The new year is a time for looking back, as well as looking forward. So I have been thinking about how I want 2014 to be better and different than 2013. Enter Rick Rubin, whose profile in the Daily Beast, nailed so many things that I'd been trying to sort out in my head. Some thoughts from Mr. Rubin that resonated:
"There’s a cycle that’s dictated by the reality of being a touring artist [when you only have eight weeks between tours to make a record]. At some point in time the cycle takes over, and even though you’re not really ready to make the record during that window, it’s the only window you have, so you put it out. Cracks in the foundation start. And slowly, over time, the creative process gets eroded, and it becomes something that’s just a window in the schedule instead of the most important thing that drives the whole train."
"People are willing to get short-term gains at the risk of long-term choices. So, if someone can do something to sell a few more records now at the expense of the artist, even if that artist will sell a lot less later, they’ll make that choice."
"Art is not a quarterly business. You have to look at it as a longer-term game."
"I always request that artists overwrite. Write as much as possible—and then we can narrow down—because you never really know."
"There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across."
"From the beginning, all I’ve ever cared about is things being great. I never cared about when they were done. Because I also feel like I want the music to last forever. And once you release it, you can’t go back and fix it, so you really have to get it right. And that takes time. The things that can’t be a factor are time, chart position, radio success, sales—none of those things can get in the way of something being great. All they do is cloud the picture."
So many of these ideas seem so right. But working this way is not easy -- most projects I work on have fixed, very short timelines. So time is usually an issue that can't be ignored or avoided. Given these constraints, the clear goal is to make everything either as great as it can be, or truly great.
Personal projects provide the luxury of ignoring time. Make something greater and greater until it has fully maximized its greatness, and you know it's done. Strip away or replace anything that is not needed. Explore a wide variety of ideas, and narrow down later. Create time and space for this process to live and breathe.
Currently, I am deep into a personal project that will eventually become a show. It's not even close to being done. I have been tempted to set a date for the show, but now understand that it will only get in the way of my making something truly great. After all, "art is not a quarterly business."
For me, 2014 is officially "Year of the Greatness" and Rick Rubin is my guru. This picture will watch over me in my studio as a reminder.