Circe Link and Christian Nesmith, Part V: Advice For New Musicians
It’s a bit bittersweet for me to post the last installment of the Circe Link and Christian Nesmith interview. On the one hand, I’m glad that I’ve gotten the response I’ve received from folks who have enjoyed the series, as that means that Circe and Christian and their words of wisdom are being appreciated. On the other hand, though, I’m sad that I don’t have more from them to post! However, I will have a concert review from my trip to see them in Cambridge, MA next weekend, and will try to keep everyone updated on their upcoming projects, so there are things to look forward to.
For those who haven’t yet had a chance to see Circe and Christian “do their thing” on a stage, be sure to catch their internet concert on April 5th at 3 p.m. They’ll be performing a living room concert, an intimate 30-minute show, via stageit. More information can be found here: https://www.stageit.com/circe_link/live_from_the_livingroom/34434
Part I of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-i-musical-influences/
Part II of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-ii-working-with-the-one-you-love/
Part III of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-iii-performing-and-fan-reactions-to-their-music/
Part IV of the interview can be found here: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/circe-link-and-christian-nesmith-part-iv-thoughts-about-fans/
Me: I teach high school students, some of whom have musical aspirations, so what advice would you give to the aspiring musician, or the person who’s wondering if they should pursue a career in music?
Nesmith: Be as diverse as possible and practice your brains out. That’s it. Robbie Rist [actor, Doc McStuffins, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Brady Bunch] and I were together a few months back and he encapsulated something that I think is a problem with today’s up and coming musicians, even the crop that has been out for the last decade or so, if not more.
I’m now paraphrasing Robbie’s anecdote. He said, “It used to be that you would get a guy who was really into roots and R&B music, and then you would get this guy who was into country guitar players, and you’d get this guy who was into show tunes but he had a great rock and roll voice, and you’d put those guys with a pretty darned good drummer, and what you’d get is The Beatles.
But now what you get is a bunch of kids who all go to a Disturbed concert and four or five guys all look at each other because they’re all wearing Metallica t-shirts, and they say, ‘Oh, you like Metallica, too? Yeah, let’s form a band like that.’” And that’s what they sound like.
They sound like this micro genre, homogenized, little sliver of artistic creation, and it’s why there’s no weight to what they say, there’s no longevity to what they put out. What it is, is just a re-hash rather than an amalgam of all of these incredible artists. It’s why when you ask what are my influences, I said Frank Lloyd Wright and Fred Astaire because if you can pull from all of these incredible people… “What’s your greatest influence?” “The Dalai Lama.” Hey, now we’re talking! You know what I mean? Instead of “My greatest influences are Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica.” Okay, well I’m pretty sure I don’t need to listen to your record because I’ve heard all of those guys. But if you say, “Megadeth, Hank Williams, and Shirley Bassey,” that I’ve got to hear (laughing). It’s quite likely that they’re saying something that hasn’t been said before.
Diversity, and get good at what you do. Four chords are not enough. Learn why those four chords go together. All the notes within that chord relate to all the notes in the next chord, and what note you’re singing at the time. Why is the drummer playing what he’s playing, and why is the bass player playing what he’s playing against the guitar riff you’re playing? It all is important. It is a lot deeper and more expressive than these kids will take the time to investigate, and that’s the sad part, and that’s why I think so much music doesn’t have as much longevity and substance as it could, and that’s not to say that kids are not as smart or as creative. Creativity is intimate and universal, but it is overlooked for the quick fix.
We ask ourselves questions, or we want to know a certain piece of trivia. Now in the past, to find out that answer or trivia, you may have to spend an afternoon at the library finding the answer. Now all you’ve got to do is pull out your iPhone and look it up on Wikipedia and there’s your answer. But the question I have is, is the retention any better? Are we holding onto that piece of information that we were curious about: “What is the speed of light?” “What year was Mark Twain born?”? Is that information staying with us? I tend to believe that the answer is no, so if you’re following some sort of creative path, or any kind of career path, do the best you can at pulling from all kinds of influences and learn as much about what you do, and why, if you’re an engineer, the laws of physics, and the laws of thermodynamics, and the laws of inertia all apply to what you do. Learn everything about it. That’s how I feel about being a musician. Sorry, another long-winded answer, but there you go!
Me: (laughing) But a lot of good information, so thank you! How about you, Circe? What advice would you give to an up and coming musician?
Link: Ditto! Basically he’s covered all of it. I would say be prepared to wear a lot of hats, meaning learn a lot of different things, don’t just learn music. Learn marketing, learn accounting…
Nesmith: Learn how to spell!
Me: Don’t get me started! (laughing)
Link: One thing as a writer that I think I’ve always been able to do, and the advice that I would give to any writer, young or old, is don’t get out the editor before you’re done writing the sentence. When you’re writing and you’re in the creative process, whether you’re designing a piece of art that you’re painting, or doing choreography for a dance, or any creative process, don’t be stymied by breaking out the art critic before you’re even done. I think that that’s an essential thing to remember. Let it all come out, and then look at it and take some of what you like and work with it. Then you turn it into craft.
There’s inspiration and then there’s craft, and those two things are kind of the twin gods. They’re twin deities that both need to be respected. I think you can have accidental success with one or the other, but when you can get both going, that’s the real balance, the real beauty, and I would hope that an artist will be able to cultivate both, for success, and define what success is for your success. Success 20 years ago is not the success of today, so be able to ask yourself, “What does success mean?”. Does success mean a Grammy, or does success mean somebody saying, “Your song saved me life”? There’s a big division there, and some things are more important than others.