I gave a speech to the DC chapter of ISES last night at a club called Love. Coolest place I’ve ever seen in my life.
The bartender, Preston, told me that on Friday of this week, Ludacris will be performing on the same stage I took last night.
Wow! I can see it now: halfway through his show, Ludacris will say, “Yo, I just wanna thank Club Love for allowing me to perform on the same stage as my hommie Scotty G. Big ups to the Nametag Guy.”
Hey, no problem Ludacris. Whatever I can do dog.
Anyway, that got me thinking about college. During my stint at Miami, I spent a number of nights playing music in coffee shops. Nothing too elaborate, just me, my guitar and a microphone. Sharing songs I’d written about stuff that was going on in my life.
It was a singer/songwriter’s dream: unplugged, intimate and authentic. Like an episode of VH1 Storytellers. The perfect venue to share my art with the world.
The only problem was, people didn’t want art. They wanted to hear songs they knew:
“Play some Dave Matthews!”
Right. I’m going to stand up here all night and play covers like some typical, unoriginal, crowd-pleasing, sell out copycat so you and your friends can get drunk and sing along to jams you’ve heard a thousand times before. If you want that, stay home and listen to your stereo!
Unfortunately, some of them actually did. (Or they went to another bar. One of the two.)
However, despite smaller crowds, I stayed committed to playing my own stuff.
Not because I was the next campus rock star. Not because I was the next Dylan. But because it’s just not in my nature to do other people’s material.
That’s just not how I roll. Not in art, not in business and not in life.
I make my own music. Period.
Interestingly enough, after a few years of playing shows, audiences started to listen between the notes. People finally embraced the originality of the music. Songs touched them in a new way, even if they didn’t know all the words. And ultimately, the music was that much more beautiful. It was sustained by its creativity and uniqueness.
But we’re not talking about music here.
The point is: you can always play someone else’s material, but that won’t sustain you. It won’t challenge you. It won’t expand you. And it certainly won’t guarantee you success. After all, how many tribute bands have ever been inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?
That’s right. Zip-o.
Look. I know sometimes it’s just easier to play other people’s stuff: it’s quick, it’s safe and it’s guaranteed to get you some applause.
But you know what? Receiving a nice round of inner applause feels a hell of a lot better.
If you truly want to make a name for yourself, make your own music.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
In what way do you make your own music?
* * * *
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag