Amy Mantis
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The Eagles

As I have said before, I am not cool enough to not be an Eagles fan in this day and age.  They're too good to dislike as far as I'm concerned.

There was a brief period when I was too cool to admit that I liked them.  No, loved them.  I don't know why.  Maybe they weren't heavy enough, but then they have a song like "Those Shoes" with that talk box and that groove.  I don't know, but what I do know is that I am a student of the Eagles.  Why?

Because they're REALLY REALLY GOOD.

All of them.  I'm partial towards Don Henley and Joe Walsh, but after seeing them live, my respect for Glenn Frey went up tenfold.  He has charisma and knows how to handle a crowd.  He's far looser than Don Henley as a frontman.  I love Don.  I love his songwriting, I love his drumming, I love his voice, but there's a reason Glenn's up front most of the time and Don isn't.  And that's okay.  It works.  It works really well.

And I love Joe Walsh for obvious reasons.  I aspire to be like Joe Walsh in that he is 100% true to himself.  And he plays a mean guitar.  He also seems to not care what anyone thinks of him.  He does Joe Walsh and if you don't like it, well, you don't have to listen.

I think that's what I love the most about the musicians from the 60s and 70s.  While they wanted as many people as possible to hear them, if you didn't like them, they weren't going to try to please you.  They did their thing and they did it damn well.  Everyone from the Beatles to Hendrix to Janis Joplin to the Eagles to Cream to Led Zeppelin - if you didn't like it, go find something else.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to continue listening to the Eagles.

Actually, I'm gonna go practice, which is what Don Henley would do.

Pivoting

Bob Lefsetz's latest letter is a good one.  At least I think it is.  I'll add a link to the whole thing, but I'm gonna talk about one point in particular:

7. Learning

We live in a country where no one can admit they’re wrong. If you’re not willing to question every choice, do it differently next time, you’re never going to make it. Three years ago, almost everything I’ve said above would be different. You could go viral by your lonesome, social networking worked. But times change. You once used your aforementioned BlackBerry and were thrilled to get your e-mail on the run, now it’s all about apps. People hate change, but those who are willing to do so win. Kind of like in Silicon Valley, where it’s called “the Pivot.” Your original idea didn’t work, so you take the core and go in a different direction. You might think you’re a rocker, but truly you might be a country artist. You might think you’re a singer, but you might really be a songwriter, or a producer.

Unfortunately he's pretty spot on about Americans not being able to admit when we're wrong.  I like to think I know when I'm wrong.  I don't always act on it when I should, but I've gotten better at that end of things too.

Pivoting is something that musicians often (myself included - my former self) overlook out of pride.  "I said I was gonna do X so I'm gonna do it!"  I admire the determination but sometimes there's a better route than the original plan.  I have learned that.  I have learned that the hard way.

So don't be afraid to pivot.  The essence of your product, often times, is you.  So just do you, and realize that it might take a few tries to get it right.

Here's the rest of Bob's letter.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I've got a song for you all in the next post (it's not a Christmas song).

On Being In A Band - Part Six Of Many

My friend Julian Weisser posted this article on Facebook today.  It's titled "Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos: 'Don't Be an Asshole'".

Kapranos went on to list seven crucial things about being in a band.  Here they are - with some of my own thoughts:

Don't be an asshole!

YES.  I don't know why it's cool to not be nice.  It isn't cool.  I love seeing bands hanging out with fans and talking to people after the show.  I don't think there's anything to gain by being a jerk.  That stuff comes back to haunt you.

If the ideas are to flourish within a band, it's all about communication.

The worst times in my experience with bands is when there's a lack of communication going on.  When someone isn't talking, things don't work as well as they should.  EVen when the situation is hard - especially when the situation is hard to talk about (like someone leaving).  Talk it out.

Being in a band is not just about making music. There are so many other outlets that form the band's identity.

Quality band time outside of playing together is necessary.  Alex talked about it from a creative standpoint, and I agree with that.  I also think bands should hang out as bands minus instruments / talking about stuff related to the band.  Bonding as humans is how you're going to survive out there on the road when you're only playing 45 minutes a night.  There are a lot of hours to fill and if you can't get along, it shows.  It reflects in your music and in your performance.  Sure there are bands who fake it well, but they're usually getting paid far too much money so it's easy to fake it.

You can read a William Blake poem and not have to know who he was fucking when he wrote it. Just enjoy the bloody poem.

I don't know who William Blake is (well, I do - I just Googled him), but I get what Alex is saying.  Sometimes I want to know more about a song or an artist, but I don't need to know who Jackson Browne was singing about in "You Love The Thunder" to love that song.  Often times, it's made up anyway.  (I can say that.  I'm a songwriter.)  To quote William Miller, is a song better if it really happened?  Sometimes.  And I'm getting away from the point a bit, but nearly every song has some element of truth from personal experience in it anyway.

A band should aspire to be that pivotal point where everything changes.

I like this one.  It's definitely something awesome to aspire to be.  I'd love to be someone who opened the floodgates.  I definitely felt that way about Canary when we first started.  I was surrounded by all these bands trying to do complex things and I was like, 'Let's just make really good rock n roll.'  And we did.  And I like to think we still do.  There are a bunch of other fantastic rock bands in Boston that I discovered upon exiting the Berklee Bubble.

When the four of us got together to do this band, it was to play at parties and have a laugh and enjoy each other's company. That's what should be at the heart of a band.

I talked about this already.  Yes.

You need to completely empty your lungs of city air that you might have inhaled over the past year.

There's nothing like getting away for a while.  It does a band and an individual a world of good.  I love cities.  I will live in cities for the rest of my life, but I also love getting away from cities (preferably to Maine or Martha's Vineyard).  There's a lot of inspiration beyond the skylines, believe it or not.