During my third year of college I took a course in creative writing, and my professor asked us a seemingly simple question: “What is art?”
We spent a solid thirty minutes discussing our ideas of what art was, without ever coming to a group consensus. To me, what we view as art is obviously incredibly personal.
So to me, art in its essence, is supposed to make you feel something (this sounds vague…I know). Real art evokes an emotion you might have been hiding. Real art helps you discover the words you’ve been looking for but could never find. Real art can expand your perceptions and shift your position on an issue. Real art strikes a chord of understanding within you that even your closest friends and family couldn’t play.
Often times new art is a reflection or reinterpretation of a different piece of art. This idea of taking an artist’s creation and reshaping it is the basis for the practice of “sampling” records commonplace in hip-hop.
Inspiration quite often can blur the lines between mediums, allowing one art form to bleed into the next. For me, cinema has become a major source of inspiration. Although the majority of the time the stories are fictitious, films center around human emotion and internal conflict to paint a picture of truth through story.
So why have I been talking about art, specifically movies, when I’m a songwriter and this is supposed to be a piece about one of my songs? Well, if you couldn’t tell by the title, “Vanilla Skies” was heavily influenced and inspired by the 2001 classic Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise.
During my time at Virginia Tech, I became increasingly interested in film and how these directors and actors we’re able to communicate their vision onto the screen.
One night during my senior year, I insisted my roommates and I watch the movie Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (which if you haven’t seen it, you need to watch it immediately). This got us talking about our favorite “cerebral” movies like Inception and Memento.
In a different piece I wrote about The Essentials, an album I recently released where Vanilla Skies appears. I detail how nearly half of the album was inspired by a rough break up I was going through at the time.
This was all going on at the same time that I watched “Vanilla Sky” for the first time. I fell in love with the idea of creating an alternate reality within a dream world and knew I had to turn that concept into song.
In all honesty… I’m not the most musically gifted person, but I am working on my craft to make sure that I turn any potential weaknesses into strengths. I figured, practice makes perfect and what better way to learn than to dive in headfirst?
So for this record I actually stepped up to the plate and did all of the production myself, along with writing the lyrics and melody.
To match that idea I wanted to bring the second half of the track in with a very dreamy transition with the high strings & synths and chill out the vibes with the xylophone you can hear when the lyrics come in.
All in all I was just proud to have created a song 100% myself with no outside help. I love being able to take ideas from one piece of art and put my own little twist on it to transform it into something completely different.
I hope you like the record even more now with a better understanding of where it comes from. Really enjoy sharing with people how these songs come to be, and I’m looking forward to sharing much more of the inside scoop as I continue to make music.