Coming up short

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by meursault42, Nov 26, 2012.


  1. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Another kind of career-related question for you...

    My sense is that this is a rather universal experience among performers/artists, but maybe not. At various times over the course of my "career" as a musician (roughly 20 years at this point), there have been situations where I've felt like my playing experience and just fundamental skill set are coming up short of the current expectations of whatever project I'm involved with. Of course, when this happens the tendency is to immediately feel overwhelmed and sort of shut down and become far less "present"...absolutely the worst thing that can happen. And to a certain extent I feel like this has been one of the things that has held me back over the years. Would you happen to have any thoughts on this?

    Thanks.
  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    You've hit the nail on the head for me as well.

    I've felt this way so many times. But the thing is, I notice that if I work hard enough, this feeling abates. It just takes time and persistence...I know of no other recipe for solving it.

    Being present is really the name of the game, however. And in my experience, I've found it to be the most important factor. Many of you on this board may know that I'm a Scientologist. While I never evangelize my beliefs and hold them to be very personal, that is for me personally the biggest factor in my ability to be "present". Because that is the single most important thing that gets me through a challenging gig/session/whatever.

    So: whatever method you find effective in getting your mind in the game, getting yourself calm and focused, and stripping away the most amount of negativity that could adversely affect you is exactly what you should be doing, please use it to the fullest. Spiritual, physical, or otherwise.


    Justin
  3. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Thanks so much for the candid response. :) A good reminder that I need to be cultivating my own ways/methods to become increasingly present, especially while making music. It's all too easy to forget on a day-to-day basis. And while I doubt organized religion will be part of my own path (far too much personal baggage there), I do recognize the need to seek out that balance in one's life, by whatever means.
  4. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Well said. Since I approach this forum with the utmost candor in all my replies, I will even broach the prickly subject of organized religion sometimes if it's directly applicable. :) In this case, I simply illustrate what works for me.

    Anyway, back more specifically on topic, it's not normally my style to suggest something so elemental as being present, but that's a vital part of this formula, amongst other things. The thing I see with musicians far more often than I care to is a deeply ingrained sense of marginalized self-worth (which as we all know can have roots back to many other circumstances/incidents/traumas/suppression in one's life). I see it as a crippling disease, in that, from an objective standpoint, a player could be doing more than fine on a session technically, but then you see the fine art of self-sabotage at work.

    Part of my "success" is that I do a fairly good job being comfortable in my own skin, comfortable around people, good at adapting, good at listening. I do not take that for granted one moment. Because I've seen many a player who can play circles around me, yet they scuttle their own chances right before your eyes during the course of a day in the studio. I've seen it too many times to gloss it over. And now that evidently I'm a full-blown record producer, I see it even more.

    Very interesting stuff.

    J
  5. meursault42

    meursault42

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    "the fine art of self-sabotage"

    I doubt if it could be more aptly put. Indeed, I imagine you have a front-row seat for this sort of thing now that you're producing so much. And sadly, if you'd have produced me, I fear you might have witnessed some of the same. Although to be fair, I'd say that my studio efforts have arguably been a mixed bag.

    Being self-confident, comfortable, adaptable, a good listener, etc. I suppose it boils down to being a graceful human being. I've known a few...always a humbling experience. It's awesome that you recognize that about yourself and don't take it for granted.

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