Monday, April 4, 2016

Musings From Sonic Highways

In case you haven't figured this out from other blog posts, I love my music. Not only do I love specific bands, but I have a great appreciation for music as a whole, regardless of genre. Confession time--I wanted to be in a rock band. Obviously, that worked out for me. So when it comes to things based around music, I'm very interested.

Having children has left me separated from the music scene for over ten years, as my attentions have been drawn elsewhere. Now that my children are a little more independent, I'm slowly getting my groove back.

I've been watching the HBO show Vinyl. I LOVE the historical music aspect, not too keen on the drama. My husband and I have so much fun watching it and seeing the musicians referenced.

For quite a while, my husband has been after me to watch the Foo Fighter's HBO documentary, Sonic Highways. We really enjoyed Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. Though my husband watch Sonic Highways, I hadn't made time for it yet.

Saturday night I wanted something to veg out to before bed and decided to watch the first episode. On Sunday, while folding laundry, I watched another...which turned into two more. So I'm four episodes in, half way through. It's fantastic.

The band spends a week in eight different cities in the US to record a song for their Sonic Highways album. What makes it so interesting is that the band's lead singer, guitar player, and sometimes dummer, Dave Grohl, interviews different musicians, producers, and others involved in that city's music scene. So far I've watched Chicago, Washington D.C., Nashville, and Austin. I must admit, I'm looking forward Los Angeles because many of my first favourite bands came out of the scene there in the '80s/early '90s. And, naturally, I'm looking forward to the Seattle episode, not only because Chris Cornell is in it, but because the music that came from there in the '90s was the soundtrack for my high school days. I will admit that I was sad that the music scenes in Toronto or Vancouver weren't part of it.

As a writer, it's interesting to see the creative process in other mediums. Listening to the musicians talk about where they came from and seeing Foo Fighters put together the song for that city, is inspirational.

There are a few things I've picked up from the series so far.

One of the biggest is, believe in yourself and be true to your vision. Many of the musicians interviewed didn't have it easy and had to fight to get where they were. I loved how Dischord Recordings was started by a young band because they wanted to put out a record but no labels were interested, so they did it themselves. I believe the founder said that the label had sold over four-million albums worldwide. I was super impressed when Zack Brown told the story about how another band recorded Fried Chicken, with Zack Brown's permission, but he asked them not to release it as a single. When the other band did, Zack Brown stepped up and had the song pulled, even though it would piss off a major player in the Nashville music scene. You can read more about it here. Good for him! As artists, we need to stand up for our work.

Another thing is many of these artists thought outside the box. They were often going against the grain and trying new things. Sometimes the music was a blend of genres, or a new spin on a genre. The message: your audience is out there, you just need to find it. As a writer, it's important to try new things, to think outside the usual tropes.

If you're a music fan, I recommend checking out Sonic Highways, even if you're not into Foo Fighters. The episodes explore different genres of music from blues to punk to country to rock (in all it's forms).

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