Don’t Limit Your Creativity

I’ve been learning some things about the creative process recently. And it has to do with limitations. Or the lack of them.

creative process
image via The Virtual Instructor

Here’s my thought: only place boundaries on yourself for specific creative reasons, not to fit a certain genre or to be the artist others expect you to be.

I did that in my earlier music-making days — like with Thank God They’re Wrong, Four Sons, and Let’s Get On A Boat — and my music suffered for it.

I was a “folk” musician so I would only use “real” instruments (no keyboards, only pianos; no drum machines, only live drums; no electric guitar, only acoustic).

I think I was actually condescending about it.

I limited my options just to fit a pre-determined box of a genre, making music that people expected a folk artist to make. But genres change and evolve, so why try to fit the definition of today’s “folk” music?

Think about it — “pop music” literally means the popular music of the day. Popular music changes over time (I mean, The Beatles were pop in their day). And any change within a genre happens because of artists who don’t try to fit into any of the current boxes, artists who stretch the boundaries.

Basically, I don’t like genre labels.

So with the album I’m recording now, I have no boundaries and I’m recording everything I hear. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But at least I tried.

And it’s been so worth it. I think this is the best music I’ve made so far and, more importantly, it’s the most meaningful to me.

All this to say, don’t limit yourself unless it’s for a specific creative reason, to see what you can do with less.

Otherwise, let every idea out then sort through the good and the bad later.

A great app that has helped me organize my creative process is Evernote. I literally do all of my songwriting on it.

And you can use my referral link to get a free month of a Premium account (although the Free account is awesome too…I use it).

Why My Home Recordings Really Stink

Let me be self-deprecating for a moment — the quality of my home recordings (all made from various bedrooms and basements) really stink.

Home recording studio
One of my many recording setups

I mean, I’m happy with the music I’ve made. But sometimes the engineering could use some work.

So hopefully, these three home recording tips will help you avoid going through the whole trial-and-error experience like I did.

1) Tuning

It’s simple, but tuning is crucial. Case in point, my song “Let’s Get On A Boat.” The G string on my acoustic guitar is ever so flat. Bugs me every time I listen to it.

2) Production

When I recorded “Burning Like Chicago,” there was no cello in it. Can you imagine how boring the song would be without it? Fortunately, my friend and the guy who mixed/mastered the album, John Behrens, has a fantastic ear. He told me “something’s missing.”

3) Performance

On the song “Trust In Your Brother,” I’m singing slightly ahead of the beat, which makes this song non-listenable for me.

I’ve made mental notes of these three shortcomings in hopes that I can improve my engineering skills.

You should do the same.

Free for the holidays

Why you’re not allowed to stream my album

Let's Get On A BoatI released my newest album a little differently than my others. You can’t stream it, it’s not free, it’s old-fashioned (but the single is free for streaming and download!). To hear the album, you need to buy it (or steal it, which of course you wouldn’t do).

I did it this way for two reasons:

1. To stay loyal to my supporters

I completed this album only with the help of generous donations from some fine people (in exchange for exclusive rewards). To make the album available to stream for free would stab those fine people in their backs, and that’s just a mess.

To say to the backers, “Help me finish this album and I’ll give it to you in advance” and then turn around and say, “Here, everyone else, listen to the album for absolutely free”…that would be terrible for business and terrible for friendships, I think.

2. To try something new

I’ve put all of my past music on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and some on Spotify, and it’s all free. I’m so happy with the way these websites have allowed people to discover my music. I really enjoy giving it away — I’d recommend it to every artist.

But for Let’s Get On a Boat, I wanted to test out the anti-free-music theory that some people have. The old way of doing things.

So the experiment is in process. I’ll let you know soon how it’s going…

In the meantime, you can listen to and download the single, Let’s Get On a Boat, for free below and buy the full EP here