Monday, November 16, 2009

Born to Play

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a musician and performer as well as a fan of music. It's interesting how an arrangement of chords and notes on a scale create a certain amount of exhilaration simply because of the powerful emotional connection it makes with our souls. Music is a universal element in that all of us perk up at some favorite artist or band and they way they make us feel. Even more so when an artist's lyrics penetrate our curiosity beyond simple production riffs and chorus hooks.

That said, I remember a few summers ago when some good friends of mine took me to see The Brand New Heavies and Van Hunt at the Roxy here in Atlanta. I was vaguely familiar with BNH and enjoyed the show, but really found myself taken in by the funk and groove of Van Hunt's set. I'd listened to a few R&B artists here and there, but combined with some of his rock sensibilities something was refreshingly different about his music. Details such as a fierce female bass player stood out to me as well. After the show I promptly went out and bought myself a copy of On The Jungle Floor.

Fast forward to September 2009, when, through a series of serendipitous events, my promoter friend gave me and my new band the opportunity to open for this Grammy award winning, remarkable artist. As a fan I could hardly contain my squeal of excitement and such incredible honor of just being on the same line-up, especially given the wasteland that my music fell into for a while before getting back to full health and hungrier than ever to make music. I got current on his bio and realized that this talented guy, with all his accomplishments and fan base, was not immune to the pitfalls of the changing music industry. Having bounced from Capitol to Blue Note records, only to have a brand new album shelved and then to do his own self release, brought home yet again the resolve to make music purely for the love of it, regardless of what kind of success or non-success it brings.

You can never let your identity be shaped by what the world says about you or by corporate big wigs' fickle opinions determining who gets to be promoted. This isn't the time to get snarky about which artists and bands deserve it more. As musicians, if your heart is in the right place, it's about creating music because you can't NOT create music. It's in the very fiber of your being, something that transcends society's expectations of you. I realize this is something that few non-practicing artists understand. (By that I mean that within all of us is an artist no matter who you are, just that few dare to pursue this full-time.) Granted, it is about balance and having music be a vehicle to go on to do goodwill, not merely as a lifestyle. But in order to keep going you have to have a sense of purpose beyond the music. I'm seeing this unfold every day that I work with my new band. I'm seeing an energy that builds because we're invested in each other's lives, not merely the goal of music.

I look forward to inhabiting the roles of both performer and fan this Friday @ Andrews Upstairs. The Jaspects will also be featured with their fusion of hip hop, alternative and jazz. If you're in Atlanta, come join us. Tickets are available at


luckyduck said...

How exciting! I'm glad you've found your groove. You're right we're all artists in some way - even if you're a stay-at-home mom like me. It takes some creativity to keep up with a couple of little kids and a household.

Janie Chu said...

Thanks for the post and encouragement! Yes, artistry resides in all of us. I'm glad you're thriving and receiving so much joy being creative in your own element.