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Archive for November, 2007

Creativity & Purpose (Part 2)

(Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on the Creative Process…)

So anyway, the creation process — ahem, just to clarify, we’re back to the creation of music here — is awesome. And after the creation process is completed, it then becomes a huge, rewarding bonus if other people ultimately like what you create. But, to be honest, that thrill of acceptance isn’t nearly as great as the thrill of being in the zone, in the moment of creation, and knowing that what you’re creating is exactly what your muse on its best day wants to create.

When I create exactly what I wanted to create — which was the case, for example, with both “The Ballad Of Phineas McBoof” and “My Oyster” — positive or negative responses from people don’t really have much effect on my ultimate experience and relationship with it. I trust my artistic compass. Don’t get me wrong — when people love it, I’m totally psyched, and when people hate it, I’m truly bummed. But deep down I always know exactly what I want to create, and I know it’s only that most honest and pure muse that gives me the true unbridled bliss of creation.

I am completely self-indulgent that way. And I think any artist should be. No matter what you do, there will always be people who like what you create, there will always be people who think it’s okay, and there will always be people who don’t like it. So instead of trying to create something that I think most people will like — whether or not that taste is my natural muse — I prefer to just create what I like, and what I think is good, and then work as best I can to find the group of people who share that taste. It’s more fulfilling that way, and in this era of the web and independent niche marketing, it’s entirely possible. Long live the web and the indie ethic!

My stuff is generally more orchestrated and demanding (and, for some people, ultimately more rewarding to the active listener) than typical rock or children’s music. So I know there will be people who think it’s just too much. This is the case with the music I’ve created for adults too. And thankfully, there is plenty of stuff out there for that crowd — more straightforward pop fare and the umpteenth very special cover version of “Puff The Magic Dragon.” My contributions to the genre are not necessary.

This is one of the reasons that I could never, ever have become a mainstream pop star, even though many people back in the previous decade asked me why I didn’t just release more mainstream music. I like mainstream popular music, but my inner compass doesn’t beckon me to go out there and create a bunch of it. Ultimately, I know that the most honest and fulfilling stuff for me to create is more layered than the more easy listening mainstream fare — it’s funny, I’ve got scores of sketches and demos of those types of songs, but I can never quite get myself to sign my name off on a whole album full of ‘em. It’s just not my bag, baby. But there are plenty of bands and artists out there who will do that for you, and can do it honestly and from their hearts. It’s what they’re about, and I am a big fan of many of them. It’s their true calling and their job; mine is something different.

What I’ve found, to my delight, is that music for kids and their families allows me to be a lot more creatively adventurous and still be perceived as acceptably mainstream. (Just barely, perhaps.) I could never do as adventurous a concept album as “The Ballad Of Phineas McBoof” for the pop/rock market and be considered even remotely mainstream. Where’s the radio format? What’s the genre? How can we sell millions of copies of this to the required number of targeted young adults and teens who know what they want and want what they know? In short…

(Concluded next week…)

The Creative Spark

(Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on the Creative Process…)

Hello, Noizemakers everywhere. I have just written a long and loose blog fantasia on the creative process and what it means to me. I will split these musings up into three separate blog entries, starting… now!

You never know when the creative fires will start burning. You often don’t know why they burn. The one thing I do know is this: When they burn, you should fan the flames and ride them. Few feelings are worse than the realization that you had a great creative idea, a great creative spark, but you were too busy to act on that spark, and it faded until you could hardly remember what the idea was.

I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time, because when the creative fires start burning, I stop what I’m doing and go realize the creative idea in a draft sketch. Technology has made this easier — even if I’m out supposedly doing something else, I can still step away for a few minutes and sing a new song idea into my cell phone. Having the ability and opportunity to create musical and literary things is a great gift. I don’t mean it’s some great gift to the world, I mean it’s a great gift the world gives to me. It is almost always inspired by the world around me somehow.

There really is nothing like the thrill of creating new works of art that you really care about, that you really personally love. Having a means to encapsulate your thoughts and feelings within a creation you can then sit back and personally enjoy experiencing — in a way that, as the creator who’s become the listener, nobody else will ever quite experience — is a real rush of pure joy. You lose track of everything else except what you’re doing, you lose track of time, you think about nothing else, it gives you moments of pure bliss, focus and passion.

There are only a few other things that make me feel that way. One of them is playing soccer, a passion of mine since my childhood and probably my second most accomplished ability after creating music, and the other is — oh sorry, this is a children’s music blog.

(Continued next week…)

Expansion Time

It has become fairly obvious that it is time to expand this business from a one man operation (with a PR Agent) to a team of some sort. I simply cannot stay on top of all the leads and correspondence and business I need to keep on top of, while simultaneously putting on the shows and making the recordings and books. Or, let me put it a different way: I can do all this stuff on by myself, but I can’t do it well. And it’s not very inspiring to do things that you know you can’t do well.

Why can’t I do it all well on my own? It’s become increasingly obvious to me that I simply do not have enough time to complete all the business tasks associated with doing the best job possible promoting and selling Doctor Noize products and performances. Booking shows, for example — I simply do not have the time to do all the booking work I need to do. I aim to spend many hours booking shows and pursuing leads every week, but the fact is I always fall far short of the hours I want to spend booking shows, because there are other things — manufacturing books, putting on shows, etc. — that take up my time that I NEED to do that week. When I think about it, I am surprised at the amount of success Doctor Noize has had so far, given the small-time, no-staff nature of the business side of the venture.

Which brings me to the obvious point, which many people have brought to my attention in the last month, particularly on the California tour: It is time for me to somehow expand my business model, and get a team — at the very least an employee — working on this stuff. The products and performances have been “test marketed,” and the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, far more so than I expected this early in the game. That’s great. So now it’s time to have the courage to give these products and services the support they’re obviously calling for, and really let them take flight.

It’s time to bring other people on board. I have had several very impressive people approach me with the interest of becoming involved in the career of Doctor Noize in various ways — funding, business planning and managing, promoting, marketing — and it is time for me to take a step back, reassess the business plan, and figure out a more extensive plan to run this business. So I am going to spend most of the next month doing just that — laying a bit low from the public eye, and laying the groundwork for a more extensive business infrastructure to support the things Doctor Noize does. I truly believe that we can really teach and entertain a lot of kids and parents, and really make a difference, if I do this step right and expand the business a bit.


Any advice is appreciated. If you have good ideas for Doctor Noize, or interest in helping expand the business of Doctor Noize with me, now is the time to contact me and get on board. Monsters are awaiting your call.

Genius In The Audience

Wow, what a month October was. I played nine shows in ten days in Northern California, including a big theater show in my hometown of Los Altos. All in all, I played for thousands of people. The audiences were incredible — totally willing to create interactive music, totally game to sing and count and dance and have fun, occasionally mobbing the stage to the point where we had to stop the music, clear the stage, and then pick things up again. There’s a lesson there — we need a stage bouncer at the theater shows. We didn’t have one in Los Altos. Crazy man, crazy. I haven’t seen a mosh pit like that since a Fishbone concert I attended in the late ’80’s.

It was wonderfantastic playing shows day after day and experiencing different ideas brought forth by the audience. At one elementary school assembly, while I played “Don’t Monkey With My Heart” the whole audience of 300 kids started doing the wave — in time to the music. It was incredible — they would start on beat one at the left of the audience, and move all the way over until beat one of the next measure, when they’d yell “whoo!” Then, at beat one of the third measure, they would start the wave all over again on the left side. Unbelieveable skill, and I didn’t even ask them to do it. The idea never crossed my mind. But when you give kids the freedom to use their creativity and invite them to participate in some musical interactivity, they can come up with amazing and imaginative things.

Now I’m back home in Colorado and we have just wrapped production on the book! Christian’s illustrations are nothing short of stunning. I’ll write more about that soon. Until then, dig your own groove, baby, dig your own groove.

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