small part of a creative life that is lived twenty-four hours of most every day. Most people think that creativity is simply a gift given to certain people. It’s really the result of the hard work of people who put their mind to producing it most every day.
Next time you experience art of any kind that moves you, remember that it is only a very small part of the creativity story. There is a life behind that art, fully engaged in bringing it into your life.
How have you experienced art that has changed your life?