9 Lessons I learned from artists at GroundUP Music Festival 2020 (feat. Becca Stevens, Brian Blade, Camila Meza, and Wayne Krantz)
Last week, we had the opportunity to attend the GroundUP Music Festival in Miami and I put together the nine best lessons I learned from interviewing some of the artists, and from the masterclasses held throughout the festival. Quotes are lightly edited for ease of reading, and you can click the artist names below to go to the full video interview they are quoted from. If you dig the content, share it with one of your friends or leave a comment below.
“What advice would you give to young musicians?”
- “Say yes to a lot of things early on. Play with lots of people. Have sessions. Be respectful. Learn the music so people want to call you again and hang out with you”
- “Make the music — create the art — that you want to make. Even if maybe somewhere in the back of your mind you have a fear that people aren’t going to like it. At least if you’re making what inspires you, and what you want to make, then you have that. If you make something that you’re not that into but you’re doing it just to please other people, and then they don’t like it, then you’ve got a lose-lose situation on your hands. So, make the art that inspires you. ”
Many musicians describe your playing as a spiritual experience…What qualities of your approach to music do you think give it that feeling?
- Maybe it’s as much as I can surrender and submit myself to that moment with the band. And I think that’s what faith has to mean. It’s things we hope for; it’s things unseen. So we have to continue to walk it out and trust that your brothers are there, your sisters are there for you in those moments. And you’re not sure…like “Where’s it going?,” or “Is it reaching someone?,” “Are we being perceived?” So I just trust in those moments and maybe that speaks to people.
What is something that you believe is true about music that many people would disagree with?
- "Well there’s the fundamental role of each musician within a group or individually the drummer, the bassist, the pianist, the horn player. But, everyone’s responsible for time. Everyone is playing the drum, so the drummer can also have that liberty. But we all have to have that center of time. As I once heard someone say, “Make the drummer sound good, and the drummer can do that in kind.”
If you could get one message out to young musicians, what would you say to them?
- "Try and put in the time alone and the time with others, every day a little bit. This connection with this instrument — no matter what your instrument is — you need to meld and become one with that thing, as much as possible. That way, you can express what you hear in a moment. There’s no delay, or great distance between your head and your hands and your feet and ideas. But they just flow as one thing. Every day a little bit.”
What would you say to a young musician starting out?
- “One thing I would like to share with you, if you’re starting in music, and starting to go to school …one thing that I feel you would benefit from is to really start connecting with your peers and start making music in your community with your friends because ten years from now they might be your bandmates. So if there’s something I can tell you for that moment, start now making those strong connections because music is a social experience, and your bandmates are the most important.”
On his approach to rhythm:
- “Groove inspires rhythmic playing. Harmony inspires melodic playing. So if I’m playing with something that has chords in it that are shifting, that triggers some kind of melodic sense in me, tonal, melodic sense. But if I’m just hearing a beat, it triggers a rhythm response. So I articulate that rhythm — since we [KCL trio] play mostly groove stuff —I articulate that with my guitar…so it comes out as notes but it’s really me thinking rhythmically and channeling the rhythm through the notes.”
- “To me that’s the modern thing —the thing right now, if I were 17 and playing drums, I would be working on being able to groove as heavily as possible and improvise within the context of that groove, without sacrificing the groove. It’s not easy, but it’s kind of modern thing. When I first started there were groove drummers and improvisers. There were funk players and jazz players. And there weren’t too many people, a handful of people in the states that I knew of that could kind of blur those lines, and because they could they became very valuable.”
On playing with a metronome:
- “The metronome is not there for you to sync to. It’s there to instruct you, beat by beat, where to put your idea. There’s a difference. The metronome, click by click, is instructing you about where to put it in the groove. If you’re deferring your clock, your sense of right and wrong to it, then you will play in its pocket, if you can respond to it as a musician, which we do. And what you’re doing when you’re doing that, is you’re practicing doing that with drummers. You’re practicing doing that with any external source. Your ability to play in the groove IS your ability to listen to what the groove is around you. Not listen to your own sense of “1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4”…You have have to listen to what they’re doing and base what you do completely on that. And forget about your internal clock, your internal clock is for when you play alone.”
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