In music, like all of life, you need to get the balance right to succeed. I’m in the midst of a recording project and setting levels, mixing, editing all the instruments, pitches, sounds and volumes. When I used to have bands invariably the drummer, guitar player etc. would fret there wasn’t enough of him in the mix. That is universal it seems and I’ve talked to hundreds of other musicians. On stage it’s the same thing. The singer will complain that he can’t hear himself in the mix or monitor. You learn what your “money maker” is as we call it. Is the singer the main reason people stay turned onto your music? The rhythm? The flute? When you figure that out you can create a supporting sound like a great jazz combo interweaving in and out of prominence and create something cohesive free of the tension of competition. You will either learn this the hard way or through years and years of experience. When you are professional from an early age, like I have been, you learn it early in your development and adjust accordingly.
The idea of balance has been taking me for a ride with this project. See, you can either think of it as blending like cooking or like an advisory all wanting equal amounts of your time and attention. The idea of sacrifice for you art is difficult, especially in the early stages and then the more successful you become. Expectations of producing something better, more awesome and “your best yet” can’t help but creep into your creativity. Most artists don’t read their press and isolate themselves from things like the Grammys. Facebook and MySpace have changed that dramatically. Fans will say they like this song more than the others or they wish you would do more of this and their favorite one is this song…..etc. Which is great. I enjoy and even solicit feedback from listeners. The access you give people on social media is a very delicately balanced walk. You are trying to maintain what you think might be their image of you (and you are really only kidding yourself there) with who you really are, what people you went to school with think they remember, your professional image and all the while trying to not reveal so much that it is a distraction. I know I’ve found myself taking a fast from all that though the temptation to check Facebook in between recording tracks is strong.
When you are committed to an art something else will suffer, be lost. Life on the road, in the studio and the hours of rehearsing is lonely and misunderstood. There is nothing sexy about driving 12 hour days, getting lost, unloading your gear and falling asleep with a burrito in one hand and your laptop on your lap. The partner back home might be thinking of all the groupies and fans you are fending off. For the independent artist that is rarely the case—and never the case for this one. When you are home relationships, friends, bills, taxes, yard work, children, pets, life all need your attention. You end up feeling like you are only treading water with most things. The amount of time I could spend on line working and promoting is well over 40 hours a week. But I don’t. I can’t. So, like I said, something suffers. In the end you give more than your reserves to your art and your fans. Think of Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Chet Baker, Janis Joplin to name a few. Poets, writers and artists have the same lineage. You can burn out so take of yourself however you can. Do the little things that give you a sense that you have some say in your day. I always travel with a book or two, an iPod and some really indulgent movie like Bring it On or the Scary Movie series. Just for me. I cook meals that take hours to prepare. I try to pay attention to loved ones with varying success. Al the while I’m thinking of getting the balance right. Living with arthritis means sometimes I get flattened and have to stop. When the only time you rest is when you are ill it is probably time to check the balance. Stay tuned for the new music. I am very excited about this music. I’ve returned to a fuller, more fleshed-out sound and incorporating instruments I’ve taught myself to play like the Udangu Udu, more Anasazi flute, the Bodhran and some surprises. What you will hear is a lot more singing because fans, critics, programmers and musicians I really respect say they want to hear more and my mom does too.