There’s a playlist in your brain that helps you

I believe music can touch our hearts and tickle our ears and provide the soundtrack and lyrics that console us throughout life. For example, I don’t even really like The Who, but I know that no matter who is elected President, you’re supposed to salute the new regime and keep going. You know what it’s from, right?

The Who / “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fall that’s all
But the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

I recall these lyrics and message when NPR gets buried in the microscopic analysis of the most trivial political detail while I am driving to work. It brings me back to the big picture, which is that I should accept jaded, hopeless surrender from the government’s eternal scheming. I don’t own a single album by The Who, but I heard this song a million times on the radio and it was good enough to make it to my brain’s playlist. When I have heard enough political discourse and I start getting irritated, this message from The Who plays automatically and I stop caring and feeling irritated. Where does the message come from?

I take a lot of heat from Dallas bands. I’ve done favors for musicians and then several guys have insulted me online because they don’t like my position on this one issue: Cover bands. You know what that means – they’re performing other people’s music. Some very good musicians are offended because I have insulted their cover bands. Nobody else (that I know) draws this line in the sand as rudely as me; between musicians and artists. I don’t like cover bands. I do love many musicians that are in cover bands because they are talented, cool people, if that makes sense. You can be a great guitar player and run circles around me. But I am more interested in asking, “what have you written, what have you created”? I wouldn’t cross the street to watch your Van Halen tribute band. That’s just me. On the other hand, I would drive an hour to watch a Battle Of The Bands where everyone gets to play 3 original songs. Even if they suck – even if they really suck. Somehow, I can recognize inspiration, however deeply it is buried in mediocrity. In fact, I like that about me. I haven’t bought any music from The Who, but I have purchased music from The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston and Wing.

Hundreds of musicians and bands have walked into Chin’s private studio over the past 4 years. It’s impossible to predict what will walk in the door. Honestly, most nights I am working in the studio with another band, it’s because we’re paying the studio rent. My job is to find the inspiration, help polish it and deliver the best recording this person has ever made. Frankly, most of the time, that’s a chore.

You work in the mine everyday, eventually you’ll discover the jewels. A recording studio works the same way – stick around long enough and you’ll hear some.Somebody walks in, does their thing, and I just shake my head. Magic. “The world needs this”, I say to myself. Or there are people just doing so many things RIGHT. While the vast majority of the population is consuming live music simply to make drinking alcohol more fun; I’m listening for a different reason. And if you’re in the studio for years, every now and then, you get the reward.

How do I define that reward? Sometimes it’s the song, plain and simple. A singer that effortlessly shames me. But, talent is cheap. So it takes something more. I respect talent, but I don’t embrace it for its own sake.

I guess the answer is simple. If it touches me, or if the artist doing the work is sincerely crafting away at something and I see the wheels turning; then you have my respect. By comparison, if you are writing your 16 bars of rap lyrics on the studio desk just moments before recording… probably not. And MANY rappers do this.

I’d like to introduce you to some of the people and music that have earned my respect; either by virtue of the work they’ve done in Chin’s studio or we’ve performed with them somewhere. They all live in this area; none are making a living from playing music. These are the bands that have also “made it” to the playlist in my brain.

This weekend, I’ll do a video profile / video podcast of two bands. I’ll try to create profiles of dozens of these bands as time permits. I think these are stories that are worth telling, and I hope you’ll discover something that you like. I should have the first ones up next week… I’ll spend Saturday filming with Raul Tinerajo (of Imperfekt), and Sunday with Mary Hestand (of Merry & The Mood Swings). Video profiles coming to this blog just as soon as I can edit them! Give me a couple of days.

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