Jack Garratt

When You Worry Too Much About Other People’s Opinions

If you’re not familiar with the music of Jack Garratt, you’re missing out. Every aspect of his music is worthy of some pretty intense study: the melodies, the power of the vocals, the fantastic production, and then those captivating videos.

I think what I like most about his music is his ability to create something that sounds complex, when in fact his songs usually have a very simple core. If you play a simple one-finger version of his tunes on a piano, you notice that his melodies have an almost folk-like quality, with all the simplicity of design that goes along with it.

But his production — his instrumental and rhythmic ideas — take those simple melodies to an entirely new and exciting level. It should serve as a reminder that the best music usually has — I would almost say needs — something basic at its structural core.

There’s something else I’ve been fixating on with regard to Jack Garratt and his music, and it has to do with the first album project he was working on back in 2012. Of the album, “Nickel and Dime”, which he eventually abandoned, he says:

I wasn’t proud of the songs I was writing, and I was performing the music because I liked the way that people reacted rather than because I was proud of the songs.

That got me thinking about the number of times as writers of music that we worry to the point of obsession about how someone else is going to react to our music. Sometimes, that worry can override our primary duty, to express our own feelings, emotions, stories and opinions, and then (most importantly) wrap all that up in our own sense of musical expression.

Worrying About Other People’s Reactions To Your Songs

If you find yourself worrying more about how others react to your songs than being true as an artist, it’s time to rethink why you write songs in the first place.

It’s nice when others pat you on the back and tell you how much they like your songs, but that should not be the aim of songwriting, nor the aim of any form of artistic expression. The first and most important duty of any artist is to reveal a part of who you are.

Trying to please others with your music is not a problem, but placing that in importance above personal artistic expression is. Songwriting, like any form of art, puts your sense of artistic expression on display for others to react to, and that takes considerable courage.

And courage is just the start. It also takes confidence, and it takes a strong personal vision for what, in your opinion, good music is.

Keeping Opinions in Perspective

Go to any songwriting forum online, and you’ll notice that 10% of the questions will relate to the how-to of some aspect of songwriting. The other 90% will be the “please listen to my song and tell me if you like it” kind of post.

Before you ask others if they like your song, do this: ask yourself:

  • Do I like my song?
  • What’s good about it?
  • Did I have a plan, and did I achieve it?
  • What do I think needs to be fixed, changed or improved?

Asking yourself those questions before you post your song for someone else to listen to puts you in the driver’s seat as the songwriter. It affirms that you are the one with the vision.

And always, always remember: Just because someone does not like your music does not mean that you’ve made an error, or that you are lacking in some aspect of your songwriting technique. Any song that’s truly innovative or unique will always have people who won’t understand it.

It’s fine to ask other musicians for opinions about your song. Just always keep those opinions in perspective.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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