I got two quick stories for you.

Story #1: A couple weeks ago, while setting up my new studio, I decided to listen to a bunch of music I released in high school and college. As I unpacked boxes and organized cables and adapters, I just laughed and laughed at those old songs. They were terrible in every measurable way, but there was one thing in particular that stood out to me the most. It had to do with my voice. As a teenager, I had no idea what my voice was supposed to sound like. Every week at band rehearsal I would try to imitate another singer I liked. I really liked Creed at the time, so I would try to sing like Scott Stapp a lot. As I listened to those old recordings, it was so obvious that I was still trying to find my voice, that I was imitating other singers in a frenzied attempt to sound like a real singer. God forbid I simply sounded like myself.

Story #2: Every Thanksgiving Pam and I watch the movie “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.” It’s a fun, silly movie, but there’s a part that always resonates with me. Immediately after Steve Martin’s character rips into John Candy’s character, pointing out all the ways he is annoying and oblivious, John’s character, Del Griffith, with a tear in his eye replies, “Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing…I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.”

What a great line: “I like me.”

Sure, I could try to sing like the latest pop sensation. Sure, I could try to change who I am to please the masses, but it never works…and it’s not worth it. I’ll make better music (or at least more authentic music) if I simply be me.

In your journey to make great music, by all means learn from others. Analyze what they’re doing and incorporate some of their techniques into your own work…but make sure it’s still YOUR work. Those out-of-tune bits of your vocal performance, the way the snare drum in your mixes is always a little too loud, the way you leave long pauses in your songs to let the lyric sink in…don’t lose those.

People want to hear YOU, imperfections and all.

Joe Gilder
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