the "honesty' movement is laziness

Yeah, I read the article on "radical honesty" in Esquire... and then saw some songwriting gurus run with that idea. "Your music sucks," they want to say, thinking it would be refreshing to just tell people to forget it and focus on their day job.

I think one of the things that has helped me the most in my fledgling songwriting/composing career is that that, as a student of voice over the past 18 years... I had to learn to hear, understand and incorporate feedback into what I was doing, in the moment, in every coaching session. In singing, "before's" and "after's" are a big part of training, because it's the difference between the two that teaches you. If you listen and are able to make the changes suggested, over time, your "after" becomes your "before" and you move to a new level.

I have been teaching voice for 11 years myself. As a teacher it is my passionate goal to support while assisting to improve. That doesn't mean I'm not "honest". But I truly believe that anyone can pretty much do anything if they are willing to listen and do the work. So if someone asks me to review music that has production issues or composition issues, you can bet I will strive to be both honest and respectful, knowing that my feedback could assist them in their growth as an artist, if it is given with the right spirit.

There is a huge difference between criticism (this sucks) and critique (okay, here's a place to start, there's some good elements in what you've done here, I'm going to zero in on a couple of things I think would really help).

Criticism is disquised as honesty because it takes no time or consideration to be a critic. Criticism denies the process of being a creative person and growing over time. Criticism is lazy because it's so easy to just say 'you suck' and 'haven't got a hope.' Criticism says "what you are now is all you will ever be". Criticism says, 'what's the point of striving to be more than who you are today?"

Critique takes time, patience and knowledge. Critique means you are being a mentor, a teacher. You are sharing your time & expertise & trying to help someone else. Critique says, "if you listen, if you are willing to learn, if you are willing to do the work, and go the extra mile, and perservere... anything is possible."

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." ~Dale Carnegie

I think there is a huge difference between "being told you are great" when you are not, and being told "you need to work on it, and here's the specific things to focus on right now." Let's not confuse the two.

I am living proof that perserverence pays off. No one told me I was great, but no one told me it was hopeless, either. I knew I had a lot to learn (still do). It took me eight years of vocal training to find my voice and twelve years to be able to sing without fear. Yes, I could have given up. Yes, I could have done something else. But I'd lived years of my adult life without music and never ever want to go back to that dark place again. My vocal education was also a healing journey that was a catalyst for growth. As I found my voice, I found my Self.

Five years ago, I started songwriting, thinking I'd take the music industry by storm. Wrong. My meandering, long, abstract songs were returned again and again. I could have given up. Yeah, I raged against the industry and said all the typical things that songwriters say when their work is rejected. I went to the TAXI Road Rally in 2005, and heard lots of not-that-great music and heard some fabulous tracks, too. I went to RR 2006 and chatted with folks I knew from the TAXI forum. I realized that there were folks I knew who were making money as songwriters/composers... in film & tv. They wrote & produced broadcast quality tracks & signed them to music publishers and music libraries.

I knew absolutely nothing about producing music. I had no tools, no skills. But I decided that was what I was going to do. All my early efforts were rejected for various reasons. But I knew what I wanted, I knew that there were tools I needed to get and skills I needed to learn. I set out to get them and learn them. My music was still rejected, but I kept listening, kept working. I signed one track in 2007. In the last six months, I've started getting many more TAXI forwards, and the 5 tracks I signed last week makes... 5 deals and 18 tracks signed so far.

So yeah, my music sucked. My singing sucked. So? So I learned how to make it better. So I set out to get the skills, to grow, to change, to improve. If I can do that, anyone can do that. IF they are willing to admit they have something to learn, that they have not "arrived", that they need to grow. That's my point. That the "honesty" should be resident in the ARTIST.

A true artist marries honesty & humility in their self-assessment, and strive to grow beyond where they are at any given time in their journey... and they are willing to share their knowledge and expertise and compassion with those walking behind them on the path. I'm lucky enough to know artists like that, peers who have helped me grow my Self and my Music to this point. I'm endlessly grateful to them for helping this fledgling singer, songwriter, composer, painter, writer and creative being live the life of her dreams.


Karan said...

Vikky, thank you for your inspiring and profound thoughts!

Teddy Fowler said...

this is inspiring.. what a thought.. i'll keep on trying and will cast my laziness away...