What is fascinating to me is that Great creation stories all sound surprisingly similar. Something along the lines of “yeah we went in the studio and put down some tracks, and they sounded pretty good, and we had to redo a couple of things, and then when put out the album.” Disappointing, right?
It’s our fault for expecting a compelling narrative. Our expectation of divining some deep insight into their creative process is fundamentally flawed. They were just out there doing their thing, just like they always do, and it worked.
It’s true. There is no compelling narrative. John Lennon didn’t sit down to write ‘Imagine’ planning it to be his career-defining song. Beethoven didn’t start writing his fifth symphony with the intent that the four-note theme would resonate for over a century. Ark Music Factory weren’t thinking ‘ok, this one will make Ms Black an internet superhero’.
They were just doing what they do best. Showing up, putting the hours in, doing the best work they could at the time.
And they were Great because they weren’t worrying about the mechanics of making music. They’d hit their stride long ago and were focussing wholly on the art and craft. Would John Lennon have written ‘Imagine’ if he was still struggling to figure out how to write songs that resonated with a generation? Would Beethoven have written a brilliant fifth symphony if he hadn’t already written four other brilliant symphonies?
For composition, the mechanics might be themes, contour, musical development, etc. For mix engineering, the mechanics might be gain, EQ, compression and reverb. For production, the mechanics might be creative direction, project management and relationship skills. And for all of them, workflow is at the centre of it all.
How can you do great work if you’re still figuring out what production step comes next? How can you do great work if you haven’t settled on your toolset yet? How can you do great work when you don’t understand the basics of musical structure and listener perception?
The sooner you get this stuff sorted, the sooner you can go make something amazing.