Prince is brave

Last week I went to see Prince. I expected him to play all the hits. He didn’t. Well, there were a few, but they were re-arranged and slowed down. He had a full on fro, and he played a lot of Hendrix. Was it a coincidence that he was playing in Seattle? Or is he just that good that he can switch up his set like that?

His band rocked. An all girl band, up until the second half when a dude walked on stage with a cowbell and played it the rest of the night.

So here’s the thing. He’s good. And he knows it. Everyone was completely entertained and blown away. Girls were screaming. And he didn’t play any hits. In fact, he ended the night with a few covers. And we loved it anyway.

That takes guts. That takes talent.

Lessons from Louis

So Louis CK is one of the great comedians of our time, and probably other times, too. I just ran across this recent interview with him, that you should definitely check out.

Some things that stood out to me…

This guy is wise. He’s put in his time, he’s learned a lot, and now he’s finally doing well.

Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.

He’s not so much in it for the money. I mean, I’m sure he knows exactly how he’ll spend it. But he’s fine with selling specials on his own website. Times have changed. TV doesn’t really matter so much if you have a bunch of fans who know about your website. So he doesn’t need to sell out, to cash in.

At first HBO was like, “We can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, let’s not do it then.”

And he worked with David Lynch?? Okay, now I’m going to have to find that episode immediately.

Then he becomes a zen master about dealing with press.

I don’t think you should ever say anything that you’re going to have to apologize for later. If the heat gets hot, just let them get mad. How did somebody make you apologize? Did they literally hit you on your body? Let them be upset.

Of course that’s easy for him to say. The rest of us say things we regret later. But on the other hand he’s saying to just be yourself. Say what you believe. If  people don’t like your authenticity, then maybe it’s too much work for you to be what you’re not anyway.

That’s the thing about these famous people. They’re super human. Really, they were born that way, and then they put in a bunch of time and hard work to seal the deal. For the rest of us, we’re just happy to make a living. Even Louis is happy to do that–except then he was destined for much more.

Capturing inspiration

The concept of Flow is a certain intoxication of attention that gives you a feeling of omniscience of your subject matter. Time slows down to a crawl, and you handle many things at once. Your mind is clear, and your productivity is maximized.

There are lots of online articles about how to get into Flow, and how to avoid breaking Flow. Flow is important for artists and engineers alike. It’s a state of mind that is difficult to acquire and easy to lose, but it allows you to create your own inspiration. We all go through rituals to achieve Flow, just like we go through rituals to sleep or to be comforted.

I think that intoxication of Flow is a huge lure for artists, and probably one of the reasons that so many never leave their studios or complete anything. Flow is seductive and addictive.

There are a few other, less common, instances where Flow can occur but may be ignored and lost due to stress or distraction. Namely: during a performance and during a recording session.

I usually blog about things I messed up, as learning lessons. :) But from time to time I get something right. Scary, I know. Not too long ago, I was in the studio with Shiplosion, and on maybe the second take of a song I played this bombastic tom fill with a ton of cymbals on a complete whim. In retrospect, I had finally achieved a Flow state, and the inspiration presented itself in a single second that felt like an eternity, and I made a split second decision to just flow with it, and dammit I’m proud of that drum solo–something I had never rehearsed. (Sorry, the song’s not posted yet, but I’ll let you know)

Most recently, I recorded on the debut Bucharest Drinking Team album, and had another Flow moment (I think it took several takes this time) in a tune where I switched over to the ride cymbal during a brief phrase where the violins play. Again, this was never rehearsed, but it felt like I had an eternity right there in the middle of the song to think about the idea and decide to go with it.

In both cases, I’m pretty darned proud of what happened, and they would have been impossible without Flow.

I’m totally going to work hard to set my self up for this next time, because it was largely on accident. But I think the factors probably include: practice, practice, practice, self-confidence, preparation (i.e. practice), being warmed up, joy, minimized distractions, focus, trust in others, and relaxation. I’ll have to think about what kinds of rituals I can perform to lead up to moments like this. But the key is, that yes we still have to work and work and work regardless of inspiration–but we also need to be prepared and ready to seize inspiration when it does happen.

If you have any Flow rituals, or other examples where Flow was a huge success for you… please share them!