Because my own music sticks closely to the Jazz, Blues Classic R&B and Brill Building Pop tunes these days I don't have to catch up on the latest radio or club sounds in order to feel up to date. (what a relief!) The music I make is all about lyric and the singing voice and telling a story with as much authentic emotional truth as possible. Thats why I find myself happiest when listening to what I call "source music".
WHAT IS "SOURCE MUSIC"?
Historically there are certain artists who helped define a sound early in the development of a genre. It is with them that I like to hang out when I am opening to the possibilities in my writing. Say Hank Williams for instance. The width and breadth of his abilities helped define what recorded commercial country music as a genre would one day become. His work was rooted in the Blues and Gospel and Folk Idioms of poor folks and designed for both Saturday night dancing and the Sunday prayer meeting. From "Im so Lonesome I Could Cry", to "Honky Tonkin'" to "I Saw The Light"
One simple little ditty of Hank's can pull us into the complex world of human experience, our wants and needs and fears so completely that they can feel like contemporary statements.
(I also find Johnny Cash clears up my thinking and gets rid of the excess need to be clever.)
The Blues is such an important touchstone to all of rock n roll and R & B based pop and I find myself returning time and time again to the great pioneers like Robert Johnson whose tiny output of recordings made during his short life have actually effected the way we hear and experience music for all time. Likewise the powerfully constructed Chess recordings of Muddy Waters whose sound was built more for the bar room and juke box and helped create all that we think of as contemporary music.
Keeping my listening habits simple and truthful seems to help me be all the more honest and emotional direct in my work. Of course I never fail to keep the triumvirate of writing gods Leonard, Joni and Dylan close at hand as well.
There's nothing like inspiration from the highest mountain to help keep our eyes on the prize…creating work that is the very highest calibre we are capable of right?
What is your "Source Music" ?