Music school was a very intense time. Most of us had routines that consisted of practicing or studying our instruments every waking hour. Even our parties were with other jazz school students and we’d jam or talk about our improv classes or ensembles.
The “breaks” I took from school were things like playing in an acoustic band or going to the beach with my roommates (also jazz school students) and arguing our favorite guitar solos. But my absolute favorite thing was Monday nights at Tobacco Road. That’s when Iko Iko held their open blues jam. My friend Mike played in the band and I’d hang out with him until 4am and play as much as they’d let me.
My favorite “break” from jazz school was a blues jam.
When it came time for my senior recital, I put a couple of blues tunes in the set list. I still remember my professor saying, “I had no idea you could play the blues like that” afterward. My extracurricular influence had found its way into my studies and been a standout aspect of my recital.
Fast forward to now and my outside influences aren’t what I wish they were. I haven’t played music purely for fun except for the occasional one off gig here and there. I don’t spend time discussing music in the deep ways I did back then. I don’t go down to the basement studio and just create for no reason. I don’t devour books and documentaries about my favorite artists anymore.
Why not? Well, life I guess. At some point my work as a musician became something I needed real breaks from – probably about the time we decided it was time for a change. So I started doing non-music related things with my free time. Late nights once consumed with listening to music were taken up by Netflix or other mindless activity. Not a bad thing for a while, but not a great way to sustain a creative soul. And once that becomes routine, it’s like eating Taco Bell. You know you don’t want to but once you start you’re in the drive thru three times a week.
I’ve been making a list of things I want to change in the things that influence me. Here are a few of the items on that list:
- Read more. I’m not talking about the Bible; I do pretty well with daily scripture reading. But I want to read books about creativity and music, bios like Cash and Miles (two of my all-time favorite books), and books about theology. I’d do well to start with my “to read” list which has about 12 books on it right now.
- Listen better. I listen to a huge variety of music. I mean huge. And I love it all. But lately it’s been all too easy to forget about more demanding listening – jazz and classical and deeper singer-songwriters – music that used to hit me in the face and force me to pay attention. Without that in my life, everything slips.
- Play and practice more. My playing is not where I want it to be. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
I know that what influences me in my down time profoundly affects everything I do in every area of music, work, and life. So I don’t just want those things to be better, I need them to be.
I’m not alone in this, right? What have you let distract you from your passion? How are your outside influences working out? If the answer is “not that great,” what needs to change? Let me know in a comment.