You know the old saying: Sometimes, in order to move forward, you need to break up what you have and start all over.
Usually this fine piece of advice is invoked when a wall is hit. Ever reached a point where you’re stuck, where a block of giant proportions stands in the way between you and ANY progress? Of course. Anyone who has ever written, played, performed, or done anything creative knows the feeling.
So what do you do? You drop everything and start fresh. Maybe step away from that chord progression that won’t come together. Or perhaps recognize that a song may not sound right to you because of a number of things … most likely a combination of factors. At that point, knowing that something is wrong is more important than knowing what is wrong. Either way, you know that the only way around the problem is to go, well, around the problem.
But failure shouldn’t be the only reason to start fresh. Why not break the model even things are great? There’s a precedent for this. Miles Davis did it. Radiohead does it — every album … and they’re doing OK.
So what did this mean for me? Well, it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. I’d been planning to take some of the composers on staff at Jingle Punks down to Nashville for awhile. Why not? In addition to its rich and storied history, Nashville is the birthplace of many of today’s biggest hits. It’s also the center of music publishing worldwide.
Of course, to many, "Nashville" means ‘country." Or, with the recent arrival of the Black Keys, Jack White and Third Man Records, bluesy, garage rock. I love country, and I’ve written country songs. I love rock, and I’ve written rock. But writing country and rock songs wouldn’t be stepping out of my comfort zone.
To get a breakthrough, I decided, I need to break on through! I needed to think differently than I normally do. So I made some calls. Some of Nashville’s most talented songwriters and producers agreed to come by our rented loft and write and jam! Awesome!
But bringing musicians together was just the beginning. What I wanted was cross-pollination, baby. Hip-hop producer? Meet country pop writer. Die hard rock dude? Meet our talented dance music producer. I wanted these cats to do stuff they wouldn’t usually be doing. I had to see what would happen!
So would you be surprised if I told you that the week was successful beyond our wildest dreams? Any musician shouldn’t be. Genres are malleable, almost imaginary boundaries. Talent wins. And not just talent, but inspiration. When we asked to challenge ourselves, what happened? We responded. You gotta keep pushing yourself. You gotta try new things.
When we left Nashville, we were INSPIRED, baby. And we had over seventy new copyrights that didn’t exist the week before. Here’s to writing songs! And trying new things. And those seventy songs? They’re good! And besides the songs, we left Nashville with an intangible item: the experience of knowing what can happen when you open your heart, mind, and skill set to new ideas. Here’s to Nashville, living up to its Music City USA name, as usual.
Until next time ...
Jared Gutstadt (b. 1977), is an American music entrepreneur and CEO of Jingle Punks Music. Jingle Punks Music has been featured in Billboard, Wired and Variety and was named "one of America's most promising start-ups" by Business Week. His band, the Hipster Orchestra, performs fresh and modern orchestral versions of alternative and indie classics. You can find out more about the Hipster Orchestra online and at iTunes or Amazon: Hipster Dinner Party Vol. 1 ... Nirvana Sessions.