Monday, May 2, 2011

The "A" Word

There's a word used to describe a certain kind of pop music that strikes fear into the heart of any composer who likes to rock, and that word is "adult".

What's so bad about "adult music"? Oh man, where do I start? When you grow up with musical tastes that shifted between confrontational metal/alt rock artists and those bands who pushed the boundaries of experimental composition styles, it's a hard pill to swallow when one day you wake up and you find people are referring to your style as "adult contemporary", "soft rock", or (more charitably) "adult alternative". The mere thought of it makes me want to dye my hair blue and form a punk band. Anarchy in the South Bay!

But it's time for a little reality check: while I love plenty of hard, fast, in-your-face music, I've always also enjoyed sounds that were softer, with a more subtle way to impart the emotion of the song. That ranges from Joni Mitchell through Nick Drake, Joe Jackson, and many more in that vein. Also, the need to impress other musicians with how fast or complex my playing can be has waned over the years. Beyond all that, the real thing that causes the shift in musical direction is time. A funny thing: many artists who start off as being in the underground end up in this odd adult zone as they and their music get older. Nirvana was cutting edge in 1991. 20 years later, they're played on "Hot AC" stations, and you can hear Pearl Jam at the grocery store.

Speaking of time (the most important reality check of all): I've been an adult for quite a bit longer than I was a child. Why shouldn't I be writing stuff that reflects who I am now, as opposed to who I once was? The fact is that trying to position myself as an angry young man just doesn't reconcile with the guy I see in the mirror. And, ultimately, my music comes from the heart, and when I write songs that sound a certain way, it's not like I sit down and say, "Okay, today I will write a song like (insert band here)." I just write what I feel, and it seems to be that my natural direction is to write stuff that's maybe more in line with this format. It's more Aimee Mann than Metallica, more Laura Veirs than the Vandals. But I think I'm okay with that.

Now I just have to lose than gagging feeling when people describe me as an adult pop artist. I sure as hell didn't want to grow up and become Phil Collins. Hopefully, despite the fact that my long-hair days of speedy guitar playing are over, there is still a little edginess to my songs. If I do my job right, I want you to feel slightly unsettled when you hear my stuff. If I start making music to sleep to, just put me out of my misery.

New Zak Music: Coming Soon
In related news, I am EXTREMELY excited about a brand new song called "Broken Day" that fell on me like an anvil out of the sky over the weekend. I did the entire song on Saturday April 30... wrote music, wrote lyrics, and recorded an initial demo so I could capture the moment. It came out great! However, it needs some refining before I'm ready to share it with anyone other than a select few. I'll be happy to give everyone the chance to listen as soon as I add some of those details I'm hearing in my head.

I predict exciting times ahead from the Zak Claxton camp. As one of my new songs says, look out for me.

No comments: