Paul Simon on Songwriting, and me on business-running

Found this:

Paul Simon on Songwriting

It is indeed nice to know that people like this have to work at it. Like Billy Joel talking about “difficult keys,” and Gabriela Montero saying that she would have to listen to her improvs played back for her and learn them by ear if she wanted to play them a second time.

It’s a matter of just not giving up, and for many things, the only bombproof way to insure that you won’t give up is just to love it too much.

Well, it’s also a matter of being skilled at performing other ancillary tasks that don’t have to do with music itself. That I think is the hardest part. People like Simon, McCartney, Carly Simon, Carole King, Stevie Wonder … they are all not just talented musicians and songwriters, but also businesspeople. They do run themselves as a business, and that is an unusual skill to possess especially together with artistic ability. The ability to self-market and run a business, the ability to deal with the tax paperwork needed to run one without being fatally intimidated, the ability to function without worrying about the fact that you have no health insurance and no canned retirement plan … To me, those are the hard things that those people do. The songwriting is nothing compared to the ability to function throughout one’s 20s and 30s without health insurance and a retirement plan.

And that’s a class problem more than anything, I think. Coming from a background with very little can either make one able to function in any situation without fear, or it can make one obsess about workplace stability. What someone like Zoe Keating does musically impresses me far less than her ability to embark on it without fearing that she has no 401k and is on her own for insurance.

And it’s complicated further for women musicians; young males don’t have to worry about certain aspects of being in their 20s and 30s. How did Keating become pregnant and give birth without health insurance? If she does have it, how did she get it? Does she simply have what I have discovered that most “creative people” have — a rich elder relative who bankrolls their lives while they “create?” A grandparent who handed out checks with lots of zeroes to the grandkids throughout their childhood, which results in a huge cushion for experimentation as young adults? A spouse/partner with money? Or just a golden and enviable sense of invulnerability? Did her career in technology enable her to put option money away as a cushion? These I think are the real obstacles for most people to creativity, the business obstacles, and I have found very few people who manage this without some sort of safety net provided by others, and certainly no responsibility to provide that safety net for others.

Back to the music issues, I’m also heartened that another songwriter alluded to in the article apparently works via the Brilliant Flash method. I’ve done that in other arenas not music, where you get a fully formed idea, run with it, and it burns itself out quickly and almost comes out of you already done in a quick and occasionally painful process. Like giving birth in six seconds — *shudder.*

I seem to have to keep chipping away when it comes to music, though.

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