Finding and Sustaining Creativity, with David Andrew Wiebe

On today’s show, we’re joined by David Andrew Wiebe. David’s a man of many projects, and as well as writing on his site and hosting the New Music Industry podcast, he is also a songwriter, performs regularly with two bands and has written a book, “The New Music Industry“, soon to be followed by another all about the creative process, called “Flashes of Elation”.

We discovered David’s work when featuring a podcast episode of his “The Importance of Ongoing Self Education for Musicians” in an article on our website. And it’s been a real pleasure to dive into his web and podcast archives and have this opportunity to speak with him on our show.

In this conversation we talk about:

  • Why performing regularly was so important to his finding freedom of creative expression and tapping into his musical instinct on guitar
  • What he recommends to beginner song writers trying to find inspiration
  • The conflict between thinking about “passion” and “inspiration” versus just getting solid creative work done day after day
  • His number one tip for musicians collaborating in a band or other creative projects

One thing we love about David is his ability to balance the creative spirit with the down-to-earth practicalities of being a musician. It’s fascinating to talk with him and hear his perspective and if you’ve ever struggled creatively, you’re going to really enjoy this conversation.

Listen to the episode:

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Christopher: Hello, David. Welcome to the show and thank you for joining us today.

David: Hi, Christopher. Thanks for having me.

Christopher: I’d love to start at the beginning. Can we talk a little bit about how you first got started in music, if you can think back that far?

David: Yeah. I think I had aspirations of becoming some kind of rap star when I was, like, thirteen, fourteen. I don’t even know what my fascination with rap and hip hop was at the time because it’s not actually my favorite genre at this point, although it is still cool and I still listen to it here and there. And I knew that if you wanted to be a rapper, you gotta write lyrics, and that’s kind of what some of the music videos were showing me as well.

So, in junior high I just filled binders full with lyrics, tons and tons and tons of lyrics and would listen to the Beastie Boys and Grand Master Flash and some of the more old-school stuff is what I really liked about rap and hip hop at the time, so I don’t know where the determination came from. I’ve always been creative in some capacity. Even in early life, I did a lot of artwork and crafts and drawing and painting and got pretty good at those things, so, I think it was just a new expression of creativity that I enjoyed.

Christopher: Mm. And did you have any outlet for those lyrics? Did they fill up binders and also get performed, or was it just, kind of, a creative outlet for you to get them out of your head and on to paper?

David: I mean, they were horrible. (Laughs) This is really — this is —

Christopher: Can you remember? Could you spit some rhymes for us, right now?

David: Um, there’s a song on YouTube. It’s called There’s Only One Boss by David Andrew Wiebe. If you look up that song, you’ll kind of get a sense of what I’m talking about. I basically cut and pasted some of the, quote-end-quote, best lyrics I could find and put it into a pretty cheesy rap song on a project called Demos 2010, so I think that’s something the listeners might enjoy. But, yeah, it was so horrible, and I think it was just practice for the future, right, to be able to write songs properly and structure them well.

Even the songs on my first project were maybe a little bit ambitious. My first solo project, which was Shipwrecked: My Sentiments and a lot of people went, “You know, the lyrics could be better.” I mean, a lot of that project could have been better, but I’m still proud that I was able to put it out and put it together as a solo artist. So, yeah, it was my education more than anything.

Christopher: That’s interesting. And how much time passed between those binders full of lyrics and that first recording project?

David: I released my first recording project in 2006 and I was in my early twenties at the time, so when I first started writing lyrics I do believe I was fourteen, and it was just, like — actually, I grew up in Japan, so the first song I ever wrote was in Japanese, and then as I came back to Canada around the same age, that’s when I started writing in English as well, so just, you know, going to Thesauruses and rhyming dictionaries and the whole works. Like, I was fascinated with words and word plays, so I really got into that.

Christopher: Awesome. And, presumably, though, that first recording project was not a solo — what’s the word — soliloquy of rap lyrics.

David: Mm-hm.

Christopher: You must have learned some other creative musical skills along the way in those years in between.

David: That’s correct. I actually started playing guitar when I was seventeen, so, I was having my guitar teacher show me a little bit of, like, Beastie Boys or whatever happened to have a little bit of guitar on it, and it had — usually it was, like, a little bit funky or maybe a little bit like an AC/DC kind of riff, and so, I would learn those, at first, but pretty soon my fascination turned to the classic rock and Collective Soul and Van Halen and stuff like that, and I started learning a lot of that and I liked those riffs a lot, and, you know, not necessarily easy for a beginner to learn, and — well, I guess it depends what it is, but pretty soon that fascination turned to Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that as well. So I picked up a guitar before I got into, you know, songwriting in that capacity.

Christopher: And what was that guitar-learning experience like for you? You were obviously quite a creative spirit and you had that urge to have your own musical output rather than just learning what you were told to learn. How did those lessons take shape? How did you develop your skills over those years?

David: I first saw a friend of mine playing guitar at a summer camp, and he was playing all these popular songs at the time, you know, Matchbox 20, the stuff that was in the late 90’s-ish, and I thought to myself, I mean, if it’s that easy to learn Green Day and Matchbox 20 and stuff like that, and Blink 182, why don’t I learn the guitar, and, you know, soon I found out, you know, it is a little more of a struggle than you think it is, but for me, it was actually, it came together really quickly, and my guitar teacher even said, “You’ve surpassed me in a few lessons.” Like, I don’t know if that’s true, I can’t validate that at all. It just means that I was learning very quickly and had a passion for it, and actually dedicated time and effort to it.

I learned about my teacher through my sister. My sister was going to college at the time, and so she’d met somebody who played guitar, and he gave me lessons and it turned out to be, like, a really great first experience for me with a teacher. He gave me the foundation that I needed to play not just in one style, but a variety of styles. He even showed me, you know, the finger picking and flamenco and stuff like that. So, it was a cool way to be introduced to the guitar because I think some people still view me as, like, a very versatile guitarist and that’s maybe one of my biggest strengths as a guitarist.

Christopher: Very cool. So, a lot of instrument learners and I think guitarists in particular struggle a bit when they pick up the instrument with the urge to create because the lessons tend to focus on technique and repertoire and, kind of, reproducing other people’s music and they have this whole world inside their head of what they want to create and it can be quite hard to bridge those two. It sounds like your teacher was great at, at least, kind of, exploring different styles with you, but did they also teach in a way that let you, kind of, connect up your creative spirit with what you were doing on the instrument?

David: I think what a lot of students don’t necessarily do what I did that was, I invested more time into playing the instrument beyond the scope of the lessons. So if there was a song I heard or a riff I heard or a scale that I kind of liked, I would go and try and learn it myself, and even though it was, like, impossible and difficult at first, like, I would look at the tab from Stairway to Heaven and go, “I don’t know how that’s supposed to be played,” I would still attempt it, at least, and try to figure it out, and as I started learning more techniques, like barre chords and finger picking and stuff like that, then I went, “Oh, I can pick this up,” and so, it was pretty cool. Yeah. I think the teacher did allow for a lot of creativity and I was the same way as a teacher. I taught guitar for over ten years. He was very, you know, patient and laid back and kind of getting into his own thing while I was trying to work out the latest thing that he showed me, which is maybe not the best habit as a teacher. We’re supposed to pay attention. But music is repetition. You have to repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. You can’t just play it once and say, “I’m done. I have it.” It doesn’t work that way. Anything new you learn, repeat it a lot.

Christopher: So, it sounds like pushing your own boundaries and going beyond what the teacher was putting in front of you is a core part of what let you be creative on guitar. Were there any particular resources or insights you had along the way that helped you, kind of, master it in a way that went beyond just learning the notes on the page or in tab?

David: I think I looked up every guitar site I could find at the time, but one that’s stuck around, and I think it was around back then and it’s still around today is Go to Ultimate-Guitar, you can find tabs for most things, and since then, you know, there’s been — what — PowerTab and GuitarPro and tools like that that don’t just, you know, show you what the tab is, but you can actually play it and listen to it, even slow it down or change the tuning of the instrument if you have to to follow along with the tab. So I’ve found those tools to be super beneficial. But I wasn’t using those at first. I just, kind of, looked at chord charts or tabs and things like that, so, yeah, anything I could find onine, I definitely accessed.

Christopher: And were you able to, kind of, interpret what you were discovering there and make sense of it from, kind of, a theory perspective or a fretboard perspective?

David: Not immediately. I don’t know it was until, kind of, my third guitar teacher, and he was an MIT graduate, so obviously he would focus on the theory side of things. I didn’t really understand a lot of the major scale theory type stuff. I think I connected the dots between, like, scales and chords, or key signatures roughly, but I didn’t completely understand it. And to this day, I think there are some little gaps in theory knowledge, but probably inconsequential when I consider the creative aspect of writing music.  I mean, it’s great to talk about and think about chord progressions and do sight reading and all of that kind of stuff, but it’s not absolutely essential, especially for guitarists. We sort of develop that mind-reading capacity over time, like, very telepathic ability to read where the song’s going next.

Christopher: And at that point, were you performing, or were you just using guitar at home for songwriting and your own creative pursuits?

David: Performing came along pretty early in the whole process. I think before long I was playing in my home church at the time and being a part of the “worship band,” they called it, getting up at 6 a.m. on Sunday mornings to go in and practice before the service and then play two services, I think, usually, maybe one service at first, but two services. And, I mean, I didn’t have a basis for everything they were showing me. It was chord charts and even, you know, standard notation hymnals. And they didn’t really like anything too crazy on the guitar, anyway. They didn’t want, like, distortion and power cords and all that kind of stuff. It’s a very traditional church. Just a little bit of clean guitar to fill things out. You don’t need 20 people playing the chords. There’s already a pianist covering the whole thing, so you just kind of add a little bit and people are happy with that. I wasn’t happy with that. I was ready to rock, but —

Christopher: Sure. And I understand one of the bands you were playing with earlier on was a bit more improvisational in nature. Is that right?

David: Yeah. It has a very strange name. It’s called Lightly Toasted Touché, and we started out with that concept of being somewhat of a jazz band — uh, not jazz, but improvisational band and we did have, we did write songs. We did practice songs as well. It wasn’t just entirely jam, but we also performed songs live on the spot, so every show would be a little bit different. It was still based on my somewhat limited knowledge of theory and chord progressions and stuff like that at the time, but we still covered quite a few different genres in live situations, whether it was something that was a little more metal, or reggae, or funk, and stuff like that, and I learned a lot through that process and gained a lot of live performance experience, and it’s just cool that there is a couple other guys willing to put themselves out there like that and try something kind of unique.

Christopher: Absolutely, and I guess you touched on it a little there, when you talked about guitarists gradually developing a telepathic sense of where the song might go and you also mentioned your teacher was great at getting you into different styles, which I guess made you more comfortable with that jamming experience, but I know a lot of — particularly a lot of guitar players in our audience, but a lot of our listeners, whatever their instrument — improvisation is quite terrifying, because they don’t really know where to start, and, you know, if you’re a guitarist looking down at the fret board, you might know a few licks and runs, but you don’t necessarily know which to use when or how to build on them. Was there anything that helped you feel comfortable with, kind of, putting yourself in that context, looking down at your fretboard and saying, “I know what to do here”?

David: I think in the early days of learning to play guitar, I had met somebody who was quite skilled and he was more into the jazz world than anything else. His name was J.J. Sorgiano, and J.J. said to me, “Improvisation can be practiced,” and I do agree with him. I think it just comes from trying different things, like, I was fairly free to do what I wanted to do in the church context so long as it wasn’t, like, stepping on anybody’s toes and as long as it was kind of in the same relative key signature, so having that sort of environment that’s safe for you to be able to jam is really so important.

And then beyond that is just learning solos and licks, I mean, we — not that you want to become a cliché player in any way, shape or form, but you should learn the standard licks, you know, learn the Chuck Barry licks if you’re a guitarist and figure out how he did those so that you can pull those out. At least you have a starting point and you’re not, you know, you’re not falling back on just, “Okay, what do I play now? Uh, first fret.” You know? It’s too late, you know, you’ve overthought it already, so knowing a few licks like that can help you get started with improvisation.

Christopher: That’s fascinating. So I — as I mentioned before we got started — I’m a big fan of your podcast and I’ve been listening and following along and I’m particularly excited about the new book you’ve been working on. You know, you’ve been publishing on your site and in the podcast for several years now, and helping musicians particularly with the career aspect of things, but your new book focuses now, I believe, more on creativity and how to nurture that in a creative spirit.

I’d love if we could talk a little bit about that. Maybe you could share with the audience a little bit about that book.

David: I would love to, and the reason it ended up being about creativity is because I didn’t really want to write my first book, The New Music Industry, again, which I swear, if I started another book — and I did try — on the music industry, it probably would have just come out reading a lot like The New Music Industry, and I said, “I don’t really want to do that, and I don’t think it makes sense to do that right now.” And there will be, like, a revised and updated version in the future.

So, one time I was sitting in Starbucks and really what I was trying to do was write an ebook. At the time I was writing an ebook every single week, which right now is crazy for me think — I don’t know if I could do that, but I sat down to write this, and, you know, one section quickly turned into a thousand words and I said, “I don’t think this is an ebook at all. I think this is something with real meat and substance to it. It’s a book.” And that’s what ended up shaping what Flashes of Elation is becoming. It’s like over 51,000 word essays, but in a way, it’s almost like journal entries, like private journal entries into some of the things that have happened in my life and some of the things that I’ve learned as a creative and really the focus is on, like, sensitive creatives, but I do believe it could totally be, benefit creatives and/or creative entrepreneurs, because there’s a lot of, like, mindset things in this book, as well, that talks about how to, you know, set up your business and how to approach your business life when it can be so difficult. It can take over your life so easily as it has mine, right now, and how to navigate that side of things, as well.

Christopher: I see. I think I’m particularly excited about the book because from the outline I have the sense that it’s a book that could actually help a huge range of musicians, not just those who necessary want to become a songwriter or start a music business. You know, some of the topics you’re touching on I know are relevant to anyone who wants to create their own music but also improvise or situation in with a band or, you know, collaborate with other musicians and I think one of the topics that jumped out at me was that you talk in the book about frustration and how to handle that as a musician.

David: Absolutely. I think frustration is a very important topic, and, for one thing, we can’t really avoid it. It’s gonna happen at one point or another. It could happen in some kind of collaboration we’ve set out to do with bands we’ve joined. You know, certainly I had a situation with a band called Angels Breaking Silence that, I think, the band only lasted a year and a half, but I had very high hopes for it. I just felt like if we kept going with just these members and kept playing and kept writing and performing that we would reach somewhere significant, because there were early signs that, you know, we were playing different shows than we were before with any band I had played with to that point and we were getting into camps and things like that, and I’m like, “These are not necessarily the easiest gigs to get. I think if we stuck with this process, we would reach a certain level with this band.” But, unfortunately, you know, there were a lot of personal differences that came the fore or came to a head towards the end of our lifespan, so that just didn’t really work out.

But the main thing about frustration is that it leads to growth, you know. We often don’t do things to encourage growth in our own lives, such as reading or listening to audio or watching videos or becoming more informed about our industry and then we kind of rely on life to teach us those lessons, but when those lessons come, they’re so hard, you know, because we’re not prepared for them, but if we’re willing to accept it and consider it from different angles and see it for what it is, which is a learning experience, it can really lead to a lot of personal growth, and I think it’s also important to realize we all live in some kind of creative tension unless you’ve quote-end-quote “made it,” we all live in that, and whatever that means to you, you know.

I think creative tension is necessary. That’s something I’ve learned from somebody I really look up to and would consider a bit of a mentor figure in the last few years is that, that tension’s more important than you really understand, and we hate it and we don’t like it. It’s like, “I want to be a full-time musician, but I need this career to make this money and I don’t know if I should take the plunge.” So we often oscillate and go back and forth as artists and musicians but that tension causes amazing things to happen, growth to happen as well as stimulates a lot of cool art.

Christopher: I think that’s such a valuable framing of things, you know, for the passionate musician who is feeling that resistance or that tension and maybe starting to be frustrated and question the journey they’re on to have in mind that no, this is, you know, the opportunity for growth and this is life presenting you with the way to go beyond what you’ve done in the past. I think that’s such a valuable mindset for people to have.

David: Mm-hm. Yeah. In Flashes of Elation, I think that’s exactly what it is. It kind of reframes a lot of things we think about, and maybe it’s just my positive nature as people sometimes comment on, but those the kinds of things, or, like, little mindswitch tweaks that we can make in our lives to approach our art in a more positive light, which I think is so important.

Christopher: Absolutely, and I love when we have the opportunity to touch on that kind of thing here on the podcast, because it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that learning music and developing your music career, whether that’s amateur or professional is just about the kind of physical technicalities of what you’re doing.

David: Yeah.

Christopher: And — when in reality it’s maybe 80% a mental game and the inner skills that you need to actually have the success you’re looking for.

David: Wow.  I mean, full stop. You could end the podcast here. (Laughs) That’s what people need to know, honestly. Yes. It is 80% mindset, if you’re driving towards success, whatever that means to you, because, you know, don’t let anybody tell you what your version of success is supposed to be. You can define what that is, especially today more than ever. We have so much freedom to do the kind of things that we want to do. So 80% mindset, for sure, and even, you know, with some of the challenges I’m faced right now, it is about mindset. It’s about going back to that and going, “Can I do it? Yes, of course I can do it, and this is just going to encourage more growth.”

Christopher: So on that topic of mindset and growth, one of the, kind of, hot button issues for a lot of music is this question of passion and inspiration and having a gift or having a muse, having the, you know, the moment of inspiration that gets you writing a song, and I’d love to hear your perspective on that and, you know, how do you reconcile that with the practicalities of day-to-day life as a musician?

David: Well, passion is such a funny word, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time pursuing and trying to figure out myself, and I think the sometimes forgotten or often forgotten definition of passion is actually to suffer for. We’re suffering for our art. And so, for me to forget that is not good, because we’ve just come to that point where we’re frustrated, like we talked about earlier, and then don’t really know what to do. Should we quit? Should we move on? Should we just do something else, because this was not meant to be? And that’s one way of looking at things, but how we look at things is so crucial, and I talk about that in Flashes of Elation, like, how we interpret life really defines everything, our relationships, our work, so we have to look very carefully at how we’re interpreting events in our lives. Yeah.

And so, I think having spent so much time, like, considering and thinking about what my passion is and pursuing different avenues, whether it was, like, composing for video games or podcasting or playing guitar or making music or joining bands and all that, I think what I gradually realized was, you know, we don’t need to spend so much time pursuing what passion is or what our passion is supposed to be.

I think as a creative if you follow your muse or follow, sort of, your natural inclination toward something right now, that in itself is, like, a success, and I think because it makes you happy, because it gives you fulfillment, because it’s something you want to do, you’ll drive harder naturally to push through some of the difficulties and frustration to get some amazing art on the other side, whereas, sort of forcing something, it’s impossible, and you can always tell the difference.

As an example, a guitarist that’s passionate about playing guitar and learning guitar versus somebody who’s been, like, forced into it, the soul isn’t there. The feel isn’t there, even though the technique might be, because they’ve really worked hard at that, they’ve lost all feel for the instrument and joy for it, and there’s — that’s not musical. So, it’s so funny how we talk about, you know, computers, these days, and automation and computers playing music and that kind of stuff. It’s the same thing, you know. You can digitize music, but in the end, that kind of becomes soulless. It’s when you turn on your favorite track by your favorite band and go, “Yeah! That’s what I want to hear,” that’s the passion.

Christopher: Fantastic. I think that’s really great advice for someone who’s into that creative journey and, you know, struggling to stay focused on one thing or worrying about the way things are going, to remember that it’s the spirit and it’s the inspiration and it’s the passion that need to draw you forwards rather than you pushing too hard in what you think is the right direction.

David: Exactly.

Christopher: So, what about the earlier-stage musicians? If we imagine someone who’s listening to the podcast right now, maybe they’re a guitar player like you are, and they have this idea that they could write great songs and they really want to and they kind of feel that urge, but they’re not feeling inspired, or they’re not feeling enlightened about how to even get started. Do you have any advice for them on how they can cultivate that kind of creative spirit, or tap into the inspiration?

David: Yeah. There are a number of different ways of finding your inspiration. One of the things that I always find important, though less so, kind of, in the space that I am in right now, but certainly in the last, like, five to six years, I really got into a lot of reading books, I got into a lot of conferences and events listening to audio programs, gaining mentorship from people who had some experiences that I didn’t, and not necessarily in just music, like, I was getting that in the business side, as well. And plugging in to those resources and materials can inspire a lot front of things and help you see the world from a new perspective. I would think, you know, just based on my own songwriting habits, there’s nothing better than life experiences for inspiring new music.

So, if you’re really stuck, maybe it’s time to go and live life a little while. Maybe make a career change, maybe find someone special that you can spend some time with, get outdoors. I think it was John Denver that Tony Robbins was talking about. Like, he would always get inspired while he was outdoors and skiing in nature and stuff like that, and he was going through this slump and he wasn’t inspired to write anything and Tony Robbins kind of dug into that and asked him, what was it that he was doing when songs came to him, and it turns out it was skiing and being out in nature, and he wasn’t doing that, and so he encouraged John to get back out there, and, of course, he got back on to the songwriting train, which is really great.

I think one other thing we can all do is just daily practice. That isn’t always the best way, like I already alluded to. Sometimes you just have to go out and live life, but if you set aside something like 30 minutes a day, sit down, write for awhile or just play something random for awhile, it doesn’t even have to be that structured of a session, just do it every day and that way something will start to percolate and come up.

Christopher: Terrific. So, we’ve talked a little bit about people who are kind of midway through the creative process, and also there a bit about people who are just trying to get started.  If we go to the other end of the spectrum now, and people who are right in the thick of it, and maybe they’re, you know, midway through recording an album.  Maybe they’ve been working on the same song for a month. They’re starting to feel a bit of frustration and burnout, they’re maybe never satisfied with the results they’re getting. What advice would you have for people at that stage who just can’t seem to wrap things up or to “ship it,” as we’d say in the entrepreneurial world?

David: Oh, man.  I mean, there’s nothing more important than publishing, when it comes right down to it, right? Yeah. When you’re stuck on a project, I mean, one of the things I do oftentimes is just move on to the next one. I have a lot of, like, half-recorded tracks on my computer. Sometimes they go exactly as planned, swimmingly, everything according to my imagination, and then, you know, ten hours later, I have a single, I can put it out to the world, I’m happy with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s good, and that’s enough to sort of let people know, “Hey, I’m still out there, still making music, having some fun with it. It may not be my main pursuit, but it’s one of my pursuits and it’s something that I enjoy doing.” So, to me, that’s, like, one way of working through all that.

But, yeah. It really is challenging when you’re sort of slumping through the middle of the project, because what happens is, we’re so excited about the beginnings of the project. We imagine it, we have this idea for it, we have a vision for it, and then, that part is so exciting that it gets us, you know, if you’re writing a book, maybe it gets you into the first few chapters, or whatever, but it only gets you so far, that initial excitement, and I think having a daily practice or a consistent daily practice can help, but then, that could also feel like, you know, duty or obligation, which is no longer fulfilling, and the project, then, you know, reaches a new cycle.

If you push through where you’re at close to the end and then the excitement suddenly returns, I think the main thing is just to be aware of the fact that the middle is the hardest place. It’s called “the tough middle” for a reason. We all have to slog through that. You know, you look at the numbers and you go, um, like, “Maybe I’m over halfway,” or “Maybe I’m at 60%.” It’s like, “I don’t wanna write today.” I think we all do that, whether it’s, you know, a musical project or some other creative project, so, maybe regrounding yourself, finding some inspiration again, maybe even like we talked about, going and living life for a little while and then coming back to it a little bit fresh, could be a good way to approach it, too.

Christopher: Nice. So, as we’ve talked about, there’s a lot you can do in terms of mindset and strategy to help your own, kind of, soul or creative efforts and that journey as an individual musician, but as I think we’d all agree, music is, at its best, a collaborative art and in some ways there’s nothing better than playing music with other people, and I imagine that you would say that it takes a different skill set than just, you know, sitting in your bedroom and being a solo creative.

Do you have any tips or advice for people who are getting into that process of collaborating, whatever form that may take?

David: Yeah. You made some really great points, there. Collaboration can be very difficult. I think it is being mindful of the vision.  I mean, at first, it usually begins as jamming anyway, especially if both parties are kind of new to playing in a band or collaborating and stuff, so you really have an opportunity there to define what it is you want to do together and that can, kind of, take shape over the course of the weeks or months or years as you begin to discover each other’s personality and ways of processing different musical passages, and chord progressions that you lean on and songwriting styles and all that kind of stuff, so when you’re new to it, it’s fantastic. You just have to get together on a regular basis and begin to hash it out, and there’s nothing more than that.

But, to raise a couple of examples, I mean, one band that I play in is Long John Lev. This is basically a rootsy pop-folk ensemble, I guess, five people in the band. And the vision of the band is Johnathan Ferguson, and I recorded guitar for his first album as well as for the first Long John Lev project for 2015. So really, this is just completely Johnathan’s vision. He’s a fantastic songwriter. But there are limits on things that I can do. I am somewhat of a classic rock, blues, hard rock player and I really love playing with a lot of distortion, and in Long John Lev, I do not play with a lot of distortion.

I think it just helps that, you know, I’ve had a lot of different experiences in a lot of different genres to where I can find things to add to the music without taking away from it, which is really important as, like, a lead player. And then, you know, I’ve mentioned Angels Breaking Silence, earlier. That’s a collaborative situation that kind of went bad that was a little more heartbreaking because not everybody saw eye-to-eye on where the band was going and there was also some personality conflicts that couldn’t really ultimately be worked out, but we did start off with a bit of a foundation, because three members were from Lightly Toasted Touché, including myself, and we just added a vocalist, essentially.

So we already had a little bit of a rapport with each other in terms of how we communicated as well as how we played music together and that kind of provided a good foundation for, you know, maybe not quite post-punk, but punk rock kind of music that we were putting together at the time. So, even though, you know, it didn’t end exactly how we’d hoped it would, or, at least, how I had hoped it would, it was still a good collaboration environment, because we had already had that rapport.

Christopher: And to some extent, the creative mindset and the ability to, kind of, self-manage through creative projects is a real benefit to a collaborative group, but, at the same time, you can have that kind of personality clash or clash of opinions if everyone feels like they are, you know, empowered to be the creative spirit. What can you do in that situation?

David: Yeah. I mean, I wrote a series of blog posts on how to handle internal conflicts in your band. I definitely got into a little bit of that. I think in the situation you describe, someone almost has to be the leader to kind of make the decisions and have final say and, kind of, “Yes,” or “No,” or “Yes, we’re going in a direction,” or, “No.” Otherwise, it can really, you know, build up over time into a lot of resentment between different band members, and that leads to more conflict and probably is not going to end very well.

So, whether it’s somebody in the band or a producer or a mix of the two, a leader in the band and a producer decide together what happens, because that way, you’re almost getting, like, an objective outside perspective on what is very subjective to begin with. That can really help, having somebody on the outside looking in and giving you some feedback on what they think should happen, as well.

Christopher: Terrific advice there. So, I would highly encourage any listeners who’ve been enjoying this conversation to check out David’s podcast. It’s the New Music Industry Podcast, and also go and pre-order the forthcoming book, Flashes of Elation.

David, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

David: Thanks so much for having me, Christopher. It was a pleasure.

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The post Finding and Sustaining Creativity, with David Andrew Wiebe appeared first on Musical U.