We’ve already covered quite a bit of ground in this little blog series, and it’s been enormous fun for me to ramble on at you about my personal take on the creative process.
I wanted to write a little bit this week about influences, and how I relate them to peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Yes, I am showing my ‘Britishness’ here in not saying ‘jelly’. Apologies there.
Here’s my little take on what the word ‘influences’ means to me.
We are all a product of our influences and our surroundings. Everything we see, hear, taste, smell. It all gets received, computed, and what comes out is ‘you’. Granted, I am over-simplifying it here, you are undeniably greater than the sum of your parts, but ultimately it is your influences that help make up how you think and who you are. Including your music and your creativity.
Now, imagine you had only ever eaten peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Some days you might put the jam on first, sometimes the peanut butter. You may even push the boat out and use brown bread one day, sourdough the next. For a special treat at the holidays you may even cut the crusts off. But no matter how you make it, after a very short time you would be well and truly sick of peanut butter and jam wouldn’t you? Now, imagine opening up your mind to all the other food groups out there. Suddenly your horizons have broadened. You not only have peanut butter and jam at your fingertips (so to speak), but all sorts of marvelous food to choose from.
I find it to be the same with music and writing. A little understanding and open-mindedness will go an awful long way in creating and inspiring some beautiful songs. Sure, there may be a food group (genre) you will lean on more than others, but the more you listen, and learn, the more flavours you will have at your disposal to draw from. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and a pattern – we all do it – but do try and set yourself a goal to just listen to something outside your normal comfort zone a few times a week. You will be surprised at how quickly new things can be absorbed into your existing style.
Just think of all the incredible and important records that have combined different genres. What if Paul Simon hadn’t had brought his own style (itself a marvelous amalgamation of different flavours and genres!) to that of Ladysmith Black Mombazo and the incredible South African musicians that he sought out? We would never have had the genius that was ‘Graceland’. This is not radical or new thinking, the composer Franz Lizst combined his symphonic genius with the folk music of his native Hungary way back in 1853 with his ‘Hungarian Rhapsodies’, combining the music for the European upper class with that of the more ‘common folk’. It was an incredibly daring move in the elitist society that existed in his day, but just take a listen. Utter genius that still rings true today.
What I am saying may seem obvious, but put in practice, my word is it liberating! It means opening your mind to a world’s worth of influence for you to take in, compute, and make your own.
And the best thing about it? There is an inexhaustible supply of influence out there…
– Davy Knowles