I have found my entertainment greatly enhanced since I started listening to podcasts. I love the direct approach of someone telling how he does his/her thing, sharing tips, or just "telling it like it is". I can no longer stomach for very long the traditional, grandiloquent TV news reports, where everything reeks of staging. I get a better worldview, I think, by listening to a diversity of podcasts, from areas that sometimes don't even have to do with my direct interests, but where I get indirect advice that I can later customize to my world, or simply I like the way the guys talk, the flow of the whole thing, the fun they're having together...
Speaking however of my direct interests, music making in this case, I'd like to speak of a certain mentality I've encountered often in podcasts and blogs of the guild, a misapplication of terms that I find annoying and dangerous, and which I've refered to in other texts as "the technical disease".
The situation goes like this: Q:"Hey, could you share some tips about how to write better songs?". A: "Well, you can start writing a journal, practice writing songs everyday, keep a notebook with you at all times..."
WRONG. All those tips are technical details, similar to a coach telling an athlete to do pushups, etc. But art is not a sport.
Well, on second thought it is not exactly that those tips are wrong, but rather they don't tell the whole story, and often telling half the truth comes out as a lie; for sure a lot of navel gazing, artists-in-their-own-mind creative people out there could benefit from those practices: you have to get the muscle, have the buckets ready for when the rain comes, write the 5,000 bad pages if you're a writer, play the 5,000 chords, etc. But those tips, on their own, won't help create better songs, and flawed advice like that is in my view something almost cruel.
Do you really want to write better songs? Really? Well here's my advice: GET A FUCKING CULTURE. Enjoy what others have done before. Do not dissect, just enjoy it, appreciate its worth, make it a part of your life. Weep to a Jacques Brel song. Stay in shock for one week after seeing "Saving private Ryan" or reading Malraux's "The human condition". Have a shitty day and then say "fuck it, I'm going to make it anyway" and fire up a NOFX record. End up a toxic relation and then go listen to Megadeth's "1000 times goodbye". Pick whatever your poisons are but please stop seeing this songwriting thing as a competition sport, with one winner on top squashing all the rest with his incredible superiority; culture is a forest of voices, you have to listen to those voices and love some and feel repeled towards some; that exercise of choices will define your "face", a "face" that comes with a "mouth", a vocabulary made of all the things you've loved, of all the aha moments, also the letdowns and repulsions, and all that stuff will show the moment you start singing, and you bet your ass the song will be "better".
This one-sided stance that looks only at technique ends up feeling a bit asphixiating. It's like putting more and more furniture inside a room that is already stuffed. A lot of musicians in the world have made meaningful contributions that we still love to this day with songs recorded in concrete wall rooms. A lot of musicians have had long and astonishing careers playing no more than three chords, because that was their tool of choice, the only thing they needed to make their humanity and their vision (should I say "audition" :) ) shine through. I'm not discarding technique per se, I for sure could use more of it in many areas, but it is not the whole story, not even the most important part of the story.
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it