The Gracious / Blog

Hang On or Move On?

Sometimes it’s just time to move on. But sometimes, it’s good to hang on. This is true of life and especially true of songwriting. This week two old songs came out of the shadows, and for reasons not yet determined, requested a renovation and earned a spotlight.

It seems that the reason we hang on is usually driven by one of two factors. Scenario 1 is a mutual, emotional experience… an origin story. For songs, it’s the what had just happened or where was I when I met her / bought this / wrote this. The more meaningful the origin story, the better chance that song hangs around. Scenario 2 is a compelling attractiveness… the I just “love her smile” or the “dig that melody.”

If both scenarios are in play, then the hanging on might just last forever.

With these two songs, it was scenario 2. Each had a part that remained memorable despite long stretches with no air time. Unfortunately, each had other parts that did not work so well or stand up tall beside the good parts. Renovations can’t be rushed. Perseverance can be effective, but often it’s best to let time take the lead. When the time comes, the design for the overhaul will be clear, or better yet, just happen.

The trick seems to be to allow this limbo state, where we’ve neither rejected nor embraced. Whether person or object or song, there’s usually some space, some darkened corner of our life where those in limbo can camp out and bide their time. One of those two scenarios has paid their cover charge. They’re in now, and they can stay as long as they don’t disrupt the other guests.

So patience paid off, as each of these particular songs is no spring chicken. But that’s ok… they were worth the wait. The new versions are much more mature and the previously questionable parts have been upgraded to stronger, catchier structures. The public debut of these two happens very soon… here’s hoping others are impressed by these new, old friends.

So go ahead. Look around and take stock of who or what is hanging around you. If you need the space, you’ll know where to clean house. But if there’s a redeeming quality there, don’t be too quick to call security. In time, it might step forward as the life of the party or just what you needed.

Open Your Ears

It’s always amazing to me that humans are so complex, so diverse and yet, we all suffer from a common ailment… we all get stuck in ruts. One very sticky rut tends to be musical tastes. I think some of this comes from peer pressure. When we’re very young, we have no control; we don’t discern, and so we hear whatever our parents play. Then we are thrust into school where we are faced with all sorts of social challenges… dangerous waters to navigate. Music at that point becomes an easy way to keep the ship steady… like what most others like, and you have common ground and a way to fit in. Besides, at those young ages, we haven’t yet developed a mature palate for music, so following the pack comes easy to all of us. Then we get to high school and college, and our personality starts to blossom just as our ability to exercise independence (go where we want, buy what we want) comes into its own. These are the wonderful years when we catch tons of shows, buy (or download) loads of music and music becomes an almost nonstop backdrop to our lives as we rotate across a variety of old friendships and new acquaintances. And we imprint some great memories with the help of those songs. At some point that pesky phase we call adulthood settles in, and we revert back to adolescence… listening to what our peers like. Whatever Adult Contemporary is wherever you are. Nothing wrong with that really… things usually get busy at this point, and I say any music is good music when faced with the possibility of simply forgetting to play any tunes at all. Ever watch a movie with no soundtrack? But what if we all just tried a little bit harder? What if music still excited us, even if a little less now than it used to? What if we still kept our minds, and our ears, open? Not all new music is sugary crap. Not all old music is stodgy. In fact, if you keep listening to only what your coworkers like, or what you listened to 15 years ago, you’ll become that very definition of stodgy you think you’re avoiding. So broaden your horizons. On a recent vacation in the Caribbean, I found myself at a boutique hotel (which was basically run by a bunch of surfers and divers) not because I was staying there, but because the breakfast they served sounded way better (less stodgy) than my hotel’s. And the atmosphere was authentic… breakfast was a basket of breads, cheeses and fruit with a cooked egg. No menu. And they weren’t killing me with some new loud surf punk… they were playing classic Motown. Why? Because it’s awesome… it stands the test of time… it gets the day started without overdoing it, and because it sounds great as a backdrop for breakfast on the beach. So, download Pandora, queue up the Motown station on Saturday mornings, and the Django Reinhardt station on lazy Sunday afternoons. Jam to the 80’s on Tuesday nights. Try turning off the news or talk radio one morning a week and listen to some jazz on your way to work. Dial into something new, something edgy. Keep it interesting and let the wonders of modern technology show you how easy it is to stream your way out of a rut. One final note… music is very good for you. Healthy even. Here’s proof: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/15/health/brain-music-research. So I say repeat the following cycle: listen to more music, broaden your enjoyment & appreciation of music, listen to more music.