By: Konner Scott
I recently purchased a book entitled “Steal Like an Artist”. Perhaps the title is intended to be provocative, but the contents of the book have given me much food for thought over these past couple days. The basic premise is that creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that the creative within us is the sum total of all our influences. The author suggests we should embrace this instead of trying to fight it or run from it in the effort to create something truly “unique”.
That premise has made me reflect on my own creative journey. At my core, as a songwriter, I’m a theatrical ballad guy. I like big, lush, Disney-esque chords and soaring & dramatic melodies. This is probably the result of my childhood obsession with artists like Queen, Elton John, and Billy Joel. I bring a little intensity to my music, too- probably the vestiges of my high school fixation on pop-punk and post-grunge music. My piano compositions tend to be a little more complex and intricate than they may need to be- likely the outcome of my formative years spent voraciously practicing classical piano.
In the past, I’ve felt boxed in by these characteristics. I’ve desired to do more, to continue to be different, and to transcend all boundaries & labels. Although I never consciously thought it at the time, the ultimate conclusion of this goal was for my art to become a formless & vapid cloud of ambiguity, subtly encompassing everything but never connected to anything.
However my songs turned out, I would consider the defining characteristics of each song to be the reasons why that song was a failure. If I wrote a gentle ballad, I’m failing to bring the requisite level of intensity. If my lyrics are conversational and informal, I’m failing to be poetic and grandiose. If my song is a nine-minute meandering odyssey, I’m failing to embrace brevity and simplicity. If my song is a tightly-packaged three minute pop tune, I’m failing to bring enough complexity and showmanship.
Clearly, there’s no winning.
I’ve improved at this over the past couple years, but “Steal Like an Artist” put into words a feeling that’s been gnawing at me that I was never quite able to articulate. Moving forward, I plan to make an effort to lean into the influences that inspire me, instead of desperately trying to transcend them. Maybe writing something transcendent is just the result of tapping into my influences deeply enough to make them uniquely mine.