AMA: “Do you get upset when you or your song gets compared to another artist or their work?” – John

Do you get upset when you or your song gets compared to another artist or their work?


Hi John –

Yes. Well, at least initially. It’s my lizard brain signaling fight, flight, or freeze. Like someone’s about to eat me. It’s been found out that I’m an imposter, I’ve been faking this whole music thing and will now be brought to the gallows. There (at the hanging) are my family, my youth pastor, and that kid who teased me in math class. It’s a dark and dusty afternoon. As they watch, everyone is disappointed, except a few who seem to be having a nice time. THE END. Credits roll.  

Anyway, so, yeah—that’s what happens initially after someone compares me to another artist. These days it lasts only a second or often not at all ( I don’t have the bandwidth anymore!). In my earlier years it was more like hours, sometimes days. 

So what happens next? Oh, you know, just the logical thing: actually considering what the person meant. It’s usually one of two things. A compliment. Or a jab. When it’s a compliment, oh the joy. All that weeping and gnashing of teeth for nothing. They simply like some particular artist and thought of me. They’re including me in their circle of trust. Make way for one more greeting card on the refrigerator!  

When it’s a jab. Sure, it hurts a bit. Mainly because I know they meant to hurt me. Not because I think they’re right. My hope is I do call to mind artists who have influenced me. Damien Rice? Yes. James Taylor and Nick Drake? Yes. The Beatles? Duh. Everyone reminds everyone of the Beatles. Teitur? No, I hadn’t heard of him until recently. Ben Howard? No, I also hadn’t heard of him until recently. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t remind people of them or a thousand other artists like us. It’s likely they were influenced by some of the same people who influenced me. And that’s great. I think I would enjoy singing “Kumbaya” around a campfire with them. 

But the important part to think about is mindset. I used to have a scarcity mindset. I thought the world wasn’t big enough for me and my music if it sounded too similar to someone else’s music. But I don’t think that way anymore. Or at least when I do, I try pull myself out of it. I daily cultivate a mindset of abundance. (I actually recite this geeky mantra every morning.) One that says there’s room enough for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what type of art you create or how similar it sounds to someone else. Just make it and share it and then make more of it. Entertain yourself. Have fun. See the world, interpret it, make it into something that can be shared and call it day. 



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