When I played in my old band, The Jesters, it was hard to define what genre we were. We started out as a ska band with a big horn section (this was the late 90’s when ska was having a moment). And with those horns, you know that we had to add a healthy dose of James Brown-influenced funk.
But if you had just come into our show for one song, there was also a good chance that you might hear a punk song. Or old-school hip-hop, reggae, 80’s pop, jazz, or even 60’s surf.
That’s the beautiful thing about being in a band with a lot of talented musicians from wildly different backgrounds. Everyone brought their own ideas and songs into the mix.
And because we weren’t too worried about becoming the next big thing, we leaned into it and played what we liked.
Our Identities are a Fusion
My band couldn’t define ourselves by one genre. We were a big mash-up.
And so are you.
If you had to label yourself with just one adjective or noun, could you do it? I would guess that if you tried, you’d end up cutting out huge parts of your interests, experiences, and values.
As Walt Whitman wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” And so do you.
Not only that, but the ingredients continuously change and evolve. In our lives, we learn new facts or build new experiences and we have to fold those in as well. Likewise, guys would bring a new song idea or style they wanted to try at rehearsal, and we’d fold it in. This is why the “sound” that a band has will change over time. And that’s how (hopefully) we grow and mature as people.
What New Influences Will You Add?
I think that the coronavirus pandemic was a shock to our system. Both on a societal level and an individual level. How we work, how we connect with others, and how we choose what’s important are up in the air.
Right now, our identities are in flux. That can be scary and unsettling. Uncertainty is rarely a comfortable place to live. But this time we’re living through is also a great opportunity to add something new into the mix.
Instead of closing ourselves off to lessons that we’re learned through economic, political, and social unrest, we can pay attention to how it affected us. And we can look at how we succeeded and failed in managing the practical and emotional challenges that the last year put in our path.
It might sound harsh, but I think if you come out of the last year the same as you came into it, you’ve missed out. You weren’t paying attention and you haven’t grown.
Accept the new experiences you’ve had and the lessons you’ve learned. Since you get to choose what influences you’ll integrate, you get to decide what to keep when defining how you are identified.
And you’ll find that the music you make in life will be that much sweeter…and fun to play.