Music Context

Now you’re fully educated on the history of pop, urban, and Latin music. Well, maybe not fully educated, but the knowledge I’ve presented you with should help you get through trivia night with your friends. You’re welcome.

You’ve got the facts. You know the history. So why does it matter? Context. Context is important when it comes to music. Any time an artist is interviewed, the interviewer is almost always asks the musician who they are inspired or influenced by. If you were interviewing me, I would say one of my biggest inspirations is Chelo. I’ve mentioned before that he is an artist who dabbles in fusing together pop, urban, and Latin genres. In order for you to fully understand what fusing these genres meant, you had to understand their individual histories.

Which means now you get to know my individual history when it comes to music.

Music has always been an outlet for me. I would decompress after a long day by simply lying on my bed and listening to music. At first it was on my Walkman, then on my first generation iPod, and now it’s my iPhone 6. The headphones have improved, the sound quality has improved, but the quality of music has always stayed the same. I grew up in a musical family that appreciated music from every angle: as performers and as listeners.

I didn’t know until I discovered Chelo just how complex music can be, and how different music can sound by simply mixing genres. I think in every young adult’s life there is the songwriting phase. We all have multiple journals packed up in a box somewhere that we hope never see the light of day. God forbid anyone besides you reads what’s written in those journals. Not everyone is cut out for songwriting.

At some point in my life, it became much more than a phase for me. I had to write, and I had to put the words to music. It was rough at first. The first few were terrible. Okay, so the first hundred were terrible. But everyone starts somewhere. I knew from a young age that I was no musical prodigy, so there was no rush for me to perfect my songwriting technique. As an artist, I’ve learned you’ll never reach perfection. Art can always be remodeled, redone, and touched up. Perfection is nearly impossible. Everything is always a work in progress.

Over the years, I’ve perfected the process I use when I want to focus on hammering out a new song or a song that I’ve been working on for a while. First thing you should know: I keep two journals. The first is my song journal (not like the ones I mentioned earlier, I’m quite proud of all the songs in this journal) with verses, lyrics, and tunes written in. The second is simply a writing journal. Sometimes songs don’t just appear in a song form, with the first verse, chorus, second verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Actually, that’s most of the time. Let’s get to the actual process, but keep those journals in mind. They come up again later on in the process.

To prepare, I like to make sure I’ve had a little snack, so my mind won’t drift to thinking about my next meal in the middle of the process. Next, I turn off my TV and silence my cell phone because again: distractions tend to be distracting. If the song I’m working on already has a few bars or verses to it, then I’ll read over what I already have and hum the tune until the wheels in my brain start turning. Sometimes it’s hard to get back to that original source of inspiration and sometimes it doesn’t all come back at first. I never try to force a song though. Don’t get me wrong, writer’s block can be the most frustrating thing, especially if you’re on a deadline or when you rely on these songs as your source of income.

If I’m starting from scratch on a new song, I refer to my writing journal. I keep all forms of writing in this journal, from random thoughts to dreams to poems to stream of consciousness monologues I jot down when I first wake up in the morning. Most of my ideas come from here, especially if I’m dealing with a new song.

I don’t have a preferred position when I’m writing. I can be sitting at my desk, laying in my bed, but most of the time I wind up on the carpet. One thing that can really disrupt the writing process is if anything is not in its place while I’m writing. If my desk is messy, if my bed is not made, if my room is cluttered, or if my carpet is dirty, I can’t write. Lately I’ve had to invest in someone who knows how to deep clean a carpet. Vacuuming just doesn’t cut it for the kind of clean I need.

I saw an ad online for Katy Carpet Cleaners a few weeks ago, and I called them when I felt like my carpet was too dirty to work around. They were able to schedule an appointment within the next week, but the only problem was that I wouldn’t be home when they came. They assured me this wouldn’t be a problem, they’d done it many times before, and they would call when they arrived and when they left. The day arrived when they would be coming to clean, and I received a call earlier than the time they said they’d be there. They finished quickly and called me right when they left. I came home to a deep-cleaned carpet, and I was able to write a song that night. All thanks to Katy Carpet Cleaners.

Everyone has their weird ticks when it comes to figuring out the “process” they need to go through in order to create or get work done. Tina Fey sniffs dryer sheets and I have to be in an immaculately clean environment. So find out what your tick is, and embrace it. Because out of that strange tick comes art. Or whatever it is you do.