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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Around the world Clint Eastwood is most famous for his brilliant one-liners, but, believe it or not, what made his career may have actually been the things he didn’t say. As an actor, Eastwood is known for blotting entire pages of dialog out of his scripts. In an ‘85 interview with Rolling Stone he explained “In a real A picture, you let the audience think along with the movie; in a B picture you explain everything”.

The same principal can be true as a songwriter. It’s important to keep in mind that a person’s imagination is far more vivid than your language or melody will ever be. Because of this, it doesn’t necessarily help your story/message/cause to insult their intelligence with over-explanation or ultra-simplification. In my opinion, the ultimate goal is not to simply relay information, but to actually draw people into the conversation. If you explain everything away, it doesn’t give them an opportunity to think along with you, and actually limits their ability to enter into a conversation.

I’ll give you an example from my own work (I know it seems a little pretentious, but it is easy because I know my own songs better than anyone else’s)

“Dress us up in the blood of a son”

I’ve seen several people reword this line to say blood of “the” son, but that isn’t what I wrote. Simply using the word “a” instead of “the” gives the listener a chance to ask themselves some very important questions such as: “If this is a son, then was he actually someone’s son, and how did that someone feel about the blood that was drawn?” They would probably have to answer: “the same way I’d feel if it was my son”. The conclusion they would hopefully come to would be that Jesus wasn’t just the Son of Glory (insert bright lights and cheesy white-girl vocals here); Jesus was also someone’s little boy. He was also a son.

Notice all the words I just wrote in that last paragraph in an attempt to explain a thought, when the more powerful explanation is still in the simple word “a”. It gives the listeners an opportunity to ask themselves who the “son” is, and that is far more important than the precision of my information.

Elvis brought controversial African American music to white audiences in an incredibly racist American climate, and went on to become one of the worlds first pop superstars.

Bob Marley rose from a tiny third world nation to become an international icon and he did it singing a genre of music that most people had previously never heard of.

Bob Dylan reintroduced an old and unpopular form of music to young audiences in the 60s and with what was considered an “unmarketable” voice became what many considered to be the voice of that generation.

In the 90’s Kurt Cobain and Nirvana brought punk rock out of the garage with the album Nevermind, and in a single year altered the landscape of popular music.

What these guys have in common is that they took unpopular genres and musical forms and made them standards. Each of them were able to transcend the current limitations, trends, and prejudices of the day, and excel in spheres that previously had no expectation for their work.

Before each of them, it would have been difficult to believe that what they did could have ever been successful. At Colombia records, Bob Dylan was initially known as “Hammonds Folly” because so many people believed that John Hammond, a man was famous for discovering and producing legendary talent, had made a massive mistake by signing Dylan. But today it would be almost impossible to imagine what music would be like without him.

Let me say, I certainly don’t believe we should ignore trends. They represent the collective forward motion of expression in community and culture. Still, my personal dream is to be able to make the kind of music that would scale the boundaries of convention and culture. I want to be able to tell a story that is restricted neither by fashion nor tradition.

My dream is to tell a story that transcends.

http://www.youtube.com/v/aKm65xLpwIM&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999