Although the Music Industry has changed in its function and Less History or tradition applies to music as we once knew it, some things stay the same in the creative process. Pride and Satisfaction with the music you make. As there are more DIY artists than Artists signed and plugged into the machinery left of a major label and many of us dictate to ourselves what when to do, how, and when we do it. There is a discipline at play. We might not be in the unique position of those who have a less successful record after the first record and be in the danger of being toppled from the label, as many of us own our label and would only be firing ourselves, There is still “The Sophomore Slump”.
Writing your first album
You have your whole life to write your first recording. The time is available to write, step back, improve, reapproach or trash an idea that doesn’t suit you. Songwriting, building a band that has the right people who flow together is indeed a craft. There is an enthusiastic drive when things begin to be created and the purity of knowing you are about to bear your soul to an infinite number of other people.
Sometimes a band or solo artist puts out their first offering and it becomes iconic over time, and sometimes they only just keep getting better at what they do. Sometimes they are faced with the success of that record as a double edge. “Now what do I do to follow up?” If you are as in the past actually signed to a large deal you have the applause and admiration from the label and patted on the back for that year. Then someone says, “alright we gotta get you back in the studio and keep building the work”. You now have a limited amount of time and heavyweight pressure to get it done and make it as good or better as round one. This is a make-or-break moment. The eyes of adoration are now firmly fixed as if they are holding an invisible stopwatch or even a cattle prod. Sometimes those eyes upon us are our own when we look at ourselves.
Be it Kiss, Rush, The Police, Sinatra, or Pink….we all will have those quiet moments and Jumbled nerves. We DIYs are actually fortunate to live by our own standards and timelines. I personally have seen even Major Players be pushed and they Push back. Fiona Apple in particular found that inner strength to say after the Massive success of “Tidal”…”You will get it when it’s done”.
George Thorogood said, “This isn’t fast food Rock n Roll.”
Avoiding The sophomore slump
So how do you avoid this dilemma? Being a huge fan of The Rolling Stones found inspiration not only in their music but their approach to making an album. I’ve practiced that approach for 12 years of writing and recording. They never limited themselves to writing 10 songs for any given project. They may have 20 or 30 during the process and some work and some don’t, but they release for example “Emotional Rescue” in its finished form. Meanwhile, the songs that didn’t go on that album are still there to be worked on and become ultimately “Tattoo You”. You just keep some cards in your pocket to play later even if it’s cards with the Devil.
If you keep the ethic of believing that the song you wrote in January isn’t where you want it, don’t throw your hands up in frustration. Keep that work for another day. one guarantee in music is magic happens when you aren’t looking. “Start Me Up” was a Reggae song in the ’70s and rejected and Shelved. A year or two later on a day when the stars aligned one shift of rhythm made it what it is today.
Keep faith in your ability. Write that song you don’t like at first. Let That Piano intro or guitar riff that you set aside still sit around to simmer. Those things we have doubts about can be tiny miracles a few more miles down the road.
Now one of my own tunes and thanks for reading. Please let us know your thoughts on the post and the sophomore slump in the comments. Thanks and subscribe to guitardoor for more music stories and inspiration.