Inspiration and Influences

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by cire113, May 27, 2012.

  1. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    This question is mainly for steve but applies to michael as well..

    What inspires you to write such emotional music?

    I love your sound on all your albums especially on 11 reasons why...

    Instead of just stealing all your licks... (lol)

    what are some of your greatest influences?

    Sorry for such a broad question i know probably all music influences you..

    But I would love to "listen" to the type of music you listen to;

    like the ambient type stuff...

    I guess my real question is about the nature of creativity and making music...

    Do we play a cumulation all the music we have heard?

    I feel as if its all about listening...
  2. russtolium


    Jul 12, 2010
    About the creativity question - there's a chapter in a great book called 'Steal Like an Artist' that visualizes one's influences as a sort of family tree. Your influences (or those who influenced them) are at the top, and as you move down the levels of the tree the lines between them intersect, ultimately combining to a single point: you.

    I think whether we realize it or not, the music we listen to and the other art and experience that forms our preferences and personality traits are directly responsible for what we create. The more branches at the top of our influence tree, the more 'original' what we produce will be perceived as by others, even if we as the creators can pick out what inspired a tune phrase by phrase.
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    hello! first up, thanks for spotting the emotion in it... Music making for me is about story-telling, soundtracking and making sense of things. Instrumental music is what happens when I run out of words... So that quest is the start point for the music having a dispensation towards emotion over 'music for the sake of itself', if that makes any sense...

    The vast majority of my musical influences are singer/songwriters - this ties in with the storytelling thing.

    The breakthrough, in terms of understanding what my aim was, was when I realised that my desire in processing an influence wasn't to sound like them, but to make music that makes me feel the way their music makes me feel. Which doesn't require me to copy their music at all... it requires me to 'know myself' - to be aware of what music does to me, what it makes possible, what I feel when I'm listening to it, and look for those things when I'm playing.. to play 'towards' them.

    So, the people I listen to for that include Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bruce Cockburn, Kristin Hersh, Rosanne Cash, Jonatha Brooke, The Blue Nile, Talk Talk, David Sylvian, The Cure, KT Tunstall, Rosie Thomas, Prefab Sprout, James Taylor...

    ..and of course, there are a load of other instrumentalists who are channeling the same kind of emotion-led approach, so their work is hugely influential and instructive - Bill Frisell, Michael Manring, Nels Cline, Ralph Towner, David Torn, Jonas Hellborg, Sunna Gunnlaugs, Alan Pasqua, John Coltrane, Miles Davis...

    in the broadest sense, probably, but I do tend to treat music listening like food - I'm not a fan of junk food, and like to eat a balanced diet as well as enjoying the best food I possibly can, whenever possible :)

    I actually listen to *very* little ambient music - Some of Brian Eno's stuff (Neroli, Music For Airports) ... much of that stuff comes from films, though I don't actually spend much time consciously listening to film soundtrack stuff outside of the films themselves!

    We make decisions about things we want to make happen and not happen, so much can be a part of that process in both a positive and negative sense... 'God, I hope I never sound like that!' - kind of thing. I also find that my sense that something is missing 'for me' from someone else's music spurs me on to find the music that fills that gap. It's not that their music is lacking (it'd be very presumptuous of me to expect anyone else to make music that fulfills my criteria - my standard response when someone says 'hey, you know what you should do is a record with a drummer/an all ambient record/a funk record/whatever' is to say 'no, YOU should, cos it's you that wants to hear it! - this music didn't happen by accident!')

    So when some music gets me most of the way to where I want to be emotionally/narratively, I tend to be inspired to see if I have it in me to bridge the gap...

    I spend a LOT of time listening to music. Way more than most of the musicians I know. I listen a lot more than I play. It creates in me a desire and a focus about what I'm trying to do that I don't get through just playing. I surround myself with inspiring music, and it's never just 'background'. It's purposeful, and I'm very picky about which suggestions people give me that I bother to go and listen to. Telling me that something is 'great' is no reason for me to click on the link and listen to it... I need a story, a reason, something interesting... So I filter pretty heavily, and as a result am constantly hearing new music and rarely hear music I don't find fascinating.

    Of late I've been listening to a lot of extreme metal - Obscura, Opeth, Blotted Science, Ihsahn, IWABO, Entombed, Cavalera Conspiracy... it remains to be seen how that will make itself known in my music :)

    thanks for the question!

  4. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    Wow steve thanks what a fantastic response man!! Totally more than when i even wanted to receive!!! Many thanks man...!!

    Ive been listening to all your albums the last few weeks .... You have definitely inspired me to check out some cool vocabulary!

    The one thing i love about your music is just the emotion man...

    I love how you just play the music and not "chops for chops sake" stuff... Real music.. You can play 1 note and make it sound so pure with raw emotion

    YOu've really helpd me realize to follow my heart and play what moves me; and just don't force something that isn't "me"

    Thanks :)

    Also i forgot to mention.. as far as listening to music.. I feel really overloaded with so much music out there I don't even know what to listen to or where to start half the time! It seems to really be hard for me to find the music that is truly inspirational to me.. a lot of trial and error... The amount of resources on YouTube alone blows me away

    I like how you point how there is a difference between listening and "active' listening..
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Really glad you found it helpful - let me know if you've got more questions :)

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