I was in church last Sunday here in Nashville. I hope that I go for more things than just the music, but there is hardly a church in town that does not have incredible talent opening the service, whether it be country, rock, R&B, pop, and yes, even rap. A very dear friend of mine, Henry Slaughter who just turned 90 years old performed a piano solo that brought the house down.
After the service, I complimented him and we launched into an in depth conversation about the importance of being unique as an artist to stand out in today’s over saturated talent pool. I asked him, who were some of his influences and he said at the top of his list was David Foster. I would have to agree with him and maybe even add to that list a few that I have known over the years like Rick Wakeman (Yes) and the late Billy Preston, when it came to keyboards.
If I was walking into a concert hall, even before seeing the musicians on stage, I could tell you if it was one of these three guys playing in the band just by the sound. The same is true if I am listening to a record, the distinctiveness of their particular styles always stands out.
In this day and age it seems like a difficult task amongst the vast array of artists out there to be unique. Innovating and bringing something new to one’s creative endeavor is the name of the game. Much like the development of a new genre of music or the pushing of the boundaries of a particular genre by taking it in a new creative direction.
You can look at what is commercially popular and you might be forgiven for thinking that everything sounds the same nowadays. that individuality is dead. To be a credible artist you have to copy what everyone else is doing. Many people have this assumption that you can no longer be unique because everything has already been done before, hence why, everything sounds same these days .
I still believe there can be innovation in art and creativity and there always will be for us as long as we continue to develop as human beings. The big question then, is how can an artist be unique? Well, many people would say that you have to go against the grain. You have to see what the majority are doing and see what is popular. Then do the opposite. I can understand that perspective. It can be good to pay attention to what the current trends are. Although I think there is a danger that one can rebel against the mainstream just for the sake of it.
As a result this can lead one to creating insincere art that fails to resonate with other people or even themselves, simply because they are so obsessed with trying to not sound like anyone else. By desperately trying to avoid sounding like someone else it can lead you to forget that at some level everything came from something else.
I believe the key is not to necessarily go against the grain and not to necessarily follow the trend either. Instead you should follow your desires and do whatever it is you have the ability to do. You may forget that you are the only person exactly like you in the entire world. There will never be another person exactly the same as you ever again. You show uniqueness simply by being you and expressing yourself as an individual or as a collective depending on whether you create on your own or in a group. We are all unique like it or not, no matter how many similarities there might seem to be and no matter how much we might gain from other people.