“Beats spreading gravel for a living” is a famous quote of the late Elliott Smith when asked his take on being a musician. It’s refreshing actually, that this was one of his thoughts on the subject. Why? Well for starters everything in this life comes with it’s pros and cons. Of course being a musician definitely beats spreading gravel, because in all reality who really wants to do physical labor like that for only the result of spread gravel. Being known for your music is awesome, however I’m sure it comes with it’s own stress factors especially being in the constant spotlight. A friend of mine that has worked non stop over the years to build his business, take care of his family and be able to do the things he enjoys on the weekends recently just reminded me of this quote. Jim, is an avid boat lover and has been a good friend of mine for many years. He has bought and sold his share of boats during our friendship but there is one that he will always keep and re vamps it every now and again with a new paint job. This time around however, Jim decided to vinyl wrap his boat! The cool thing about it is he worked with a boat wrapping company that customizes his wrap and in doing so added these words of Elliott Smith to the side of his boat. Jim’s take is being out on the water sure beats spreading gravel, or heck doing anything else for that matter. At first I thought he was kinda crazy and wasn’t sure what his prized boat was going to look like
As you may have gathered from my previous posts, that usually are based around a quote from this inspiring musician, Elliott Smith was a man with depth. Not only did he live his life with purpose and meaning, these characteristics carried over into his music. His lyrics no matter the song depicted emotion, and most definitely exposed his raw self. Although he battled depression and fought his own personal struggles he left a legacy of words with meaning. Take a second and actually digest these lyrics
“ She took the oldsmobile out past Condor Avenue/Cops running around the scene looking for some kind of clue/They never get uptight when a moth gets crushed/Unless the light bulb really loved him that much”-(Lyrics from the song “Condor Avenue”)
When I first read these lyrics I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was being said to be honest. I had to stop and really absorb these words to understand. That’s the beautiful thing with music however, people perceive things, thoughts, words, in their own ways. The meaning they find shifts with an individual’s perspective.That’s what makes good music so appealing though isn’t it? The fact that no matter the person when you listen to a song you may feel it actually speaks to you. For me the meaning of these words came to me in a sudden realization. What i perceived was unless you are in the spotlight or a person deemed as important you are insignificant. That when it comes down to it you only matter if you are actually “Somebody”. How defeating is that if we actually feel and believe that? How true of a statement is it especially in today’s society. The Kardashians are famous for being famous. They don’t necessarily have any special skills, or talents let alone have accomplished anything greater than most of us. But everyone wants to know what is going on with them, when they suffer from something it is of greater importance than those who the light bulb doesn’t love. It is not fair, it’s defeating, and it’s basically just the way it is.
Elliott as a person saw things for what they were. He understood that even if we didn’t want things to be a certain way they just were. Perhaps that is why he battled depression and his inner demons. Perhaps that is not, actually, it undoubtedly is why he was such a great musician. He wasn’t singing and writing these songs for the fame and for that light bulb to love him. He wrote and sang to express his feelings. To get set his own thoughts and emotions out. To represent those crushed moths that otherwise seemed insignificant.
Today I feel that a lot of our societies foundation is built upon the image of things and not what is really important. What really matters. Elliott said it best, most music is just words written to a beat that sounds good. Songs are meant to express meaning however. Maybe that is why I have heard so many people say that music isn’t what it used to be. That most musicians become famous these days because of their image. We miss the days when songs spoke to us and we felt the music instead of just hearing it. Afterall if you don’t feel something does it really have meaning? Just a thought….because do we really need the lightbulb to love us to actually feel or be important???
Trying is what matters…at least by my interpretation. That’s what Elliott Smith did, right? He got out there. Imperfect action, continual practices equates to the “sounds we make”.
How do you come to know what you can do, if you never try. Even if your not good, does that matter? It’s the practice the develops the play. Not all artists wake up and play or perform flawlessly…even if they do, without development and practice, someone else delivers.
We can take this quote and apply it to more than just music, to all that we do in our lives. Each one of us play our own life tunes. More often than not, people don’t even attempt to develop their’s. Whether from fear, overwhelming feelings of life, or a combination of both, humans refrain from finding their tune.
I recently spoke with an artist that went through a 12 week program to discover her inner artist. She engaged in this 12 week deal, not knowing all that would unfold, the reality of her unconscious, and how it withheld her from so many things. What she told me really made sense. She said it is true, what you can’t get better at things you never learn to play”, but why is it that you don’t learn to play them? An answer may immediately enter your mind, but unraveling layers of past experiences- cultural, and that inner voice that says you aren’t good enough (even though you may think he/she is not there), or you need to be better, may lead you closer to that answer.
In theory we know we must try things, practice things to better ourselves and grow stronger, or smarter on a subject, or better at a job, but it’s the practice end that may fall short. Your “practice” is subjective to you unconscious mind.
Play on those what you’ve read. May how you play be in silence, in thought, in action, or a combination.
I dedicate this quote from Elliott Smith to continual practice of life’s instruments.