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Info nom nom nom? Write a song instead?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

I’ve been long interested in learning about the machinations of the American music industry, but being in Tokyo, getting my hands on trade publications like Billboard is a bit tricky – and a bit expensive.

So it was with great joy that I belatedly discovered Google Reader. Yes, my 67-year-old mother who vividly remembers WWII has a Kindle and a SmartPhone and I didn’t even know about Google Reader? Shut it.

Unfortunately when I discover something new I’m like a kid on a sugar high and I ended up adding something like 40 music industry blogs to my Reader. Meaning 130+ posts to read a DAY. FML. Fortunately my undergrad literary theory days taught me how to skim, but trying so hard to keep on top of new industry developments makes me wonder if I should just shut the door on the noise (or rather close my browser), unsubscribe, shut off my computer and get back to songwriting.

For those of you creative types who are also info junkies, if you work too much on your craft do you worry you’re missing the passing technology ship? And if you’re too addicted to reading about industry developments, do you feel like you’re not creating enough?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2010 in Music Business, Songwriting

 

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Happy 20th Anniversary to Me?

This month marks my 20th anniversary as a songwriter. There I was 20 years ago, 13 years old and sitting in Kathy Connon’s English class not paying attention as usual. Usually, my magical a.d.d. butterfly friends would transport me to a land filled with man-crushes covered in sequined Speedos and sparkly angel wings. But lo, this time, they took me to a far more enchanted and magical place – one where unicorns frolicked while shitting glitter and Pete Seeger songs played from a rinky-dink Fisher Price fake record player.

It was in this magical land that I penned my first song entitled “Daydream the World.” Looking back, it was one of the more earnest and creepy lyrics I’ve written.

Why earnest? Because at 13 I wasn’t faux-jaded yet. All I listened to was Erasure and The B-52’s. Happy gay music! Sure the jocks were cruel to me at that age but now that we’re friends on Facebook, it’s all water under the bridge. Or at least my therapist says so.

But why creepy? Lyrics included “Leave me now/I wanna be in a shell/Boxed up from/This real life of hell…” Boxed up? BOXED UP??

Sounds like I’m singing a folk song to a coffin. Egahds. But I digress…

As I thought about how to celebrate 20 years of folk-pop goodness, I was tempted to get myself a celebratory Cookie Puss Carvel cake. Then I realized FML I’m in Tokyo and the closest thing would be a Hello Kitty cake. Now THAT’S creepy.

Still, once I started thinking about cake and Cookie Puss, I had a flashback to a commercial like this one, forever etched into the Betamax in my mind…

As children of the 80s, with commercials like these, is it any wonder we’re all in therapy?

But yes, other than eating a cake that looks like an alien with a d*ck for a nose, how would you suggest I celebrate this 20 year milestone?

 
 

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The Sumo Playing Folky

Last Thursday was a Japanese national holiday whose name and purpose escapes me. But I took advantage of the day off to catch my first sumo tournament. Over five hours of lumbering giant sumo swagger. Highly recommended. Especially when drunk. And the fans are f*cking insane.

During the matches I couldn’t help but think about how different the life of your average professional sumo player (or most likely the life of any professional athlete) must be from the rest of us. For one thing, once you decide to pursue sumo, there’s no turning back – as I understand it, you join your sumo stable (team/family) at around age 16-17 and then your entire life until retirement is about eating, breathing and sleeping sumo.

So what exactly does sumo have to do with the ramblings of a scatterbrained singer/songwriter?

At the risk of making some rather sweeping cultural generalizations, sumo reinforces my view of Japanese culture’s emphasis on repetition, perfection, linear thinking and upholding of rules and tradition. And while I was technically raised in a Japanese/Jewish household, as someone who can barely stick with a task for 10 minutes, I wonder if I’m a perverse representation of stereotypical American culture – bucking authority and rules, thinking non-linearly, being creative and intense but sometimes sloppy in execution.

I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset required to dedicate 1000% of my life to something. Sure, I’ve been doing music in one capacity or another for almost 30 years, but my goals and practices have deviated wildly from year to year. I honestly feel that the only thing that has stayed consistent is my desire to write and perform songs.

As someone with diagnosed a.d.d., I can’t help but wonder how much of my way of doing things is because I was raised in the U.S. What if I was raised in Japan instead. Would I be a more linear, methodical and even-tempered person? Would I have set my sights on trying to be a professional pop-rock star from the get-go without my deviations to angry folk rock and 80s covers? Or might I be stuck in an office job with a wife and kids – and if that was the case, would I even mind it that much?

Nature vs. nurture when it comes to how you approach your creativity and your career.

Given your current career and/or what you see as your life-path, how has the culture/country in which you were raised shaped it? Do you think you’d be that different if you were born and raised somewhere else?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Music

 

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