A Case for Authenticity
We are being herded into these categories that define us before we even know we've been packaged into the same square box as everyone else. This is an indie music blog, but it’s pretty clear when Luke Bryan and his tight leather pants are the face and legs of modern country music, the entire industry is in pretty deep shit. But when you keep hurling superficial garbage at us for too long we grow restless. That is why people like Chris Stapleton have been so successful. With so much that is an illusion in front of our eyes and assaulting our ears we beg for something real; something to wrap our arms around. While the rest of country radio was singing about "lacing up their jays" and "painted on jeans" (I can’t make this up, see Florida Georgia Line and every other bro country artist for lyrical evidence of this injustice) polarizing every real fan of country music that longs for yesteryear when Waylon and Willie sang about what it meant to have a broken heart.
There seems to be several different ways to go about getting heard. The most common practice today seems to be figuring out exactly what people want to hear, and then paint by numbers. There is song science that is considered by major producers when creating or releasing a song. What patterns are they accustomed to hearing, what rhythm will engage their subconscious and what habits over time have we instilled in the average listener?
Now I would never fault anyone for wanting to create a more effective product, but I think it should also be asked why? Why make this product more effective? Why make this product at all? When the answer is to only drive revenue it is my opinion that there is a fault in the operation at a fundamental level, and I think it is clear that is what we are finding in music today. Empty calories in our music diet living off of the sugar high.
When an artist creates something, whether that is from the perspective of the musician wanting to record the album, or a producer putting it all together, I hope they start with the question “Why”. This leads to another path for being heard. Allow me to make a case for authenticity. If you feel something in you that needs to be shared,that is when it’s time to speak. When both the audience and the artist are growing from the experience. Find your mission;whether you’re John C. Reilly at the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer trying to make beautiful music for a sad world, or you simply have a message that needs to be delivered.
What’s even more important is to stay on message and carry out your plan. Of course, we all must evolve and our opinions may change, but when your tactics shift your principles will remain. It is hard to find something we despise as a community more than someone who sells out their values for success. But the point of this blog is to ensure you that success will come to those who remain committed to their ideals, which brings me back to Chris Stapleton. Stapleton's album "Traveler" shared real insight into who he is and what he has been through (with a beard like that you know he's seen some shit). People loved, respected and believed him for his authenticity. By “people”, we’re not just talking about the niche of people like you and I who search out quality music, I mean everyone including the establishment. Typically, I know when the establishment (C.M.A. in this example) showers an artist in praise and multiple awards; it’s not a good sign. Though Stapleton won Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and New Artist of the Year all the same year, it would take a pretty cynical hipster to say Mr. Stapleton has sold out. He is the real thing, and that is the reason for his success. Be authentic and don’t give an inch. Authenticity will take your listeners and you exponentially further than empty hits at the cost of your artistic soul.