Change can be tough. In the familiar, there is security, and in that security – at least for artists – there is stagnation. Once we find our groove and know how to operate in it, it’s easy for us to not want to climb back out of it. And hey, that one groove may be all you need as an artist – plenty of bands have had tremendous careers writing the same song or album several times. But for most of us, that stagnation can leave us unfulfilled. After 14 years spread between a plethora of bands and roles within them, here’s what I’ve learned about chasing that sweet, sweet musical satisfaction.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. There are a lot of reasons that we might be stuck somewhere as artists. We’re afraid of losing our audience, alienating our earliest fans, most of all we’re afraid of creating something that might fail. That’s a valid fear, casual audiences can sometimes be fickle and one “bad” record can turn them off – but it can just as easily pull in a whole new audience. Striking a balance between artistic and commercial considerations in songwriting is something that artists work their entire lives to perfect – don’t worry about a miss or two on the way.
Embrace criticism. This is just as true in music as it is in life. Having a thick skin to criticism is a tough thing to learn, especially when that criticism is to something as deeply personal as our art. Being afraid to hear negative feedback can be crippling enough to keep some people from even attempting to put themselves or their work out there, but it’s something we all learn to deal with and move on from. The more you do it, the easier it gets – but ignoring all feedback isn’t healthy either. An attack on our music can feel like an attack on our person as what we create can be so closely tied to us, but learning how to decipher and use that criticism can be one of the most powerful tools for growth we have available to us.
Challenge yourself to do something different. Probably the most direct way to broaden your horizons as a musician is the challenge of learning something new. As tough as it might be, changing up your routine and learning some new things will help you no matter what. Something as simple as learning a new genre of music that you never even have any intention of performing is enough to get started. If you’re a metal musician who has been playing nothing but metal since you started (like I was a few years ago), go learn some blues or jazz stuff. Pick apart a few pop songs and get familiar with their structure. If you’re a pop or indie musician, go try some harder rock stuff and see what you can learn out of it. There is something to be learned from every genre of music, no matter how stupid it might seem to you. One of the things I love the most about being a musician is finding a way to integrate concepts and patterns from other genres of music into my own.
Don’t be afraid to adapt. For HereComeHere, we started life as what can best be described as a pop-punk band. Our first full length album is full of that style, and that was what we were to our earliest fans. After sitting with that material and performing it for a year or so, we evolved as musicians. As we began to think differently, we began to write differently. Other bands in the area taught us different ways to approach our songs, and a shift to larger-scale shows brought a change in philosophy. When we started playing large theaters to bigger crowds we noticed which songs caught on and which didn’t – the same songs that worked in a small bar with 30 people didn’t translate as well to a theater of over 300. As we wrote the songs that would become our next EP (Lionhead) we noticed that they were larger and more anthemic than the previous songs, but that we could still trace a clear lineage between them. Rather than trying to simply write a sequel to our first album, we wrote to our surroundings. To us, each release is its own independent experience – both in writing and in listening. What our sound is now has very little sonic resemblance to what we started as, but they are both equally ‘us’. And we like it that way.
Don’t try too hard at being original. Unless your business is tribute bands, all of us want to leave our own distinct mark on music. We want to be creative geniuses. Unfortunately, not all of us are – nor should we expect to be; with only 12 notes available and a vast music history of already-used arrangements, the deck is kinda stacked against us. Sometimes we focus so much on not copying anything that we lose something in the music. I don’t mean to say it’s completely ok to just blatantly rip off other artists songs and call them your own, but pitching them so far into obscurity that they lose any sense of context probably won’t help your audience either.
Have fun with it. Don’t ever stop having fun, we all got into this because we love creating or performing music and I hope we never ever lose that. If there isn’t still something you enjoy about it, then trying something else might be your best bet. Even if it’s just how much you really do enjoy blues-rock after making a foray into progressive jazz.
For me, my existential musical crisis came after the band I was in split up. That band had been the culmination of my first ten years playing music – the perfect storm of all of the niche metal I had listened to and grown up with. After that band fell apart I took a leap outside my comfort zone and have found more artistic satisfaction than I thought possible. Playing lead guitar for a pop rock/punk band let me open up my abilities as a songwriter. Moonlighting in a 90s cover band expanded my lead guitar chops and had a direct influence on the way I now approach solos in original music. I am the musician I am today because of the chances I took to explore other approaches to the guitar. Hopefully, the musician I will be tomorrow can take it even farther.
Hailing from Cincinnati, OH, HereComeHere blends high-energy hard rock, alternative rock, and a taste of pop for an upbeat vibe that provides the kind of pop sensibilities that will have their choruses stuck in your head for days. Having been featured on local and nationally owned radio stations such as Cincinnati’s Project 106.3, 96 Rock, WEBN, Class X Radio, WNKU and at the top of the charts on regionally noteworthy sites as CincyMusic.com, it’s no surprise that HereComeHere have a slew of accomplishments under their belt. Adding to their success, they’re releasing their sophomore full-length, ‘Chernobyl’, on April 8th, 2017. Chernobyl follows their debut full-length, Pants Were A Bad Idea, along with two previous EPs.
Written by guitarist Josh Smith
Post by Corey Kleinsasser
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