I'm finally free to write and produce my first solo album! A dream since a million years ago.
So here I am. Staring at a blank canvas. Trying to clear my mind. Trying to tap into the ether. Trying to manifest something brilliant. But I'm so distracted! Distracted by questions I've been asked about 100 times already: "What is your genre? What is your brand? Have you identified your niche? What is your sound?" Apparently, it is very important to figure this stuff out before putting paintbrush to canvas, so-to-speak.
This feels so backwards to me! How am I supposed to label art before it's created?
Truthfully, I've been having a musical-identity crisis ever since I left Autumn Hill. I think it's because I've been trying to carefully paint inside the 'pop country' lines when really I just want to dump a bucket of paint onto the canvas and roll around in it.
I should quickly explain why I left Autumn Hill, as I haven't honestly talked about it yet: It was getting harder and harder to identify with the songs we were singing. The singles were sincere — “Blame”, “Fire”, “Anything At All”; anything relationship-based — but some of the deeper album tracks, “Good Night for Going Nowhere”, “Party Like Memphis" (fan-favorites on tour) were a challenge to connect with. Can I tell you a secret? I don’t drink. Aside from a thimble of red wine with dinner, I don’t drink beer, or Jack, or lemon drops or anything that makes a good lyric. I guess you could say my personality was "off brand".
Maybe a degree of separation between my true-self and my stage-self is a good thing — but I felt like I was being artificial. And for me, artificial isn't sustainable (unless you're a plastic house plant. Which, ironically, is what I began to feel like near the end of Autumn Hill.) I spent the last six years trying to appeal to the “right” demographic, the “right” chart, the “right” genre in order to be a "successful" musician, but I have this paradoxical instinct suggesting I won’t experience sustainable, self-defined success until I am 100% myself, inspired.
I'm never going to rip a guitar solo behind my head like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I'm never going to fabulously whip my hair around like Beyoncé (Although if I did, I would most definitely get it caught in a fan. Like she did that one time. Google it. It's amazing. She just keeps on singing like nothing's happening. What a pro.) Anyway, I couldn't do these things without looking like a character Kristen Wiig would play on SNL. But -- but! I will stand there and sing from the pit of my heart until you feel something in the pit of yours (hopefully).
In the entrance of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo NY, hangs a work of art; a giant canvas painted white. White paint over white canvas.
A few weeks ago a friend and I discussed this painting over a thimble of red wine. She said it made her feel angry; "how could it be considered 'art' if it wasn’t a painting of anything?" We eventually concluded that perhaps it was art because it made her feel something.
That’s all I want for my new album; to create a work of art that makes someone feel something.
So anyway; what is my “brand” or “niche” or "sound" or "genre"? I don't know yet. I understand the need to compartmentalize, categorize, organize, store, retrieve, re-store and retrieve (bleh), but most of the songs are still in their raw, singer/songwriter-y state; safely stored in the “Voice Memos” app on my phone. They can be painted into the corner of any genre by making a few simple decisions: Guitar or piano? Pedal steel or synth? Sometimes the line between pop and country is as thin as a banjo string. Ultimately, I'll go with whatever best communicates the emotion of the song.
Maybe I'll end up with a multi-genre album. Or something really unusual, like 36 minutes of white noise. But probably not. I probably wont do that.
Well, whatever this album ends up looking like, hopefully it makes someone feel something. Including me.