What Makes Great Artists Great?

What makes great artists great? 

Passion. 

Why is it that a great artist can make a slow song great when others would bore you with it? It’s passion for the performance. Simple. People want to know you care about what you’re doing. Otherwise they’ll tune out. 

MJ.jpg

Try it in everyday life. Do you want to go to the deli where the guy making your sandwich doesn’t care about being there, or do you go to the guy in town who has a wink in his eye because he loves his job, and he remembers your name when you come in, has the freshest meats in town, organic cheeses, and since he cares so much about serving sandwiches, they’re actually really good. Which one? 

It’s the same thing with music. Or any job. People like people who have invested their whole lives into what they are doing. What about your mechanic? Same thing. Your plummer? Your banker? Your hair stylist? Your massage therapist? Your grocer? Passion is the thing that makes you different. Passion. And Commitment. 

11-bowie.w710.h473.jpg

It’s the thing that connects you to others because it’s the thing that people will see and know they want to be like... and because everybody on Earth is passionate about SOMETHING, and it will show them you are unafraid to go after your dreams so why aren’t they? 

So be passionate. 

Live your dream. 

Be unafraid. 

Forget the people who laugh at you, who doubt you. Use their hate and fear as fuel. 

Be the person you want to be. Doing the things you want to be doing. 

Start now. 

Get The Track Right

Video is a big part of your life as a musician. We all know that. It’s how we share who we are in the new world.

But a lot of up-and-coming artists make content and worry about ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ for everything they are posting. But a video won’t do anything for you if the audio is lame and the track doesn’t groove and get your foot tapping. Don’t worry about where you shoot, how great you look, what kind of camera you have, or what outfit you’re wearing, UNTIL YOU GET THE TRACK RIGHT. 

Doesn't matter how many IG followers you have. They won’t care if the track isn’t right. 

People care more about great music & passion than they do about looking good, making fancy videos, and posing. Just look at Ed Sheeran. He’s the anti-star. I think he would have a tough time getting a date if he was the Night Manager at Burger King. I'm mean, he'd find somebody, but because of his music, he's a superstar. Because he writes great music. He can play his ass off. He is focused on the thing that matters: 

THE MUSIC

ed-sheeran-fan-sydney-arrivo-foto-sheerios.jpg

So you know what you should do?

You should spend your time studying Ed. 
You should spend your time studying his songs. 
You should spend your time learning his songs. 
Breaking then down into pieces. 

Cover them NOT TO GET HITS ON IG, and not to get an award from an internet company that you’ve never heard of…

Do it because you will learn how the greats do it. 

Who do you think Tiger Woods emulated when he was growing up? A: Jack Nicklaus
Who do you think Prince studied when he was growing up? A: Stevie Wonder
Who do you think Ed Sheeran studied when he was growing up: A: The Beatles
Who do you think Paul McCartney studied when he was young? A: Buddy Holly
Who do you think Buddy Holly studied when he was young? A: Elvis Presley
Who did Keith Richards studied when he was growing up A: Chuck Berry

And these superstars STUDIED them. The wanted to BE them. They wrote their first songs to COPY them. Watch interviews for yourself. Paul McCartney, one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived, said he would cut school, meet up with John Lennon, and they’d try for hours to write a song like “That’ll Be The Day.” 

Stop worrying about the short term. 

Think about the long term. 

Get the right songwriters going through your veins. You will benefit from it. And maybe someday you will influence somebody else...

by getting the track right. 

 

100 Greatest Artists of All Time

This is an incredible collection of stories about the top 100 artists of all time, WRITTEN BY ACTUAL ARTISTS.  I was impressed by the quality of writing from so many artists that I know. Except the one by Brittney Spears. Ha. Well, I give her credit. At least she wrote something. Writing certainly isn't easy (She wrote the one for Madonna). I was especially impressed by the writing of: Marlyn Manson, Lou Reed, Flea, Elton John, Jackson Browne, Rick Rubin, John Mayer, Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, The Edge, Steve Cropper, Lenny Kaye and Iggy Pop. Check out the article HERE. It's worth a glance. 

Here is the hyperlink: 
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-artists-of-all-time-19691231

Cheers,
Murphy 

You Need Oomph

You Need Oomph. 

After listening to unsigned artists on YouTube, singing their songs in music videos, and then comparing that to people like 21 Pilots, Niall Horan, Gwen Stefani, Brothers Osborne, and other artists who have million of views and make their living from their music, one difference pops out to me.

Know what it is? 

Those hit makers have oomph. 

 I love 21 Pilots. I think they rule. I'm lame for never seeing them, but I caught on late. Next time, I won't miss them. 

I love 21 Pilots. I think they rule. I'm lame for never seeing them, but I caught on late. Next time, I won't miss them. 

Yeah. It's like the hitmakers and successful artists have a weight, or a heaviness to them that the independent and unsigned artists do not. It's like they're pouring EVERY SINGLE OUNCE OF THEIR SOUL INTO IT. It's also a COMMITMENT to the music that comes before everything else in their life. You can feel it from them. You can sense it. It oozes out of them. But Oomph transcends genre. You don't have to be a 'loud' band to have it. You don't have to be Motorhead, or Prince, or Bowie. You can have Oomph as a folk singer. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Joan Baez, Van Morrison and Johnny Cash had Oomph.

 Yes, this is the over-used and cliched photograph of The Man in Black giving the finger. There are a thousand other photos that are probably cooler than this one, but this one does sum up, very quickly his passion, his ire, and his balls. So I chose it. 

Yes, this is the over-used and cliched photograph of The Man in Black giving the finger. There are a thousand other photos that are probably cooler than this one, but this one does sum up, very quickly his passion, his ire, and his balls. So I chose it. 

Johnny Cash might of had the most Oomph of all time.  Who's more bad ass than him? Florida Georgia Line? Johnny Cash didn't even sing loud, he sang low, and he wasn't a fancy or high-maintenance man. But he was a complete badass. You knew he was a serious as a heart attack. He wasn't going to give up music and go sell cars if his fans stopped buying his records. He would play music to the grave, regardless. And that's exaclty what he did. Writing, recording, and performing right up until his death. 

 Chuck Berry. The King of Rock n Roll. Just ask Keith Richards. 

Chuck Berry. The King of Rock n Roll. Just ask Keith Richards. 

But of course it's true that being a great songwriter helps. You can have commitment, and be a total lunatic and brilliant performer, but if you have crappy songs, you will be playing to empty venues. So yes, you need good songs. 

A lot of indie bands who make videos, singing in a field of lilies, slowing strumming acoustic guitars and playing with very little bite, angst, pain, passion or oomph. I don't know why they do this.  I guess it's just easy to now get a camera, and go sing somewhere.. and then post it. But if you want to make a difference, you need to have that weight. Take this guy for instance, There's no way this guy (left) is as interesting, or as deep, or as moving as Elliott Smith (right):

There's just no way.

But I'm not saying you should be like Elliott Smith. Elliott was troubled. After a routine fight with his girlfriend, he stabbed himself in the chest to end his life. That's not a typo. He STABBED HIMSELF IN THE CHEST. But no one can take away his music, or has passion while he was here.

His Oomph lives on. 

 I have met Gwen several times, as we played various festival shows with them over the years. She is a complete rock star in the best sense of the word. And she's also super cool. Check out the look on her face. You need to know what that feels like if you plan on doing music. You need to know that level of confidence. That's Oomph. 

I have met Gwen several times, as we played various festival shows with them over the years. She is a complete rock star in the best sense of the word. And she's also super cool. Check out the look on her face. You need to know what that feels like if you plan on doing music. You need to know that level of confidence. That's Oomph. 

Chuck Berry had Oomph. 21 Pilots have Oomph. Marvyn Gaye, Gwen Stefani, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Marley all have or had Oomph.

Most successful artists have it. 

 Stevie Ray Vaughn was the greatest guitar player that I ever saw live. Some people used to say it was a spiritual experience seeing to see him. I can't argue it wasn't. After one particular show in San Diego, I met him backstage. He was a total gentleman. Very kind, and soft spoken. I guess that's because he left everything onstage, and he was spent and happy because of it. 

Stevie Ray Vaughn was the greatest guitar player that I ever saw live. Some people used to say it was a spiritual experience seeing to see him. I can't argue it wasn't. After one particular show in San Diego, I met him backstage. He was a total gentleman. Very kind, and soft spoken. I guess that's because he left everything onstage, and he was spent and happy because of it. 

What exactly is it?

It's the feeling that their lives depend on it.

Look at the legends. Their commitment is whole. Their "all-in" meter is 120%  They're not confused why they're there. They want the limelight, and they know what to do with it when they get it. But fame isn't their ultimate goal. They are driven to share their art, to move people, to translate what they're feeling to you. To the rest of us.

And they do it like their lives depend on it. That's the difference. 

I'll say it again. 

They do it like their lives depend on it. 

Look at Pete Townshend's face in the photo below. I guarantee you he was not thinking about s**t beyond that gig. That gig is everything to him. Nothing was on his mind except THAT night, THAT song, THAT jump. Nothing. Else. Just. That. 

 I'd like to enter this as arguably the greatest 'jump' photo in all of Rock 'n Roll. HIs jump is so high, his shadow is ABOVE his HIWATT amp stacks in the background. And check out Keith Moon, he's digging on it. 

I'd like to enter this as arguably the greatest 'jump' photo in all of Rock 'n Roll. HIs jump is so high, his shadow is ABOVE his HIWATT amp stacks in the background. And check out Keith Moon, he's digging on it. 

I'm not sure any of the artists below have any Oomph in their videos, EPs, streams or downloads. They probably all sing and play well. That's not the issue. I'm not saying they suck. I'm just pointing out the difference and the commitment level it takes to buy a cup of coffee from your royalties verses buying a house from them.

So if you want to just sing and play well, and do some live dates, and release your album on iTunes, that's pretty easy to do. The commitment level is low. You won't be viewed as a 'failure' to your family if you don't make it in music.

maxresdefault.jpg

But if you want the opposite, if you want to risk failure, if you want to be like Alicia Keys, or Ed Sheeran, or Pharrell or or Maroon 5 and stake your claim to millions of followers around the globe, then you better get used to risk. But risk is exactly where you will find Oomph.

Pharrell-Williams-GQ-25Jul16_Hunter-Gatti_b.jpg

And it doesn't hurt to add a little Oomph every once in a while.

That 'Extra Special Something'

The old way you knew a band was good was they played live and killed onstage and drew a huge crowd and there was a buzz in the city about their live shows.

Nowadays it seems like this is less so. There are still up-and-coming bands that are great live, but it seems that the majority of new bands record more, play live less, and get better in videos online.

But that doesn’t help their live shows.

At some point, you’ve got to go out and be amazing onstage, and learn what it takes to do that, whether you are a band that is mellow or comes out doing backflips and breathing fire.

In addition to being great live, it seems like bands have always needed these essentials to make it:

You need to be great live
You need to have amazing songs
You need to have a unique or cool image
You need to have a desire to be successful

All of those things will get you a local following and create a buzz, but there is one final, massive determining factor in whether or not you will stay in that pizza job or if you will be selling out 3,000 seat venues in the next 5 years:

That ‘extra something special.’

 Bruno Mars and his band absolutely crushing it at the 2012 Grammys. This one did it for me. He just came out and blew everyone away. He was like a modern day James Brown, and he made everyone else seem like pretenders.  

Bruno Mars and his band absolutely crushing it at the 2012 Grammys. This one did it for me. He just came out and blew everyone away. He was like a modern day James Brown, and he made everyone else seem like pretenders.  

That’s what it was called for as long as I can remember. No one could explain it to me, they would just say its something that makes you stand out and be different from all the rest. In a good way.

In fact, I remember when I was a little a kid, my dad had a hippie musician friend who had a band. He was totally into it. Really good guy, and really dedicated. I remember their band name, The Call Ball Band. I remember the logo. This was 1978! I remember they made demos in a real studio (something that was VERY expensive back then) His only problem was that to me, he just wasn’t as special as all the albums my parents had in their collection. That was his competition. James Taylor, The Doobie Brothers, Carole King, Elton John, Traffic, The Allman Brothers. And as a kid, that was who I was judging him against because that’s all I had every heard. So to me, this guy was not even close to them. He felt like a gas station attendant compared to those bands.

But I remember feeling bad as a kid because he was the most dedicated guy EVER and I just knew he wasn’t going to make it. Not on that level anyway. Perhaps he would keep on playing and could up make it as a professional session guy. Or maybe he would be a ‘club’ guy, which is someone who could play small clubs forever, never getting rich, but playing music forever nonetheless. Maybe he could find a way to be a side guitarist on a big tour and then taste the big time that way… But in terms of HIM being on the same playing field as Greg Allman, James Taylor, or Michael McDonald…

Not a chance.

Those are world class talents that come around once in a long time. And they have that extra special something. When they walk into a room, it lights up. Maybe their shine does have a lot to do with their songs being so good. That could be true. But the reality is that they have it. Maybe without his songs, Michael McDonald could be mistaken for a night manager at Burger King.

 Michael McDonald on tour with the Doobies. 

Michael McDonald on tour with the Doobies. 

But he wrote them. So maybe part of that extra special something is the deep rooted desire he had to make it and his unending work ethic for his craft until he found like minded musicians to help him record his hit songs. Perhaps.

But it would be hard to say that Call Ball, the hippie friend my Dad had in the 70s, DIDNT MAKE IT in some way. He can hold his head up high and look back on a life of pursing his dreams with dignity.

Look, its easy to open a YouTube account and put your music online. Get a video camera. BAM. You put it online and get some hits. But its easy to hide that way. You need the real reactions where people ARE ACTUALLY SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU.

 We never turned down a live gig in all our lives.. Except for the ones that canceled on us. There were a few. Here we are on the Matchbox 20/Sugar Ray/Maroon 5 tour in 2004. 

We never turned down a live gig in all our lives.. Except for the ones that canceled on us. There were a few. Here we are on the Matchbox 20/Sugar Ray/Maroon 5 tour in 2004. 

It would be like a comic putting jokes online. Maybe they would work. But a comic needs to feel that interaction, that immediate crowd approval or disapproval. They keep hitting the stage, honing their craft, working it to learn it, get it down, and become great.

Same for musicians.

So get onstage and sweat. Anything will work: club, coffee shop, American Idol audition, bar, abandoned warehouse, street corner, wherever. Just play some music to real people.

It will always be the greatest way to find out if you’ve got that extra special something.