Your Indie Path: Original, Derivative or Retro?

A Vision for My Music

Here are some questions I ask myself, that might be good for others as well.  What is it I am doing on my Indie Music journey?  Are the songs I am writing really new and fresh, or are they just a re-run of a long past day I am trying to replicate?  What the hell is my vision for my art, anyway?  These are some questions that come to me, rattle around in this thing I call my brain, and, I hope, keep me honest.  Let me explore them a little.

What is it I am doing on my Indie Music Journey?  I say that I am writing original Americana/HonkyTonk/Rockabilly, but is that what I am really doing?  I think so.  I hope so.  What I write are basically story-songs.  I write them because it is story-songs that I grew up on.  Chuck Berry was a master of writing stories and making them into great Rock ‘N’ roll songs.  One of the best story songs I have ever heard in “Hot Rod Lincoln,” by Charlie Ryan.  “Desert Blues,” by Jimmy Rogers is another fine story-song.   Actually, I think that Jimmy Rogers was possibly one of the finest story-song writers of all time, along with Woody Guthrie, and Johnny Cash who was another master of the story-song genre.  As I am writing this it comes to me that every song I have ever liked was basically a story-song.  My other influences are Tom T. Hall, Hoyt Axton, John Stewart, Bob Dylan, and Mickey Newbury, as well as newcomer, Steve Earl–story-song writers all.   Story-songs are what I was brought up with and they are what I write.

This brings me to the next question, are the songs I am writing “really new and fresh, or are they just a re-run of a long past day?  I’d like to think they are not simply re-runs.  I want them to be new and fresh, but are they, truly?  I believe they are because of the way they morph as I am writing them.  The other day I was listening to “California (Hustle and Flow)” by Social Distortion (I really like Mike Ness and Social Distortion), and I got a song-idea.  I wrote it down and worked out the melody–absolutely nothing like the Social Distortion song.  I’m not sure that you could even guess there was any influence by them at all.

And this brings me to that last question, “What the hell is my vision for my art?”  Yikes!

I like an older, cleaner, less busy style of music that tells stories that come out of my experience, in ways that hold with tradition, but also ask some new questions, when I can.  I live close to the “Outlaw” edge with my story-motifs and my presentation of ideas.  45-90 puts on a more adult show than a family-friendly show, and every time I have to play for a family type audience, I scramble to edit my songs, and I am getting tired of doing so–IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME MENTIONING CONDOMS, THE HELL WITH THEM!  So my vision is one of telling it like it is with humor, poking fun when I can, and trying to be as honest as I can with my own feelings/emotions in what I write and perform.  When I write a drunk song I don’t always side with the drunk.  When I write a Western song, most of the time the bad guys die.  When I write about violence, the violence has consequences.  In my vision for my art, I hold truth (my truth) as the highest good.

So, three questions I ask myself, and I tried to answer them in public.  Give them a try for yourself, and see what you come up with.  You might post some of your findings on this blog.  I’d like that.


4 thoughts on “Your Indie Path: Original, Derivative or Retro?

  1. Oh, I hear ya my man! Me, personally – I love the old bluegrass and rock abilly and C&W myself. My music however is quite a bit from that now. In the early days, people were surprised I was putting a little ‘twang’ into some pretty New Wave and Industrial music. And for a while I thought I’d keep that as my ‘distinctive sound’. But then music just exploded in the 90’s. From Blue Rodeo to Crash Vegas, Sarah Harmer to Aqua. So I just went ‘everywhere’ I possibly could musically. And it took me pretty ‘out there’. So now I feel like Steve Martin. I’m not sure if he’s trying to shake the ‘comedy suit’ off and be totally serious about his bluegrass and art pursuits now? And I’m totally done with ‘electronic music’ myself for the moment, and would like to get back into just some good straight foward rock n’ roll. And like Steve, it’s not about ‘success’ or ‘showcasing’ or ‘hoping to make a impact’ – it’s just doing what one loves, and anyone else that wants to like it; feel free to join in. Good for the soul, just not good for the pocket book… Unless you’re Steve Martin.

    Now if my The Talentless Bums can actually make a nickel, you’ll definately hear me laughing all the way to the bank! 🙂

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